3102 Troost Avenue,
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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.
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