4700-08 Wyandotte Street,
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The Plaza Theater opened on October 9, 1928 and helped solidify the elite ambience of the emerging Country Club Plaza. The theater added to the Spanish motif of the Plaza’s architecture, and altered patrons' perceptions of the area from a glamorous shopping area to more of an entertainment destination.
The theater’s 72-foot tower ensured its prominence as a Country Club Plaza landmark for many years. The most remarkable feature of the theater was its decor. Country Club Plaza developer J. C. Nichols and architect Edward Tanner went to great lengths to faithfully recreate the atmosphere of a Spanish villa. The theater lobby, for instance, was designed to mimic an inner court, with a red tile floor highlighted with glazed tiles depicting Spanish military figures. The Plaza Theater was primarily a movie house and was owned by an incarnation of the Fox Company from 1931 through the 1960s.
The space also played a role in the Nichols Company’s ongoing desire to impart culture on visitors to the Country Club Plaza. Beginning in 1951, the Kansas City Music Club sponsored the Thursday Morning Series of lectures and musical performances held at the theater. The list of names of series participants is quite impressive: Charles Laughton; Agnes Moorehead; Jessica Tandy; Hugh Cronyn; Claude Rains; Edward R. Murrow; and many others. Proceeds from the series went to fund club activities.
In 1961, the theater was remodeled to accomodate the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra, which performed there for several years. In the early 1980s, the main theater auditorium was divided into two parts, the balcony enclosed, and a screen installed on the upper level. This multi-screen format lasted for several years, but competition from suburban complexes and a 15-screen multiplex at the western edge of the shopping district spelled the end for the Plaza.
In April 1999, the theater finally and mournfully closed. Restoration Hardware, a national chain of hardware and decorating stores, remodeled the theater and moved into the space. The old Plaza, now serving patrons in a different capacity, reopened in the fall of 1999.
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