Shawnee, KS – One of the oldest theaters in Kansas — vacant for decades — will be renovated

posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on February 9, 2017 at 5:15 pm


From the Kansas City Business Journal: The new owners of Shawnee’s Aztec Theatre — one of the oldest movie theaters in Kansas — plan to bring it back to life, the Shawnee Dispatch reports.

It last saw life as a movie house in 1975, according to Cinema Treasures.

Originally opened in 1927 by Shawnee Mayor Marion Summerour as the Mission Theater, the historic Mission-style building was bought in January by Liam and Marie Tripp.

The Tripps, through their nonprofit Shawnee Fine Arts Foundation, plan to renovate the one-screen theater, 11119 Johnson Drive, with the goal of holding a grand opening in June, the Dispatch reports.

“I don’t want to give the impression I have deep pockets because I don’t, but I’m responsible, and I know there are people here who will keep us in the right direction,” Liam Tripp told attendees at a recent community meeting. “I don’t want this theater to reflect me. I want it to reflect us.”

The new owners, who plan to show movies as well as provide for other performing arts uses, hope renovations will give the building a 1920s art deco vibe.

According to contributors to the Cinema Treasures website, which claims to be the world’s largest guide to movie theaters, Dickinson Theatres changed the theater’s name to Aztec Theatre in the 1940s. In the 1970s, it was “purchased by the Pflumm family and the name was changed to Fine Arts Theater. It was closed for renovations on July 20, 1975, but never reopened.”

Plaza Cinema in Ottawa is oldest movie theater in Kansas. It began showing movies in 1905, when it was known as the Bijou Theatre.

According to the theater’s website, it is also the oldest operating cinema in the world.

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ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres.

Learn more about historic theatres in the THS American Theatre Architecture Archives and on our website at


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