Hometown history: Murray family breathes new life into historic Tishomingo theater

Drew Butler
The marquee at the Indie Cinema in Tishomingo after a summertime storm. The family run theater is open Thursday through Sunday and shows a mixture of classic and contemporary films.
Patrons file into the theater to watch a movie. The theater has one screen with 146 seats and 4 ADA accessible spaces for wheelchairs.
The Tishomingo Indians Poster at the concession stand is but one example of the hometown pride on display.
Popcorn and beverage cups are set out for patrons before the next movie showtime.
The theater's digital projector is often run by the owner's 14-year-old son.

The Indie Cinema is one of the most prominent features of Tishomingo’s Main Street. Originally opened in 1938, the one-screen, 146-seat theater has also been known as the King Theater and the Thompson Theater at different points in its history.

For many years the theater sat abandoned, and the City of Tishomingo actually condemned the structure in the early 2000s. Fortunately, some new owners purchased the property a few years ago, and restored the theater to its former glory. Earlier this year, they decided to pursue new opportunities, and lifelong Tishomingo resident Justin Murray stepped in to buy it

Murray and his family have been running the theater since February.

“They spent a lot of time and money, along with plenty of blood, sweat and tears to get it out of condemned status to where it is now,” Murray said. “We see this as a family business, and the kids are a very big part of what we do.”

The theater is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and shows matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Murray said his 14-year-old son is often the person responsible for running the projector, and his 17-year-old daughter helps with the concession stand and selling tickets.

Murray said the theater has traditionally run classic and second run movies. Recently, however,  they have started to show new releases because many of the larger theaters are still shut down because of the pandemic.

The theater is currently playing the new movie “Unhinged”, an R-rated thriller. Murray said the response has been positive, but he also plans to continue screening family films.

“This theater traditionally has done better showing family movies as opposed to the rated R thriller movies,” Murray said. “So for every one of the rated R movies, we’re going to play two or three family movies next.”

He said running a theater has been a learning experience, but one thing he wasn’t counting on was COVID-19. A few weeks after buying the theater, he decided to temporarily shut down because of the virus. It reopened in early May with additional cleaning procedures in place.

“We ended up seeing a pretty good response from people who were just wanting to get out of the house,” Murray said. “Because none of the other theaters are open, we’ve had people come from Ada, Ardmore and Durant.”

The Indie has also recently been offering private parties to groups of people who want to avoid the crowds.

“We actually rent the theater out for a private show,” he said. “We turn the concession on, and a group of 10 or 12 people watch the show. They don’t have to worry about strangers because they know the rest of the audience. Then we come in after they're done and disinfect everything before the next show.”

The Indie Cinema is located at 114 W. Main St. in Tishomingo. For more information visit www.facebook.com/theindiecinema.