Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet

1400 Main Street,
Kansas City, MO 64105

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Showing 76 - 100 of 107 comments

RobertR
RobertR on January 2, 2006 at 6:08 am

Those recent pictures are very sad but I think the theatre is restorable. All it takes is enough money.

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on January 2, 2006 at 5:32 am

Photos of the interior of the original Empire “Mainstreet” Theater can be found at:

http://cinerama.topcities.com/mainstreet.htm

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on December 31, 2005 at 7:46 pm

The developer, Cordish Co., has committed publically to restoration of the theater.

beardbear31
beardbear31 on December 31, 2005 at 6:46 pm

oh no! it looks like they will have to gut most of the theater. It’s strange what 20 years of neglect can do…..

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on December 30, 2005 at 9:09 pm

Recent photos of the deteriorated interior of the Empire are found at this web link:

View link

sawblade5
sawblade5 on December 28, 2005 at 10:52 pm

The Empire is currently under renovation and AMC will be reopening it soon as a multiplex. This was according to yesterdays KC Star.

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on August 24, 2005 at 5:57 am

When the Mainstreet / RKO Missouri was converted into the Empire I & II, AMC Theatres was then known as Durwood Theatres. From 1963 to 1969 this theatre was known as Durwood’s Empire I & II. After 1969 it was AMC Empire Twin, and in 1980 the AMC Empire 4. 6 years after the AMC Empire 4 closed, AMC opened the AMC Empire 25 Theatre in New York City.

mlind
mlind on July 18, 2005 at 11:56 am

Yet another link to old photo of the Empire from 1934. View link

ChicChas
ChicChas on July 15, 2005 at 6:06 am

The Kansas City Star today reported that AMC has joined together with Cordish Co to redevelop this theater as part of a larger entertainment district that has been on and off for a number of years. Current plans call for the Empire to be turned into a six-screen movie theater with digital projection to present foreign and independent film.

In addition, the Midland Theater, currently being used for live performance, is to be updated as part of the overall district plans. The office portion of the Midland is to be converted to high end condominiums.

Plans call for both theater renovations to be completed by spring of 2007

JohnLSchmidt
JohnLSchmidt on March 23, 2005 at 5:43 pm

In the mid ‘60’s, I worked for Durwood Theaters as an assistant manager of the Empire. One of the ushers was a young man named Richard Rivas who was a very good artist. He gave me a charcoal sketch about 14x20 which I still have. If there is a place in Kansas City where this could be preserved as part of the theater heritage of downtown, I would consider donating it. By the way, does anyone know Richard Rivas or his whereabouts? It would be good to visit with him some forty years later.

Patsy
Patsy on February 7, 2005 at 7:37 pm

“The lobby area is topped by a dome encircled by circular windows.” How very unique and will look so beautiful when this Kansas City landmark is restored to its former beauty and grandeur!

Patsy
Patsy on February 7, 2005 at 7:34 pm

After viewing a photo of the boarded up Empire why there were plans for it to become a Planet-Hollywood because of its unusual facade, but it needs to remain a theatre as originally intended!

eiseler
eiseler on January 14, 2005 at 9:15 am

The Empire’s downstairs auditorium was never subdivided and remained intact until the end. The balcony was subdivided into 2 additional theaters, and a small screening room was carved out of some upstairs space to make up the fourth screen in the Empire complex. This screening room was at one point called “The Academy” and had a separate entrance and box office. It was reserved for art films and second runs.

The Empire continued to screen the 3-strip Cinerama process on a reserved-seat basis well into the sixties with “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm” and “How the West Was Won.” Beginning with “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” the 3-strip process disappeared and was replaced with the seamless 70 mm version of Cinerama.

claydoh77
claydoh77 on December 30, 2004 at 12:32 pm

Breaking news on the Empire Today (Also appears in today’s newsreel)

Kansas City Buys the Empire:

View link

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on December 28, 2004 at 3:22 am

The last two owners, Executive Hills, and (the late) Stan Durwood (local theater titan), let the Empire deteriorate for a long time. They didn’t keep it up to code, because there are small trees growing on the roof in places. The west wall of the theater space had bricks buckling and falling off, which is also a code violation.

I wrote to the mayor and all city council members to bring the code violations to their attention and demand that Executive Hills make repairs on the west wall to secure it from further damage. I pointed out that the Empire was deteriorating quickly, and it needed to be secured from weather if their was any hope of restoring it. I ended up personally meeting with two council members to discuss the issue. Within a month, the west wall had new exterior stucco covering the areas of deterioration in that wall. Yay!

It was soon after that Executive Hills started floating the idea publically about tearing the theater down. The grapevine indicated that Executive Hills was threatening demolition to pressure the city into allowing it to tear down an old department store to build a parking garage for a large office building they owned a couple blocks away. Apparently, Executive Hills had purchased the theater property with the intention of turning it into parking if they couldn’t find something closer.

The Empire has been included in two past redevelopment plans for the neighborhood. One was Stan Durwood’s Centertainment plan, and the other was another plan of Durwood’s called the Power and Light District. Neither plan succeeded, and Durwood died.

When Executive Hills indicated their intent to tear down the Empire, Some research was done and something historically relevent was found about it. This information was forwarded to the Historic KC Foundation, and the mayor. Up to that point, the mayor had indicated that she would like to see the facade saved and included in a new development, but said little else about saving the entire building.

I was told by a council member’s office that city leaders had no intention of letting Executive Hills tear the Empire down. Executive Hills didn’t end up gaining control of the old department store property. The city took it by eminent domain. I heard a deal was struck that Executive Hills tenants would have access to a new city-owned garage that would be built on that site. After the city shot down the KC Power & Light headquarters plan on the Empire’s site, I think it became evident to Executive Hills that the city would also take the theater by eminent domain if need be.

Not long afterwards, the announcement was made that Cordish would restore the Empire as part of its new entertainment district, initially called “Kansas City Live.” Cordish later decided to change the name back to the Power and Light District. The development plan has been approved by voters, and will be funded through revenue bonds, and funds from Cordish and the State of Missouri. Once the Empire is restored, the property will be owned by the city.

While restoration may cost $10 million or more, the project will be eligible for state and federal historic renovation funding, as well as state urban redevelopment money. This could pay for as much as half of the cost of restoration I’ve been told.

Mr. Cordish said in an interview recently that he wants to restore the Empire to its former glory. He does acknowledge that the Empire is in bad condition, and will be expensive to restore, but that it is worth it. He indicated that full restoration would increase its cache and value to the district at large. Cordish indicated that it’s important to restore the theater because no developer could duplicate it today.

The Empire is completely salvageable. Union Station was restored several years ago, and it was in terrible shape. There was a lot of water damage and the ceiling had collapsed in several places. Some of the steel beams supporting the roof were rusted through. The ceiling in Union Station had an elaborate design as well. They hired a restoration expert that had worked on Windsor Castle, and a lot of European cathedrals, was hired to fix the ceiling.

Any lost decorative work in the Empire can be recreated.

As far as the divider walls not being there any longer, I’m guessing they were taken down a few years back either when Stan Durwood planned to renovate it; or, during an attempt to lure a Hard Rock Cafe / Planet Hollywood / House of Blues-type club into the building. The walls would have had to come down so that any developer could have seen the potential of the entire space.

USSSEAVIEW10
USSSEAVIEW10 on December 8, 2004 at 9:50 am

As a matter of words I went by the place the other day it’s not looking good as I said in my first comments it’s gonna cost some money I’ve been following this deal about the developer wanting to tear it down now the city is supposed to get a hold of it and turn it over to the cordish people now if that happens the place a chance thats if the developer follows through on that agreement with the city. From my observation from the outside the place is salvagable I don’t know and who knows why the developer wanted to have it condemed it down but my guess would probably be he doesn’t want to pay taxes on it anymore it should look real hopeful for the RKO

claydoh77
claydoh77 on December 7, 2004 at 7:55 pm

Yes, to follow up on my previous comment; according to Mary Bagley’s book on Missouri’s Theatres:

“AMC changed the name to the Empire and opened it with the movie Exodus as a reserved-seat, road-show house. The theatre retained an organist until 1961, when there was a dispute with the musicians' union. Still under AMC ownership, the theatre was split into two- the Empire and Royal- in 1969. Then in 1980 it was halved again into the Empire 4 theatres.”

claydoh77
claydoh77 on December 7, 2004 at 2:20 pm

The theatre was split into 2 auditoriums and later 4 by AMC. I believe that at one point one side was called Empire while the other side was called Royal.

USSSEAVIEW10
USSSEAVIEW10 on December 7, 2004 at 1:57 pm

when my friend went into the theater he told me after words that it was completly wide open there was no split or divide to seperate the theater into two theaters may be at one time they did have a split but as far as he could tell there was nothing except a wide open balcony including the main floor when you the cinema room the only things that are still in there is the seat that I have to say is in very poor condition due to the damage of rain and neglect over the years but they are salvagable. there was some talk that the empire was split into four but I hardly doubt it there evidence of that unless someone could show up some pictures that could put the icing on the cake wether it was split or not.

USSSEAVIEW10
USSSEAVIEW10 on November 24, 2004 at 9:39 am

As far as the Empire goes I know of someone who went inside the building almost a year ago, from what I’ve heard it’s a real mess and has a lot of water damage. some of the wood has rotted and there is filtered sunlight in some area’s of the theater comming from the roof, From the exterior and interior point of view it is restorable but it’s gonna need a lot of work done to it from what I’ve heard it’s gonna an access of $10 million to totally fix and renovate the theater back to it’s former glory. Again it is salvagable

sdoerr
sdoerr on November 15, 2004 at 3:33 pm

“Future Looks Hopeful for Kansas City’s Empire Theater"
http://cinematreasures.org/news/12324_0_1_0_C/

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on November 14, 2004 at 12:38 pm

Here is a link to the Kansas City Public Library Local History database which shows a postcard of the Empire Theater from 1923 when it was the Main Street Theater.

View link

As for the President Hotel that was mentioned above, renovation has resumed and it is expected to open in 2006 as a Hilton Historic Hotel. It is just across the street from the Empire. There used to be a tunnel that ran from the hotel under the street to the theater. I don’t know if it is still open or not.

Check here to see a photo of, and for updates on the President Hotel:
View link

Check here to see the new Power & Light Live entertainment district being developed around both the Empire Theater and President Hotel.

View link

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on November 14, 2004 at 10:55 am

Things are looking up for the Empire Theater. It appears that the city has rejected a plan that would have constructed a new headquarters building on the site for Kansas City Power & Light. It appears that the Empire will be preserved. The Cordish Co. has plans to redevelop the property into a live music venue and nightclub as part an entertainment district they are developing across the street. City officials appear to be supporting this effort, since they turned down the request of two very powerful downtown property owners and developers.

For more information, read the Kansas City Star article from Nov. 11, 2004, here:

View link