Isis Theater

3102 Troost Avenue,
Kansas City, MO 64109

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Isis, 1945

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Isis Theater was representative of a unique component of Kansas City’s past: the neighborhood theater. Opened in August of 1918 at the southwest corner of 31st Street and Troost Avenue, the Isis Theater was considered to be the finest suburban theater in the city. The Isis Theater’s owners were attuned to the needs of their customers and attention was most readily apparent in the building itself. The entrance was one of the most spacious in Kansas City, and was outfitted in decor consistent with the outside of the building and the auditorium itself.

The owners of the Isis Theater have an unrecognized but important role in the history of animation. In the early-1920’s, they employed Carl Stalling as an organist and Walt Disney as an illustrator of commercial slides for the theater. Eventually, the two men worked together on a series of small song films and this partnership took them to Hollywood, where they continued their collaboration for a short time before each branched out on his own: Stalling to Warner Brothers, where he became a composer for the studio’s famed cartoons; Disney went on to make history as head of his own production company.

The Isis Theater did have its share of bad luck, however. Three fires in 1928, 1939 and 1954 caused considerable damage, but the Isis Theater continued on showing first-run movies until 1968. Dwindling audiences resulted in a switch to adult films, which lasted through 1970. By that time the surrounding neighborhood was in decline, and the theater was frequently subject to robberies. On March 15, 1970, disgruntled youths rioted, breaking theater and store windows and engaging police in violent attacks. The Isis Theater announced its closing less than two months later. While businesses continued to occupy the rest of the Wirthman Building, the theater remained vacant. The structure was finally razed in early 1997.

Contributed by Paul Salley

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on July 22, 2006 at 9:37 pm

The Wirthman Building and Isis Theater were originally constructed in 1918 as a two-story building. The additional stories were added later. It appears it was done sometime between 1918-27, since the additional stories appear in photos taken in 1927.

claydoh77
claydoh77 on December 26, 2006 at 4:08 am

Another photo:
View link

Article about the tulips on troost where the Isis once stood:
http://chuck.mahost.org/weblog/?p=1341

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on September 10, 2007 at 9:19 am

Interesting link to the Isis Theater programming

View link

ladymjw
ladymjw on August 22, 2010 at 11:19 pm

KCK all your links are not working.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 19, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Here is some linkrot repair for the Kansas City Public Library images:

1918 photo, showing the original two-story Wirthman Building.

1937 photo, showing the five-story Wirthman Building.

A 1928 photo showing what the library presumes is the lobby of the Isis.

Another 1928 photo showing the theater by night.

A 1940 photo, with an inexplicable “Grand Opening Friday October 6” displayed on the marquee (perhaps the theater had been closed for a while for renovations.)

dougsparling
dougsparling on June 8, 2013 at 6:19 am

The article says there was a fire in 1939, so I’m guessing it was closed for a while and reopened in 1940.

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on August 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm

My Mom worked in an Insurance Company office in the building and my Dentist – Dr. Honda was in there too. We went to a lot of movies there. What recall is the extremely large movie screen – it was considered the largest in KC. I wish someone could post some later interior pics of the Isis. I remember a lot of half moon blue lighting on the sides of the walls. When I was in 8th grage a few friends of mine used to take the bus down there and meet some girls that we first met at the El Toreon Roller Rink. The drugstore next door had fantastic sodas and malts.

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