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Ironically, the first film to be shown at the Cinema was “The Glass Bottom Boat” and the last movie shown there was “Titanic.”
In the late 1960s, the Varsity became the Film Arts Theatre, which was run by Commonwealth Theatres.
It’s three years later, but I just saw the comment posted by Mike Nye. I worked with Mike at the Uptown Theatre in Columbia in 1969 when he was the assistant manager under John Newcomer. Mike left in September 1969 to take his first manager’s job at the nearby Hall Theatre. Hey, Mike, do you still have the autographed still of the cast from “The Wild Bunch?”
The corner of Clinkscales Road and West Broadway has houses located there and these were part of the neighborhood that had full view of the drive-in’s screen. During the time the Broadway drive-in was in operation, the easiest access to it was from West Broadway. There is a small road that borders the east side of the Broadway Shopping Center’s parking lot, and it leads to Ash Street, which, in turn, leads to Clinkscales several yards away to the east. But to get to the drive-in’s entrance from this route involved making a sharp u-turn in the shopping center parking lot, as well as maneuvering to get into line. The vast majority of drive-in patrons used the entrance on West Broadway.
The Hall Theatre actually opened in 1916. My grandfather, who was a student at the University of Missouri in 1917, resided in the apartment house located behind the Hall Theatre. He remembered being unable to study because of the music coming from the vaudeville shows. By the way, the apartment building where he lived is still located behind the theatre.The Hall Theatre was built by Moberly resident Thomas Calvin Hall. A large painting of Mr. Hall used to be located on the landing of the north balcony stairway in the theatre. Mr. Hall also built the Varsity Theatre in Columbia, which later became the Film Arts Theatre, and is now the home of The Blue Note. The Hall Theatre did not become an art house per se. In 1966, not 1961, the theatre became the site of a series called “The Film Arts,” which showcased foreign films on an irregular basis. The series was so popular it led to the opening of the aforementioned “Film Arts Theatre by Commonwealth. The Hall remained open during the summer months in the early 1960s. It was the site of several first-run films at that time. It began showing double features in the mid to late 1960s and during this time is when it closed in the summer. It would reopen when the college students returned in the fall.
I remember that the State Theatre was called the Sosna State in the early 1960s. I saw “The Time Machine” there and remember sitting in the balcony. I also remember that the ushers patrolling the aisles were ferociously strict. I mean you couldn’t even whisper in someone’s ear next to you without an usher turning his flashlight on you and hissing, “Be quiet!” Other than that, it was a unique-looking theatre and it is a shame that it wasn’t put on the Historical Register.
I worked at the Uptown Theatre from 1969-1971. It had 505 seats at that time. During the early 1960s, the Uptown was the site for many of the blockbuster, or “roadshow” films, mainly because of its screen’s ratio, which was perfect for the new Panavision process. Films such as “Spartacus,” “The Longest Day,” “How The West Was Won,” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “Cleopatra,” “The Alamo” and “Exodus” all had their Columbia debut there. It was unique theatre in Columbia due to the fact that it was the only downtown theatre without a balcony and was designed solely for movies, whereas the other downtown theatres, the Hall, Missouri and Varsity/Film Arts, respectively, started as vaudeville houses. The Uptown’s auditorium was long and narrow and every seat had a good view of the screen. The theatre had two lobbies, the main lobby upstairs and a smaller one in a downstairs area where the restrooms were. In 1970 the lower lobby and restrooms were completely renovated. As the workman tore away the north wall of the lobby, they discovered the foundation remnants of an old blacksmith’s forge, which had once occupied the theatre’s location.
I had the honor to be the first person admitted to the Forum Theatre when it opened in 1967. It’s inaugural feature was “Tobruk.” I was given a personal tour of the facilities by the theatre manager and shown the projection booth, which had the capacity to run 70mm films. The Forum had an excellent screen, which captured the ratio of Panavision and Cinemascope almost perfectly. The six-track stereo sound system was also marvelous, notable especially when larger roadshow films premiered or were rereleased. When it first opened, the Forum was the only Dickinson theatre in Columbia and the theatre chain used to promote their flagship theatre, The Glenwood, in Overland Park, KS at the Forum! I remember for years the soda cups at the Forum’s concession stand had the Dickinson logo and the Glenwood Theatre’s name and address on them. Most of the films shown at the Forum were from MGM, Universal and 20th Century-Fox.