If you build it, they will come.
Imagine it’s the Roaring ‘20s. A booming economy. Crazy energy. In Oklahoma R.E. Griffith, a budding impresario, opened his first movie theater. Then suddenly the Market crashed. Businesses collapsed. Panic was everywhere — with one notable exception. Hollywood. As the world crumbled, seeing a movie that provided a momentary distraction from their troubles was just what the public wanted.
Enter Hollywood’s Golden Age. Big budget musicals. Screwball rom-coms. Feature-length animated films. The Depression turned out to be a successful period for moviemakers. Likewise for Griffith. He was determined, energetic and a visionary. Griffith was soon back in growth mode, acquiring or building new theaters ever westward through Texas and New Mexico. By the time he arrived in Gallup in 1936 to open the Chief and Navaho he was a bona fide tycoon with hundreds of theaters.
In Gallup Griffith had an epiphany. He understood the mythic appeal of the old west. The landscapes. The cowboy code. The fascination with Indians. Gallup had them all. And they would become the underlying spirit for his new hospitality venture: a place where visitors could immerse themselves in the authentic ambience of the Old West while enjoying all the day’s modern amenities. His newest project would be called Hotel El Rancho, a true western experience on the soon to be immortalized Route 66.
It didn’t hurt that by the time he built his hotel, Griffith’s cronies were the studio chiefs at Paramount, MGM, and 20th Century Fox. Now the stars were aligning. New Mexico had already established itself as the exotic western landscape of every filmmaker’s imagination. So Hotel El Rancho was a perfect fit to host directors, actors and film crews. The hotel could provide a level of service and comfort to Hollywood’s moviemakers that was otherwise unavailable in Gallup. Fun and lively. Exotic and real. It was now Hotel El Rancho’s turn in the Hollywood spotlight.
Once completed, Hotel El Rancho in Gallup New Mexico led directly to Griffith’s greatest hotel success, the creation of one of the first-ever themed resort hotels on the Las Vegas Strip: The Last Frontier. Opened in 1942 this famous western-style casino/hotel was a grand expansion on the themes first explored at Hotel El Rancho.