Showing 1 - 25 of 30 comments
When I lived in Topeka in 1960, Fox Midwest was running the Orpheum and it was showing 2nd run movies, usually a double feature. The Grand, Jayhawk and Dickinson were all running 1st run features.
I can remember a trip to the Dickinson to see a atrocious wide screen version of “Gone With The Wind”.
I lived in the 900 block of Topeka blvd, and had 4 great theaters to pick from to go to the movies back then.
My mother told me when I was a child, that her mother used to refer to the Regent as “the smelly feet theatre”.
I know that Fox got some relief from the feds around 1960 or so, from the anti-trust suit in the 1940’s. The acquired the New 50 drive in, and one in the Topeka, Ks area. I can’t recall the name of the drive-in in Topeka, but I did work there as assistant concession stand manager. But it was a part time job, and I couldn’t support myself on what I was making. So, I had to drop it in favor of my day-job. And it was Fox Midwest, not Intermountain.
This add must date back to the mid 1940’s. The Rockhill and the Waldo were divested in the consent decree and Fox Theatres that happened in about 1946.
I have a story to tell about the Tower. In 1958, I was the assistant mgr. at the Fairway in Fairway, Ks. The manager I worked for, R. Hill, had been the manager at the Tower for a number of years. He was there doing the runs of “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific”. One of his other duties was the advertising of the theatres in the KC Star. He did the group ads for all the Fox theatres and the display ads for the first run unit, The Tower, Uptown, Fairway and the Granada. He had also been doing this while he was at the Tower. One day, he needed some mats, I believe they were called, for some ads he was doing. So of this stuff was still stored at the Tower. Mr Hill went down to the theatre, and he said as soon as he unlocked the front door, he got the creepy feeling he was not alone there. He hollered out, and soon heard someone running and a loud crash. He turned around, went and locked himself in the Box Office and called the KCPD.
The police came and inspected the building. The loud crash he had heard was someone breaking thru one of the auditorium emergency exits. These doors had all been braced shut with 2x4 wedged under the panic bolt so the doors couldn’t be opened from the outside. The door in question, had its 2x4 broken by the unknown person leaving in a hurry. A inspection of the theatre showed that someone had been living in the place. There was a bed roll, some food, dirty clothes, etc.
What they couldn't figure out is how this guy was getting in to the theatre. A Fox maintenance man who knew the theatre well came down and really looked around. There was and iron ladder on the outside of the stage area that went up to the roof of the building over the stage. The intruder had climbed up to the roof, found a skylight over the stage that wasn't locked, climbed thru that to a catwalk over the stage and climbed down a ladder to the floor of the stage. Talk about nerve.
The skylight was secured and that was that. I don't think Mr. Hill went down to the Tower alone again.
I can remember going to the Uptown on Sunday afternoon’s. Alberta Byrd used to give organ concerts and play request for about 30 min. before the show would start. This was probably around 1949 or so.
By the way, not that matters that much today. But the Esquire was not at the corner of 12th and Grand, but was in the middle of the block. That picture above shows the alley in the middle of the block on 12th st between Grand and McGee. The address at the top of the page, 211 e 12st is correct. The Tower had exits which came out in that alley on the west side of the auditorium, and on McGee st on the east side.
To KCB3Player. Yes, indeed, I was working at the Esquire during that last short run. And, if memory serves me, the Esquire was owned by Elmer Rhoden, who did also own the Waldo. I can remember that after we spreed mothballs on the wool carpet runners in both aisles, the mezzanine, the lobby and the balcony we loaded all the concession supplies into our cars, and took them out to the Waldo. The manager their took them and invited us to stay and watch the show. They were playing “Lil' Abner”, which I hadn’t seen before.
Under the stage in the Esquire, there was a connecting door, which came up in the engine room in the Tower. I went in there once, when it was closed up at the time. I can remember the managers office was upstairs and the mezzanine above that long lobby the Tower was famous for. I never went backstage though, and I can’t remember for the life on me, whether there was still that big Todd-AO screen that they had put in the for ‘South Pacific".
I recently was watching a deluxe DVD of the film “Funny Face” from about 1956. The secondary DVD goes into a elaborate description of the VistaVision film process. I worked at the Plaza theater, among others, and never realized what that process entailed. I found out it requires a special projection system and a VERY large screen, which most theater owners balked at buying because of the cost. I just wondered if anyone knows if the Paramount theater had one. Anyone know?
Yes, Frank. The Theatre was recently sold to the owners of Tipitina’s. As you say, it’s to be remolded and will hopefully be the home of the La Philharmonic Symphony, again.
Something is wrong about the listing for movie in Kansas City, Mo. South Pacific in TODD-AO, played at the Tower Theatre. Not the Capri. I used to work for the man who was the manager of the Tower during its long run.
I can remember going too “Rollercoaster” with Timothy Bottoms there. The theatre was one of the few if not the only, to install the Sensesurround system the emphasized the bass notes and shook in your seats. They also played a movie called “Earthquake” that used that process.
This building is now being used as a day care center.
I used to work for the Muzak people, here in New Orleans. And can remember installing Muzak used in the auditorium during intermissions and in the lobby. This was probably about 1967 or so. I think this theatre was a part ot the United chain.
I was assistant manager at the Esquire when it closed for the last time. I have been backstage at the Esquire. The stage was very small and that I know of, there weren’t any dressing rooms. So, I too would think that the Esquire was strictly a movie house. I know that back in its heyday, it was used as an overflow house tor Tower/Pantages. We had a pretty short run that last time. We opened and closed in just 4 weeks. I was given to understand that the ground that the theatres stood on was divided up like this. The long lobby of the Tower and most of the Esquire belonged to one owner. This excluded the stage area of the Esquire. The stage of the Esquire and the rest of the Tower belonged to another owner. There was no for one theatre to stay if the other was being demolished. Sad.
Interesting. The chandelier shown in this picture had been removed and was replaced by a spotlight used by the cleaning crew after hours. This was in the 1950’s when I worked there.
This is a photo of the main lobby before the concession stand was added. The double doors lead into the foyer. The fountain area was removed when the concession stand was added. Thanks again to Charmaine Zoe for sharing these photos.
I want to thank Charmaine Zoe for sharing these pictures with us.
This photo is actually the downstairs lounge showing a drinking fountain and the north stairs leading to the foyer outside the first floor auditorium. The rest rooms are off to the right in this picture.
Thanks for the info.
I can remember the KIMO in the 1950’s as an art house. I can recall them Playing the “RED SHOES” for something like 5 or 6 months. It was at that time operated by the Dickinson Theater chain.
I can remember going to the Missouri and seeing a movie and sitting in the front row by the Orchestra pit to see a “Blackstone, the magician” show around 1950, I think. He made a canary in a small cage disappear and I got to check his coat sleeves to make sure he didn’t have it there.
I just want to comment on the Plaza’s seating capacity as a former employee. Before the theatre was cut up into 3 screens, and before they put in the extra large screen for “The Guns of Naveronne, 70mm engagement which brought the screen out in front of the arch and covered the orchestra pit, and the removal on the organ, the seating was 1800, 600 hundred in the balcony, and 1200 on the 1st floor.
I also have some memories of the stage shows they had there from time to time. One in particular, was the appearance of Dunninger, a mind reading act. The lady who would rent the theatre, didn’t generally use ushers. But I told the assistant mgr.I would work for free, if I could see the show, and she agreed. We went up to the balcony, which was closed, and watched the show, which was sold out on the 1st floor. The guy working with me was a skeptic, and thought that Dunninger was using plants in the audience. After the show, we went back stage to meet him. He was very nice to us. He explained to my friend that he was a mind reader, and could only tell what you knew in your mind, and was not a clairvoyant. He asked my friend if he knew how much change was in his change his pocket. My friend didn’t know, but he went off to check it. When he came back, Dunninger looked at him and said, “39 cents”. The guys jaw dropped and he said,“That’s right”. I don’t, to this day, know how he did it, but I was impressed.