The Stiefel Theatre, located in Salina, Kansas, was opened in February 1931 as the Fox-Watson Theater, named after its founder W. W. Watson and the Fox Theater Company which purchased it just before its completion. The Fox-Watson, designed by the prominent Midwest architectural firm of Carl and Robert Boller in Kansas City, was built for $400,000. It featured a lavish Art Deco style, with gleaming chandeliers, mirrored ceilings, a glamorous staircase and glittering gold leaf throughout.
At the theatre’s opening, Salina Mayor Charles F. Dobbs stated, “This is an event of great importance, not only to the citizens of Salina but the entire central and northwestern territory. It brings to our door a dream of metropolitan entertainment and a place in the front rank of theaters second to none of any city in the middle-west.”
The primary mission of the theatre was to entertain the community with films and indeed it did, playing all of the great films of its six decades in the film business: “Gone With the Wind,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “You Can’t Take it With You,” “Shane,” “Carousel,” “The Sound of Music,” “Star Wars,” “ET” and hundreds more. These were promoted with many ingenious gimmicks including “Bank Night,” when filmgoers could win money, “Copper Collection Day,” during World War II when a person could get in for four ounces of copper, and “Bond Premieres,” when Savings Bonds were sold in the lobbies.