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The address for this theater should be 2711 Troost. Per material from the Kansas City Star on July 18, 1926, the theater opened on July 21, 1926, with a seating capacity of 1,200. It had a “mammoth” Wurlitzer organ, smoking and crying rooms, a cooling system, and a “large stage fully equipped for vaudeville presentation.” The opening feature was “The Palm Beach Girl” with Bebe Daniels. Owner of the building was A. Baler and the theater was operated when it opened by the W.H. Hurley Amusement Co. It was, as Chuck mentioned, designed by Boller Brothers.
The Bagdad (and the office building around it) was destroyed by a fire on May 28, 1957. It had stopped showing movies about 3 years prior and was at the time of the fire in the process of being converted into a union hall for Laundry Workers Local No. 238.
In 2002, this theatre was remodeled into the current 14-screen configuration, but it originally opened much earlier than that with a smaller number of screens. I believe it originally opened in about 1983 with six screens. Several years later (probably in the late-1980s), a three-screen addition was opened and operated semi-separately as a discount house called the West 1-2-3. Eventually, these three screens were incorporated into the main complex, making it a nine-screen multiplex called West Acres 9. The 2002 addition expanded it to the current 14 screens while also creating a new (and much larger) lobby, entrance, and concessions area.
I’m pretty familiar with this theater and it has been a twin and operating under the name “The Theatre I & II” for a long time before 2002. I couldn’t say exactly, but I would say it has been a twin since at least the early-1990s.
I’ve checked out the Bexley Theatre page but information on that one seems to be scarce, apart from the couple of exterior photos that are linked to in the profile. Any additional information (especially about citable sources) about the Bexley would be most welcome as well!
I am doing some research into early twin theatres and am interested in seeing the images of this theater that Warren G. Harris posted back in 2005. Unfortunately, those links do not seem to still be operative. Warren, if you are still around, do you still have or have access to those images of the Trans-Lux twin theatre?
The Amigo actually started out as the Amigo Twin, in approximately the mid- to late-1970s, I think. It was subsequently expanded in phases, first to a triplex, then to a five-plex, then to 7 and 9 screens as listed above. (I could be slightly wrong on the exact details, which I am repeating from memory.) For many years, adjacent to the Amigo theater was a drive-in called the Cisco; the projection/concessions building was still there as recently as a few years ago. I went to high school in Bemidji in the late-1980s, when the Amigo had five screens. I’m eager to see the newly remodeled theater.
I believe that Watts Mill was originally a quad when it opened in March of 1973. It was opened by Mid-America theater circuit, which was in the midst of a big expansion in the Kansas City area in the early-1970s. Boxoffice Magazine of April 2, 1973, says that the theater was Mid-America’s first quad to be opened as part of a shopping center (i.e. within the structure of the strip shopping center itself) as opposed to being adjacent to a shopping center.
Thanks for that clarification, Joe. I checked the Boxoffice article you referenced, as well as the KC Star advertisement that I based my write-up on. The advertisement mentions Costlow Associates but does not indicate that the building was new construction. The Ruskin building is definitely freestanding from the shopping center. The building still exists and can be seen here (it’s the building in the upper left; the shopping center itself is to the right).
Here is another 2009 photo.
Kirk, you make a good point about newspaper movie advertisements generating incidental interest in a film. I wonder if theatre chains/distributors have considered this angle. My guess is that they have, and have decided that the dwindling overall newspaper readership makes the loss worth the savings from the expense of newspaper ads. The bulk of younger movie fans (high school and college age) are likely not newspaper readers anyways, and get their awareness of what movies are in release or about to be in release from other sources (mainly online).
My feelings about this trend (which is happening even in the relatively small market I am near, Fargo, North Dakota) are two-fold. First, it’s another sign of how most of the things that we used to rely on daily newspapers for—not only movie listings, but TV listings, classified ads, and all variety of other mundane, quotidian information—have migrated to the web, leaving the newspaper industry in a state of crisis. This crisis in journalism and in the daily American newspaper is one of the most interesting stories of our time. Second, it is a crisis for historical research, as the movie listings in newspapers have been a reliable source of historical information about movie theaters, theater programming, and the dynamics of American film exhibition. Much of the information on this website relies on access to such information in newspapers of years past. When it comes time to write the history of film exhibition and movie theaters of the early-2000s (and beyond) it’s going to be hard (or impossible) to find accurate information on what theaters existed, what movies they played at given times, and all of the other information that we take for granted and that has always been in newspapers regarding movie theaters.
I just noticed that the number of screens listed here for this theater is three. I can’t say 100% for sure, but I am pretty sure that this theater never had more than a single screen. If it did have three, it was subdivided from one very late in its life. But I don’t think it was anything other than a single screen.
If you click on the link at the bottom of that blog post, there is another link to a nice, big, high-res version of the image.
Great ad—although I wish the scan was a little bigger! The image shows reasonably well the unique “on stilts” construction of the theatre, with parking underneath. This feature is even incorporated into the advertising—ride the escalator up to the theatre! Interesting also is the use of Xenon bulb projection in advertising, which was still relatively rare at the time (especially, apparently, in Fargo), and which I’ve not before seen used as an advertising appeal. (Did contemporary audiences really care or know the difference I wonder?)
The Lark Theater and the Fargo Cinema Grill are in fact the same building. The building was built circa the late-1960s/early-1970s (by the Plitt chain, I think) as the Lark. The Fargo Cinema Grill later opened in the same building (after an interlude in the early-1990s as an indoor golf driving range!). The building was nearly one-of-a-kind in that the theater was built sort of on stilts with parking underneath it, an arrangement I’ve not seen in any other movie theatre. The building sat vacant for a few years until recently (in fall 2008), when it was torn down. A building for the downtown Fargo campus of North Dakota State University is now being constructed on the site.
AlAlvarez: you are right that there were other twin theatres before the Parkway, and that Cinema I-II in Manhattan predated it (and was likely the actual first twin theatre). General Cinema had a few twin theatres opened by mid-1963, with a few more on the drawing boards (or under construction). I think the legend that this was the first twin theatre is something that has been propagated by AMC in its attempt to grab all the credit for “inventing” the multiplex theatre. The more accurate landmark for the Parkway is that is was probably the first twin theatre to be opened that was located inside an enclosed mall—as opposed to being a free-standing building near or attached to a mall or shopping center.
Vic1964 above is right, if the local public library has the Newton (or whichever pertinent) newspaper on microfilm, it should be a piece of cake to locate the proper day and find out what movie was playing. I do this kind of research all the time, reconstructing programming schedules for movie theatres; you can often learn a great deal of interesting things about local movie theatres, in addition to what films were playing. A website called NewspaperArchive.com has a lot (like, hundreds) of newspapers accessible, if you run out of other options (and if they have the newspaper for Newton, NJ).
It is likely that this is one of the theatres resulting from a partnership between United Artist Theatre Circuit’s Minitek subsidiary and the Holiday Inn hotel chain. UATC/Minitek and Holiday Inn partnered in late-1969 to construct and operate minicinema theatres (with small capacity, automated projection, and easy formatting into shopping-center locations).
The first of the Holiday Inn Minitek theatres (probably this theatre) was opened in Fort Smith in March of 1970. Despite what it says above, the theatre was a twin theatre, though, with two 350-seat auditoriums.
This theatre was part of the MiniCinema chain of theatres franchised by Modular Cinemas. Modular Cinemas was out of Atlanta, and they pioneered the concept of the minicinema: very small theatres that could be fitted into already existing space in a shopping center. With small capacity auditoriums, automated projection, and a very small staff, minicinemas were popular in the early-1970s and elements of the format were incorporated into later multiplex theatres to refine that mode of theatre.
The Brainerd MiniCinema was in the Brainerd Village Shopping Center in Chattanooga and opened in March of 1969. It was the fifth minicinema opened by Modular, and it had a seating capacity of 400.
As far as I know, the theatre has been called the Strand since its opening, which was not in the ‘30s, as stated above, but was in circa 1916. The above comment about the theatre having shown adult movies since approximately the '70s is accurate.