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It was a terrible shame when it was turned into a video store that is now close. I would love to see returned to an art theater similar to the Varsity but to redo it to look like it did as the Uptown.
Great story – I enjoyed our conversation Don – after we spoke I did remember that the wide screen and matting from the Orpheum Theater used for The Robe was indeed taken over to the Uptown Theater even though the Orpheum was not part of the Fox Midwest Chain. It was being prepared for demolition and I think that took place in early 1960. The demolition of the Orpheum Theater was contracted with the same company that destroyed the Tower and the Esquire Theater. The demolition was delayed because there was a serious plan to save the facade of the Orpheum because it was a replica of the famous Paris Opera House and so was the Lobby. I think there was a lot of happy people thinking this would be nice to still have. With regret, the demolition company began with the roof in the front and the facade was seriously damaged within the first couple of days of demolition, so the plan to save it was scrapped. Very sad loss to KC (both the Tower and the Orpheum). They were both among the most beautiful theaters in North America even nicer than most of the Broadway Theaters and had much larger stages and back and below stage facilities and dressing rooms.
Afternoons or in the evenings after 8:00 pm. Enjoy the restoration of the Orpheum, Loew’s State (Palace) the Joy and the Saenger Theaterss (and a few others). I think the Joy is now a night club but at least it was saved. The Orpheum is similar to our Orpheum that was demolished in 1961.
the Capri was a Durwood Theater near 11th and Broadway and then became the Lyric for many years of performances by the Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Ballet. I really thought that UMKC would take it over. It is a very good theater originally built as a Shriner’s Temple. KMBC TV had their studio in the basement. I hope it can be saved. I did not work at the Plaza but that was a 2nd Cousin of mine that did. If it would have still been owned by the J.C.Nichols Co. it would have never been destroyed -it would have been a great live performance Theater and could could have been easily renovated. I used to go to all the WHB Saturday morning Shows and always sat in the balcony. I saw Goldfinger there. Loved that theater too.
Feel free to call me sometime and let’s talk old KC Theaters. 8168133664
Maybe South Pacific was moved over to the Capri when the Tower finally closed its doors because my family did go to the Capri. There was one more long engagement movie at the Capri before BenHur. BenHur was the longest running movie ever in any KC Theater. I will never forget seeing it there and could not believe how wide the screen was and that beautiful sound. Sadly, my Dad took me to the Auction when the contents were being sold in preparation for the demolition of the Tower and Esquire Theater. All the beautiful Italian Marble on the walls of the long entry way just destroyed with no attempt to salvage it. The screen had already been removed and half of the seats were gone. We walked up to the projection booth and also just looked at the beauty of the theater especially the ceiling and the stage that was going to be gone in a short time. It was a sad time for KC especially because the Orpheum was meeting the same fate just a few months later.
I just remembered that the Todd-A-O screen at the Tower was set up for the very long run of Oklahoma which ran for more than a year. The next movie was Around the World in 80 Days but was later transferred up the the RKO Missouri (Mainstreet, Cinerama and later Empire.I think either Around the World in 80 Day or Suddenly Last Summer was the last film to play the RKO Missouri before it was changed to 3 projection Cinerama. At that time the first ¼ of the balcony was removed in addition to the side lodges in front of the organ pipe grills.
That was all covered by drapes.
To WTKFLHN – The large slightly curved Todd-A-O screen either went to the Brookside or the Plaza Theater. I am thinking the Brookside. The Wide Screen at the Orpheum was large but still smaller than the Tower’s huge screen. I do not remember South Pacific ever showing at the Tower, I thought that it was the the very first move shown at The Capri Theater. I may be Wrong. I was once told that the Orpheum Screen may have gone to the Capri instead of the Plaza. The screen at the Plaza was actually a curved Todd-A-O Screen but may have been brand new when it was mounted in front of the stage with light orange stage drapes. The Plaza was the 1st theater with any kind of surround sound ( it was actually a 2 channel stereo but sounded fantastic anyway ). The Esquire had no stage left – it was removed when the Pantages was built. I do not remember it having any stage curtain when I saw some Disney movies there in the 50s.
Is there any updates for the Lyric Theater – it would be perfect for UMKC and there is plenty of space to expand. It would be sad to loose another historic downtown Kansas City Theater.
I thought I might add this bit of information. After the Loew’s Midland Theater Closed, it was converter in the Stage are to a Pro Bowling Facility. That lasted for only several months and then folded because the other pro bowling team had their competitions at the old Plaza Bowl. With in two months an owner of major surfact parking lots in Kansas City wanted to get a permit from the City to demolish the Midland Theater leaving only the Midland Tower. What is really insane is that the City was actually going to issue the demolition permit. At the same time, there were plans to demolish the Tower and Esquire Theaters also for surface parking lots – that did not happen because of a contract dispute between the owners of the theaters and Fox Midwest Theaters that had open contracts to use the Buildings and they were still paying taxes even though the theaters were closed. It is very sad to think that the beautiful Midland Theater was very close to being lost forever. Sadly we lost the Tower, Esquire and Orpheum Theaters in 1961 all in beautiful condition.
Seems that the Castle Theater was in operation, it was mainly served the Black Community. It was actually a very nice theater and was still operating when a plan was approved to build some new housing in the area of Paseo and 12th Street. It was demolished completely intact. The projectors were still in the booth and the seats were still installed including the screen and stage curtain. There was some kind of organ to the right front of the stage. I was able to bet the standing box that the manager would put the halved tickets into. It had a beautiful marquee that lit up very nicely at night. I think it was a sad loss for that part of town and could have been saved for a performing arts center and museum for the history of 12th Street Jazz.
I hope someone can post some pictures of the demolition of the theater. After it closed in the 50’s, it because a 1 Hour Dry Cleaning Facility used in the front of the building and it even retained the Marquee for another 15 years at least. I think it was in 1968 that the marquee was removed and a new sign put up for the dry cleaning business. By this time the auditorium was used for dry cleaning for businesses all over the Metro. I think it went out of business in 1972 and by 1978 it was transformed into a Church. It exclusively became a Spanish Speaking Church about 13 years ago. It really looked nice inside. I wish they could save the front of the building and rebuild the auditorium. Not sure if anyone even wants to do that. It was the last theater building left standing on Independence Ave. I wish someone would post some pics of the National and the Vista when they were operating.
We certainly lost some beautiful treasures downtown. Many of the theaters were some of the finest in North America.
Much of the interior equipment, seats, stage curtain, speakers and projectors were taken over to the Ritz on 12th Street. The Ritz got spruced up pretty nice but it did not take very long for teen goons to rip up all the seats with knives. They were very nice when first set up at the Ritz. The seats that were replaced actually were broght over from the Aladdin.
That was a beautiful theater. The later marquee must have been installed by the same company that did the Aladdin Theater because they looked very similar. Still looking for interior pics of the Oak Park and any pics of The Aladdin when it was still operating.
My Mom worked in an Insurance Company office in the building and my Dentist – Dr. Honda was in there too. We went to a lot of movies there. What recall is the extremely large movie screen – it was considered the largest in KC. I wish someone could post some later interior pics of the Isis. I remember a lot of half moon blue lighting on the sides of the walls. When I was in 8th grage a few friends of mine used to take the bus down there and meet some girls that we first met at the El Toreon Roller Rink. The drugstore next door had fantastic sodas and malts.
As a young boy, my parents had very good friends that lived across the street in an apartment building. We used to go to a movie there on a few occasion. I recall that the marquee was beautifully lit up at night with all kinds of neon.
Not sure what it was called then. Did the name Carrol come later in the mid 40’s?
I loved the Rockhill Theater and as a teen had some enjoyable dates seeing some of the famous art films of the era. I had a girlfriend that also loved those movies and always dress up in the prettiest dresses. I can still recall sitting there watching the movie – David and Lisa. I think it was there for nearly a half a year. Nearly all of Sweden’s award winning films were shown at The Rockhill – It was so sad that it was lost due to arsen. I never liked the new moderan marquee – the original was so beautiful at night and the domed area all lit up. I also saw 3 James Bond movies there for a 007 Festival. I think that was pretty close to the end. It was a very nice theater. Had it survived, it would have probably become a Fine Art’s Theater and maybe still in operation.
The Theater did not close in 1958 – it remained open until sometime in 1963 and was just operating on the weekends like the National Theater also on Independence Ave about 4 miles East. As an 8th grader at St. Stephen’s School, I remember going there in 1963 for a special showing of The Ten Commandaments. I think the manager’s name of Frank Morrisey who would later move to the Paramount Theater downtown as the Asst. Manager.
The interior was almost identical to the Aladdin Theater and had a lot of beautiful paintings done by Dante Consentino, who also did a lot of the art work in many of the Catholic Churches.
I remember as a young child going to both the Aladdin and the Ashland Theaters with my sister and parents. Yes, there were two side small curtained states with special lighting and I do remember the holiday displays for some reason. I know the history that it was first an open air live performance and movie theater. It did have a theater organ which had a lot of pipes on each side of the movie screen and also on the back wall of the very large stage area. Sadly, when it was demolished, most of the organ pipes were still there intact. It closed in the early 50s but then because a church for the next 15 plus years and was not changed that much on the inside auditorium but did have some water damage because it seems that no one would repair the roof during that period. At one time, The Minute Circle Community Center was very interested in the theater building after they lost their’s due to a fire. I wish that could have happened – they probably would have had it fixed up pretty nice.
When will the theater re-open or is the Hotel still trying to expand and demolish the auditorium and build two ballrooms while retaining the front of the Orpheum? Hope there is some good news about it being readied for a grand re-opening. Too bad the last owners tiered the main floor – hope that was not concrete and can be removed and seats put back in.
I am so very happy for the people of NO that those beautiful downtown theaters are being saved and rennovated. I think there were several in the French Qtr too, not sure that status of those. I hope we will see pics of the rennovation status.
Is he Trail re-opened yet with digital projection??
To WTKFLHN – you must have been with the theater when the owner of the Waldo also opened the Esquire. Yes, it was only opened for a short time and had vry little business. Before it closed before it was mainly the Disney Theater in town (for some reason). I remember seeing quite a few Disney movies there. I remember going in both theaters with my Dad (he was the main singer at the Tower). I can tell you that the stage of the Esquire was built into the Tower Auditorum far right end and was actually changed into the main manager office sometime in the 40s. The Esquire was actually built before the Tower (Pantages) was built. There was a shop built on the site of the beautiful long lobby of the Tower. That lobby was full of beautiful marble, I can r recall seeing various stages of the demolition – very sad.. I am pretty sure it was originally calls The 12th Street and it was a live performance facility but the large performing arts stage did not survive when the Tower was built and that was where offices were. The Tower had an orchestra pit and a lot of dressing rooms built on each side of the stage. It was a large stage but not as large as the Main Street. Both theaters were in very nice condition when they were demolished, especially the Tower with the entire auditorium repained and the orchestra seats broght over from the Orpheum Theater (now that was a very sad loss and I fear that St. Louis is gong to loose their Orpheum ( a twin of ours) very soon.
After reading some of the above articles, I have done some research at the KC Public Library. The Tower was for a short time from about 1950 until it closed in the mid 50s as the Fox Tower Theater. In 1952 a slightly curved very wide Todd-A-O Screen was installed for the exclusive run of the film Oklahoma. It was actually fixed in the sense that the Stage Curtains and the stage itself could not be used. The Theater had been nicely spruced up and repainted – it was beautiful. I still remember it even as a very young boy. When the theater was closed and being prepared for demilition (it is in near perfect condition) – the screen and sound system were taken to either the Brookside or the Plaza Theater and installed. The wide screen at The Orpheum Theater and the stage new stage curtains installed at the Orpheum were re-installed at the Uptown Theater. Finally, the Esquire was never the Wonderland Theater – that was a different Theater right across the street that was demolished in the 50s along with a beautiful theater on McGee Street.
Wow – I would love to see that lit up at night – wonderful!