By April Wilkerson
The Jones Theatres family legacy has its roots in the early part of the 20th century, when motion pictures first became popular and movie stars began to emerge.
Jake Jones Sr., grandfather of current Jones Theatre owner Ronny Jones, came to America from his native Lebanon in 1888. After spending time in Waco, Texas, he discovered Shawnee and decided it would be a good place to settle down and raise a family.
After trying his luck at operating a candy and ice cream parlor, Jake Jones bought the Cozy Theatre on west Main (later renamed the Ritz) in 1914. In 1927 he built the Criterion in Shawnee. In 1935 he purchased the Savoy Theatre and renamed it the State, and in 1943 his son Johnny and his daughter, Ruby, acquired the Odeon, later called the Jake in his honor.
When Jake Jones Sr. died in 1947, he was succeeded in the business by his son and daughter, Johnny H. Jones, Sr. and Ruby Jones. Johnny and Ruby purchased the Camera Theatre in Stillwater and completely refurbished it, renaming it the Crest. Sister Rosalind and her husband Doyle Banks operated the Stillwater theatre as a companion to the Ritz and Jake.
In 1954 Johnny and Ruby partnered with Video Independent Theatres and acquired the Hornbeck, the Bison, the Tecumseh Drive-In and the Starlite Drive-In.
In 1972 Ronny Jones purchased Ruby Jones' share in the business. Together--father and son--Johnny and Ronny formed Jones Theatres, Inc. The first order of business was to create a "piggyback" auditorium in what was the balcony of the Hornbeck Theatre. It was named the Penthouse. The twin theatre continues in operation today, offering discount admission movies at all times.
In 1980 the Cinema Centre Twin opened adjacent to the Starlite Drive-In to create a triple feature. In 1986 Carmike Cinemas purchased Video Independent Theatres. In 2016 Carmike was purchased by AMC Theatres and now in a joint venture AMC teamed with Jones Theatres to offer benefits of a national chain with hometown supervision and attention to detail. The Shawnee theatres are operated today under that joint venture banner. The Starlite Drive-In closed in 1987 as the Cinema Centre was expanded with six more auditoriums. The Cinema Centre 8 stands today at 3031 N. Harrison as one of the area's most comfortable and easily accessible state-of-the-art Digital Projection theatres.
In 2010, Jones Theatres assumed management of Movies Six at Shawnee Mall. Digital Projection, new seating, carpet, drapes, concession and decor were added to keep the mall anchor up to today's theatre standards and Jones Theatre expectations..
David M. Hammer, Ronny Jones' stepson, continues the fourth generation family tradition as general manager supervising all three Shawnee, OK locations.