Historic Owen Theatre
In 1936, thanks to James Mason Owen, the Branson Hollywood Connection was made. Prior to the birth of the theatre, Jim Owen became known as "King of the River" when he began his White River Float Trips.
These extraordinary trips were designed especially for corporate executives and Hollywood stars. With amenities like private outdoor bathrooms, air mattress beds and steak dinners, Jim knew how to take care of his guests! Some of his more well known guests include Gene Autry, Joe DiMaggio, Charleton Heston (see photo in slide show), Forrest Tucker, Elsie Bates and Rose O'Neill. There were corporate executives, authors, artists and stars that came to Branson between 1936 and 1972. Even before the likes of Roy Clark, Andy Williams, Jim Stafford, Mel Tillis, Mickey Gilley, Tony Orlando and so forth.
Jim knew how to entertain, and how to market! His float trips and brilliance landed him articles in Look, Life, Field and Stream and the Saturday Evening Post. His Hollywood connection even landed him, what we would call the first promo DVD, (see video) although at that time it was a silent film created to reach his target audience. For good wholesome entertainment, and as a genius marketing strategy, Jim created the "Ozark Hillbilly." His stories and characters became such a hit that later, wanting to provide additional entertainment for his prestigious guests, Jim built his theatre, and called it, "Hillbilly Theatre."
His characters became so popular that Hollywood producer, Paul Henning went on to create an entire television series about them, called "The Beverly Hillbillies." It is said that Jims alter ego "Scooter Baines" was mentioned on several episodes and Jim made at least one appearance himself. Jim went from "King of the River" to "King of the Hillbillies!"
When Table Rock Dam was built Jim lost his Float Trips, but continued to own his "Hillbilly Theatre" until his passing in 1972. Today the theatre is known as, The Historic Owen Theatre & Branson's House of Comedy.
Home to 9 of Branson's hottest shows and 2 of it's main attractions, the theatre is alive and well today. Completely renovated and restored it has 206 soft seats, and has state of the art lights and sound, a large screen and a staff who provides the best in Hillbilly Hospitality to make Jim proud!
Branson's First, & The World's Most Unique, Theatre - Established in 1936