Fox Tower Theater
215 E. 12th Street,
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The Pantages Theater was a downtown landmark, largely in part to its 180-foot high tower topped by a revolving electrical sign blazoning the theater’s name. As part of the vaudeville circuit established by Alexander Pantages, the theater catered to a mass entertainment audience rather than the traditional cultured theatergoer.
Three shows were held each weekday, four on Saturdays, and five each Sunday. This arrangement brought success to the theater’s owners from the opening night on August 27, 1921 to the beginning of the Great Depression. By 1931, the theater, like many around the country, closed for three years.
New owners eventually took over and reopened the Pantages Theater as the Tower Theater on April 13, 1934. Adding motion pictures to the program, the theater survived. In the 1940’s, the Tower Theater was operated by the Fox Midwest Theatres chain. Stage shows also continued until 1947 – one of the last vaudeville houses in the country when it switched to movies-only.
In October 1956 it was equipped with a Tod-AO system and screen Gordon MacRea in “Oklahoma” followed by David Niven in “Around the World in 80 Days”. By the late-1950’s, Kansas citizens became enamoured with television and their patronage of downtown movie theaters like the Tower Theater diminished dramatically. It was closed on July 8, 1958 with Alan Ladd in “The Proud Rebel” & Charles Bronson in “Showdown at Boot Hill”. Other priorities emerged for the land upon which the Tower Theater stood and a parking lot replaced the building when it was torn down in 1960.
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