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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!
Beautiful!!!!!! Thank You for saving this wonderful Landmark!
The matting was simply black cloth sometimes heavy felt that was on a track both vertical and horrizontal that could be mechanically moved from the projection booth to change the aspect ratio. Near the end maybe the last year and a half of operation, a Stereo amp was installed with 2 speakers on each side wall to provide much better sound. When the theater was demolished, the Voice of the Theater Speakers were never removed and the old RCA Mono amp was still in it. I still have that RCA Mono Amp and took out the woofers, crossovers and horn drivers after about 10% of the Demolition. I also got rewind equipment out of the projection booth. Part of the old arc lamp housings were still in the booth as the theater was being demolish. Really sad!!! It could have been a great revival and art house.
Nice comments – that matting of the screen was done there but they may have indeed installed a larger and new screen within the space that they had. There were exits on each side of the screen but stage curtains did indeed go from each wall to the other. Again, a horrible loss to downtown Independence, especially since a newly formed Theater Arts Group had been formed and wanted the Granada for their productions
Even though I was a small boy, I remember that the recessed lighting was a Rose color off of the antique white and gold leaf – it was beautiful. The stage curtain was a beautiful crimson color and so were the redone seats. The orghestra seats were beutiful and taken over to the Tower Theater to prep it for the long run of Oklahoma. The screen was taking and installed at The Uptown Theater when it became obvious that it was going to be demolished. The facade was supposed to be saved for the new edition of the Hotel. Looking at what there is now – it is a crime that it was not saved.
Yes – they are wonderful – do you have any interior pics of other theaters in KC?
Taht was a very special theater especially when it began showing art films. It was always very clean. Always wondered why the organ was never played even though it was in plain site over to the side. I remember singing the film David and Lisa there.
I worked at the Paramount in 1965 abd early 66. The wonderful secrets that builting had especially behind the screen on the old stage. It was a large performing arts stage and much of the organ pipes and effects were still there. No one knew that the organ was downstairs on a lift until the theater was demolished. There was a grand piano, drums and a harp behind the screen sitting to the side of the stage. Also, we went into the ceiling where you could see the equipment to lower the beautiful lights for cleaning. A very young Thomas Hart Benton painted most of the murals that were pricesly and simply demolished. No one cared, not even the so called Landmarks Commission. Stan Durwood knew about them when he had it converted to the Towne IV and was careful to not destroy them but cover them up. I doubt that he woudl see that theater demolish 4.5 years later for one of the uglist buildings in downtown KC. The Roxy went too and could have been a wonderful playhouse incorporated into the City Center Project. No vision aat that time.
Kansas City and St.Louis, MO had some of the most beautiful theaters in the country and most are gone. The worst horror story is the loss of the SF Fox and the NY Roxy.
There were many theaters named Orpheum, however, there were seven that were disigned and built in a very similar style. These were the live performance Orpheum’s bult prior to 1920. The Kansas City Orpheum was considered to be the most beautiful of the seven and took on a look similar to the Paris Opera House both inside and outside. The St. Louis Orpheum looks very Ksimilar inside to the KC Theater and it indeed still in operation but the main floor has been tiered. The paint color sceme is very similar to what was done to the KC Orpheum in 1951 to spruce it up for the showing of The Robe – the very first Cinimascope Picture. The theater was beautiful and in prestine condition. It was a pride of Kansas City along with The Loew’s Midland Theater a block away. Many Kansas Citians were horrifid to learn that the Tower and the Orpheum would be raised in the same year. We also saw the loss of the Esquire which had been recently renovated by a local owner. I think we are all still waiting for pics to be posted by bobster1985 – hope he does have some pics. At one time, I had an interior pic with the curtain open showing the cinimascope screen but have been unable to find it. The New Orleans Orpheum and the St. Louis Orpheum have very similar exteriors. The interiors are again similar but not quite as opulent as the KC Orpheum was. The Boston Orpheum is now gone and so is the Madison, WS. The Omaha Orpheum was built in a similar style and was larger – more similar to the Loew’s Midland – still very beautiful and in use for Live Stage Shows.
Tinseltoes – I have enjoyed seeing the different changes of the RKO Missouri (Mainstreet Theater). Do you have a ref of the changes that were made to the Liberty to the Roxy theater that also appeared in Box Office. The Roxy was a beautiful little Durwood Theater (actually their 2nd theater in KC)
Main Street between 11th and 12th Street was beutifully lit up with the Paramount and the Roxy Theater full of Neon Marquee’s. I watched as the Roxy Marquee was ripped down – broken neon everywhere. It was really sad. The replaced marquee was UGLY and I told that to Ralph Burhmaster – the Manager and also to Stan Durwood. Stan Durwood put money into the Roxy and also the redo of the Roxy into the Towne 4 Theaters knowing that they were going to be demolished a few eyars later. He set himself up to get top dollar for those two buildings. I still wish that the Roxy would have been saved and incorporated into the City Center. The CC was supposed to have a 6 screen movie theater in it. Never knew what happened.
The Dickenson Theater was a real beauty inside and out. Yes, the stage area was altered for a larger screen and surround sound etc. I do not live in Topeka, but went there as a kid with relatives when I visited. Why in the world would the arts community of Topeka ever had let this be demolished for a stupid surface parking lot. It would have been a wonderful smaller performing arts venue or playhouse. Stupid is Supid is Stupid is is is.
So what – the Marquee Lounge was pretty kool too. I do not remember any lounge called the Chesterfield unless it was the Lounge upstairs in the dome when the theater was called the RKO Missouri. The stairs going up to that lounge are gone. Also the 2nd floor ballroom that was also a dance studio. I worked there in 1965, 66 and early 67 and went thru every inch of that wonderful old theater. The lounge was pretty nice but had a lot of clutter in it just like all the store fronts became a catch all of old theater items like projectors speakers etc. I wish they would have left that 2nd floor ball room – it was beautiful and was one of a few areas of theater not destroyed by years of neglect. I wanted the old Academy and Studio marguee signs but they got thrown into the dumpster when the theater was beeing completely gutted. The old Empire signes with the crown was in there too.
OK maybe a different company but it was the same consept – look at both companies' websites. Again, it was a total bust. Why is it that the AMC Mainstreet sold more tickets for its downstairs 3 screening rooms that the upstairs? I had two bad experiences with the upstairs theaters and it is annoying. Also, with the Alamo operation, the prices will probably spike. I think that AMC was stupid for handing over the Mainstreet Theater. As for the Midland, when is Cordish going to start working on The Midland Tower and start repairing the problems in The Auditorium – cracks and paint chips and other plaster problems and burnt out light buibs?
I am pretty sure that the Alamo Drafthouse took over the closed Majestic Theater complex at Zona Rosa and added more screening rooms and it was a total flop and closed 7 weeks later. The thinking that everyone wants to watch movies with a lot of stinky food in the air is just wrong. It is not working like some people think it will. I am OK with adult beverages but I do not want to be interrupted during the movie like they presently do in the 3 upstairs theaters. Screening Room 3 down stairs is fantastic and they are going to ruin it. I think I am going to stick with The Fine Arts Theaters, The Tivoli and the Eastland Theaters. Mr. Williams when are you going to actually open the Englewood and keep it open? If not, please sell it to someone that will.
Does anyone know the current status of the restoration of the beautiful Uptown theater?. It would be great if the facde and maraquee could be restored and get the near by buildings occupied again.
Wow, what a beauty that must be restored and saved. Much more beautiful than even the Chicago Theater. But, both are very important.
Does anyone have any pictures towards the end – both interior and exterior? When I left the KC area it actually because a $1.00 house that started out at only $,50 and still had the very large movie screen that came out of the Tower Theater just before it was demolished. The drapes and screen were actually were brought forward in front of the original screen because the new screen was designed as a curved Todd-A-O wide screen. For years the Brookside was a First Run House. I still know many people that miss it and wish it were still in there beloved Brookside neighborhood. There were other spaces that the grocery strore could have been replaced but thanks to the suspicious fire, the grocery store was able to be rebuild as a twice as large modern store. More pics posted would be most appreciated.
Sad loss to the US along with the Fabulous Fox in SF and the Roxy in NY. Terrible losses – there were others too, but these 3 were the most important.
The info is incorrect above. The beautiful theater was in operation on weekends up thru then end of 1969 or early 1970. It was a beauty in very nice condition. It was a Mom and Pop operation. They had even put in new lighting in the mid 60’s on the side walls. The screen was never changed to show wide screen movies but they did a matting trick. In the late 60’s there was an Independence Community Theater that tried to use the Granada and was willing to build out a stage coming forward that would have allowed for a larger movie screen to be installed. However, the City Council along with the owner of the local cab company had other plans. He wanted it demolished so he could park his cabs on that site. Everyone I talked to in Independence was sick over the covert action with the City Council to declare a “Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority” to become a Cap Parking Lot. If it would have remained standing, it would have still been in operation today as a Live Theater venue and also a specialty movie theater. This is a terrible loss for downtown Independence and the entire city. Very sad indeed. I watch it demolished in 1972 right after I was discharged from the Air Force. I tried my best to save it, but I could not compete with politics. It was in beautiful condition and not converted to any type of retail use when it was destroyed. Does anyone have any pics of this theater – I would live to have a copy. They are posted on OldKC.com but no one can copy pics from that site for personal use, nor can they buy them.
Was this theater ever restored? Where was it located?
Are there any interior pics of the Empress. As a young boy, I can remember seeing it being demolished while riding in a 12th Street Streetcar on several occasions. It was a very large theater and maybe even larger than the Tower on 12th Street.
I reference to one of the above comment, I never did take any pictures and really regret it. I have a piece of Tera Cotta from the beautiful front of the building. There were rumors that Stan Durwood wanted to dismantle the front of the Roxy to have it redone in a multi-plex but that did not happen. It was sad to see it demolished especially when all the drapes were removed and you could see all the beautiful plaster work that was destroyed. It was truely a beautiful theater. When the theater was demolished all of the old theater organ pipes were also destroyed. The organ had been covered and it was also destroyed with no intention of saving it. Not even sure anyone knew it was there since it had been covered over for many years from the 1959 renovation. I do have a few interior display signs that were in the upstairs lounge. Wish we still had this wonderful theater.