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The Empire was at one time a four-plex theater with screening spaces carved out of additional footage in what was formerly the playroom, lounge area, the upper mezzanine lobby, and the balcony. That with the main auditorium.
There is also additional space in the basement where there were cages for animals and a seal tank, as well as the dressing rooms. There is a also a rather large space behind the original staging area. It was a vaudeville theater originally, not a movie theater.
In addition, a new building. that is reportedly going to be attached, is being constructed to the west of the theater building on a vacant block that takes up half the block.
Apparently, whatever is being done is passing muster with the National Trust, who has already approved the restoration plan since historic tax credits are being used.
The Sun Theater was also known as the Mayfield Theater.
The Palace Theater was open at late as 1944 according to the Chris Wilborn book: Where the Streetcar Stops. Movies were 15 cents.
The Kansas City Star reported on August 22, 2007, that the City of North Kansas City has sold the Paradise (Armour) Theater to Butch Rigby, who operates the Screenland Theaters in the area.
Link will probably go dead at some point. Here are highlights:
Historic North Kansas City theatre building to be sold
By MIKE RICE
The Kansas City Star
“Local cinema owner Butch Rigby plans to buy and renovate the Armour Theatre Building, which also has been known as the Paradise Theatre and the Northland Opry. Local movie theater owner Butch Rigby plans to purchase the historic Armour Theatre Building in North Kansas City.
Under an agreement approved by the North Kansas City Council, Rigby will buy the single-screen theater at 408 Armour Road and adjacent two-story properties, which are part of the theater building, for $600,000.
Rigby, operator of the Screenland Crossroads Theatre at 17th and Washington streets and owner of the Screenland Granada in Kansas City, Kan., said Wednesday that he would restore the building, which the city has owned since 2005.
He said he plans to operate a business â€œvery similarâ€ to the other Screenland theaters."
Rigby has a personal connection to the theater building.
‘â€œI grew up in Liberty and remember coming down to this theater when it was called the Centre Theatre,’ Rigby said.
The theater, which was also known as the Paradise Theatre, was built in 1928 and was one of the Northlandâ€™s most popular single-screen cinemas. The cinema closed in the â€™80s.
Until recently, the theater was a live country music venue known as the Northland Opry.
The city purchased the building as part of an effort to better control economic development along Armour Road. Last year, it hired the Helix/Architecture & Design firm to draw up a feasibility plan for the buildingâ€™s future uses.
The city had planned to renovate the building but put those plans on hold last summer after Helixâ€™s recommendations for restoration came in at $5 million, which was $3 million more than what the city had budgeted.
About that time, Mayor Gene Bruns said he was approached by Rigby, who had been told about the cityâ€™s efforts to restore the theater by a local developer.
Since then, Rigby and North Kansas City have been negotiating a deal.
â€œMr. Rigby is an exceptional person,â€ Bruns said. â€œHe is a proven product who loves theater and has a history of success with these types of projects.â€
The development agreement calls for Rigby to receive Chapter 353 tax abatements over a 10-year period to help pay for the restoration. In order to receive such tax abatements, the North Kansas City Council would have to declare the theater property blighted and schedule a public hearing.
City Attorney Tom Barzee said no date has yet been set for the public hearing. The amount of tax abatements has not been determined, he said."
If the theater was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a architectural survey was done to verify the architect, engineering firm, and even construction company. If the listing information includes the Bollers as architect of record, then they designed it.
Quote from recent KC STAR article:
“In a related development, Reed Cordish said good progress is being made on renovating the historic Mainstreet Theater, more recently called the Empire Theater, into a six-screen digital movie complex. That project, which will include a two-level restaurant and dessert bar, is part of the joint venture between Cordish and AMC.
â€œWeâ€™re under heavy construction, and full historic approvals have been received,â€ he said.
Cordish said the Midland is expected to reopen in early spring and the Mainstreet a couple of months later."
Everyone settle down.
“All the interior changes meet the historic preservation guidelines laid down by the state and federal governments, Cordish said.”
Kansas City Star Business
Friday, Aug 3, 2007
Renovated Midland Theatre expected to open in spring
By KEVIN COLLISON
The Kansas City Star
The Midland Theatre is expected to reopen in the spring following a $28 million makeover that will refresh the old vaudeville palace, introduce cabaret seating and add several bars.
The joint venture by the Cordish Co. of Baltimore and Kansas City-based AMC Entertainment, first announced two years ago, is intended to reposition the historic landmark at 13th and Main streets to essentially become a huge nightclub accommodating up to 3,200 people.
â€œOur collective goal is to respect the incredible historic nature of the building and improve it to where it could truly be a substantial anchor for the Power & Light District and downtown Kansas City,â€ said Reed Cordish, a vice president.
â€œWe want it to be active as many days and nights a year as possible.â€
Cordish said his firm and AMC are close to completing a deal with one of the â€œlargest playersâ€ in the live music and performance industry to operate the facility.
The biggest visual change planned for the ornate interior of the 80-year-old theater is replacement of its main-level seating rows with a seven-tier open floor that will allow flexibility for cabaret-style tables and chairs, or standing for general admission events. Up to 700 plush folding chairs also can be set up.
The other significant addition will be a lounge area being built on a platform at the rear of the upper balcony. The bar will wrap around a centerpiece shaped like a chandelier.
All the interior changes meet the historic preservation guidelines laid down by the state and federal governments, Cordish said.
The Midland, which has been owned by AMC since 1966, was renovated in 1988 and 1998, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
â€œWe have been steadfast in our effort to maintain the historic character inside,â€ said Jeff Schutzler, a principal at Helix Architecture & Design, the firm doing the design work. â€œWe want to make sure we donâ€™t detract and in fact enhance the theater.â€
On the outside, the Midland marquee is slated to be restored to its original appearance when the theater opened in 1927.
â€œThe marquee will be returned to a classic theater marquee down to the detail of individual bulbs spelling out the name,â€ Cordish said.
The familiar decor of the lobby and other public areas will be freshened up and restored to its original splendor, Cordish said.
The most substantial changes will be to the five-level office section of the theater that faces Main Street. It has been vacant for many years, and the Cordish plan calls for it to be renovated and included in the entertainment mix. Each level has about 3,000 square feet of floor space.
The first floor will become a lounge that can be accessed from a new outside entrance at 13th and Main and from the theater lobby. Below it, the basement space will become a bar geared toward rock bands. The entire bar will be called The Indie.
A private passage will lead from the Midland backstage and dressing room area to the basement bar. The plan calls for a renovation of the dressing room areas that will include showers and other amenities for performers.
The second level of the former office structure will be used for administrative functions. The third floor will have a catering kitchen that will allow the Midland to be used for private functions and events.
The fourth floor will be a VIP lounge that also will be served by a private elevator off 13th Street. It will cater to the patrons seated at the loge level of the theater, which Cordish envisions as the best seats in the house.
The loge level also will have a separate bar in the back, along with couches and tables.
The fifth floor of the building will be used as a banquet room.
â€œThis is one of the most stunning historic buildings you can imagine, but now with great amenities for a great experience,â€ Cordish said.
The Midland is expected to play host to a variety of live music acts, from pop to jazz to blues to country. The capacity will range from 2,700 people when the house is set up cabaret-style to 3,200 when general admission standing is allowed on the main level.
The stage and rigging will remain the same. While the Midland could accommodate musical theater and dance productions, Cordish said those types of events are expected to migrate to the recently renovated Music Hall or the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts now under construction and scheduled to open in late 2009.
â€œOur niche is the music,â€ Cordish said.
Frank Rash, AMC senior vice president of strategic development, said his company is pleased with the plan.
â€œWe are continuing a long tradition of bringing fun, live entertainment to Kansas City,â€ he said. â€œThis theater has been in the family for many years, so this is a natural evolution to take it to the next level.â€
Plans for the 12-story Midland office building on the west side of the complex facing Baltimore Avenue are evolving. The Cordish Co. originally envisioned it being converted into 40 upscale residential condominiums, but is now considering rental units.
The renovation of that building will require a separate development agreement with the city. Blake Cordish, a vice president, said no timetable has been set on when a formal application will be submitted.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to be respectful of the new administrationâ€™s learning curve in terms of getting its hands around the new economic development policy,â€ Blake Cordish said. â€œWeâ€™re very anxious to move forward.â€
In a related development, Reed Cordish said good progress is being made on renovating the historic Mainstreet Theater, more recently called the Empire Theater, into a six-screen digital movie complex. That project, which will include a two-level restaurant and dessert bar, is part of the joint venture between Cordish and AMC.
Cordish said the Midland is expected to reopen in early spring and the Mainstreet a couple of months later.
The Empire is being restored. It was landmarked and placed on the National Register of Historic Places last February, and will be using historic tax credits to help finance the restoration. Thus, National Trust guidelines must be followed to maintain the historic ambiance and design of the theater. The marquee has to be constructed on the roof so as not to disturb the facade. Many missing elements will simply be recreated from the original plans. Moldings were taken.
Kansas City has a long history of restoring grand old buildings like Union Station, which brought in artisans from Europe who worked for the Vatican and Royal family to restore Windsor Castle.
Blake Cordish made a public commitment to restore the theater and not drastically change the theater building itself.
The Midland Theater is not going to have many changes at all. The renovation there is mostly sprucing up (painting, new carpets, plumbing, modern and more-efficient cooling and heating. The stage is being expanded into the ample back staging area that has gone unused. The Midland has a large lobby, and some old retail space, for the nightclub and restaurant portion of the reconfiguration. The kitchen will most likely go into the large basement.
Kansas City has more theatrical spaces per capita than most large cities. The new Performing Arts Center spaces are not meant to drastically affect the Midland and Mainstreet (Empire) Theater. The Mainstreet/Empire hasn’t been a performance space for more than 57 years anyway. It was a movie theater that has been closed for 22 years. The Midland is going to get more public use after the renovation than it did in the last decade before it. A professional booking company is overtaking the operations portion.
Was this always called the Strand Theater or did it have another name originally.
Correction: I stated that the Pantages Tower Theater in Kansas City was designed by Charles Lee. I am mistaken. The architect was Marcus Priteca.
Arizona turned down Frank Lloyd Wright’s innovative design for their state capital building. They ended up building a non-descript tower. Had the gone with Wright’s design, they would have the most unique state capital building in the country.
Nope. They sure didn’t. As a result, Phoenix really only has one grand old movie theater within its city limits, the Orpheum. As a contrast, Kansas City, which is now a smaller city and metro, has 22 theater buildings remaining that were built between 1891 and 1950.
If you include the metro suburban municipalities around Kansas City, there are 29 theaters that were built before 1950. Additionally, 21 of the metro theaters are in use for a variety of purposes, and open to the public. Fifteen of these old metro theaters still being used as movie theaters, event halls, or performance spaces. Fourteen are fully restored venues. Five more are used as churches. Six are being used as commercial space, and one is being renovated for performing arts. Two others still stand, but are vacant and unused.
While Kansas City lost its only theater designed by Charles Lee, the Pantages Tower Theater, it still has theaters designed by Thomas Lamb, John Eberson, the Boller Brothers, Rapp & Rapp, and eccentric innovator Louis Curtiss. At least one example from each of these architects is restored and remains open to the public. There are several Boller theaters here. Seven Boller theaters are accessible by the public; four are restored.
Thank God for churches. :lol:
Thanks for the update.
The theater wasn’t demolished for a new structure, but to create a series of off-street bus lanes for the city bus system. A transit hub in sort of a plaza with side-by-side bus lanes to park the buses with some simple shelters. There were any number of vacant lots they could have done that on instead of tearing down the theater.
The Crown Center 6 operated by Globe Theaters is closing in early August 2007. The space will be renovated and reopened as a live performance theatre.
The former Chelsea Theatre site is now home to a new building housing the local headquarters of the architecture firm of HOK Event + Sport + Venue.
The Lyric Theatre building has been sold to a local data processing and real estate company, DST. No plans have been announced for when the Kansas City Lyric Opera moves out of the building to take up residence in the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
I’m reposting the photos since some of the earlier links have gone dead.
A rendering looking down 14th Street through the Power & Light District towards the restored MainStreet Theater.
Before: A recent photo of the former Empire Theater being tranformed into the new AMC MainStreet Theater.
After: A rendering of the exterior of the restored MainStreet Theater.
A rendering looking south down Main Street past the H&R Block tower (left) towards the marquee of the MainStreet Theater.
A photo looking south along Main Street showing locations of the MainStreet and Midland Theaters.
An aerial overview rendering of the Power & Light District with various buildings identified.
Aerial photos of construction activity of the Power & Light District with various buildings identified.
During the recent work on the exterior of the theater, one could see some of the underlying infastructure. The “guts” of the building. It was well-constructed and a solid building. This is probably the reason it endured such deterioration for so long and can still be salvaged.
No. There are going to be residential apartments, and some retail, constructed on the vacant parcels surrounding the Empire. The Empire is part of the much larger Power & Light entertainment district. The nearby Midland Theater, a block north, is also being renovated. A new theater venue, the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, has been constructed across the street to the northeast. The new Sprint Center arena, and the collegiate basketball Hall of Fame, is two blocks away. The new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is being constructed three blocks to the southwest. A new ballroom has been added to the convention center one block from the Empire. An outdoor public amphitheater is being constructed on a plaza nearby with nightclubs and restaurants surrounding it. A new 1000-room convention hotel is being discussed now, but no location has been set. The developer of Power & Light, the Cordish Co., is planning to construct another 200-room W Hotel a block away. The restored Empire is one of the anchor projects in the district. Two nearby historic hotels, the Aladdin and the President, have been restored and reopened recently.
Yes, regarding the claim of the Olympia being the “first of many atmospheric Eberson theaters,” according to information posted on this site:
The Dallas Majestic Theater opened in April 11, 1921.
The Wichita Orpheum Theater opened in September 4, 1922.
The Houston Majestic Theater opened in January 29, 1923.
The Capitol Theater, Chicago, opened January 19th. 1925
All preceded the 1926 opening of Eberson’s Paramount Olympia in Miami.
Does anyone know the year that this theater opened?
The former Oak Park Theater remains in use as a commercial building.
The Kansas City Public Library local history database lists Kansas City architect Frederick E. McIlvain, 1873-1927, as the designer of the Liberty.