Kentucky Theatre

25 S. Fifth Street,
Paducah, KY 42001

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The Kentucky Theatre was opened in 1901, and closed in 1955.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 26, 2009 at 2:02 am

Boxoffice of December 24, 1955, said “The Kentucky Theatre, 1200-seater at Paducah, Ky., shuttered recently….” The house had long been run by the Keilor family’s Columbia Amusement Company.

The March 2, 1959, issue of Boxoffice reported that the Kentucky Theatre and the adjacent Palmer Hotel were slated to be demolished to make way for a shopping center. One of the partners in the project was Jack Keilor. The item said that the Kentucky Theatre had been built by his grandfather, John W. Keilor, and had opened on September 24, 1901.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 4, 2010 at 7:01 am

The September 25, 1901, issue of the Paducah sun said that the Kentucky Theatre had been designed by Paducah architect William Brainerd.

An article in the March 9, 1904, issue of the Paducah Sun said that Brainerd had just returned from Henderson, Kentucky, where James English (manager of the Kentucky) was contemplating building a new theater. I’ve been unable to determine of this project was ever carried out.

The July 9, 1904, edition of the Sun said that William Brainerd had been hired to design a new opera house at Owensboro, Kentucky, and that it would be “…a similar plan to the ‘Kentucky’ of this city….” So far I’ve been unable to discover if this theater was built either. If the Owensboro and/or Henderson projects were carried out, they are either not listed at Cinema Treasures or are missing their aka’s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm

I’ve come across several references that place the Kentucky Theatre on North Fifth Street, between Broadway and Jefferson. One is page 112 of Paducah: Frontier to the Atomic Age, by John E. L. Robertson. Another is the advertising of the Williams Bicycle Co. in various issues of the Paducah Evening Sun in the 1900s, which give the shop’s address as “126-128 North Fifth St., Next to Kentucky Theater.” That would put the Kentucky Theatre on the east side of Fifth Street in the block north of Broadway.

If the Kentucky was on N. Fifth, that would leave the question of the brick theater at 111 S. Fifth, which this LoopNet listing insists is the Arcade Theatre. As the Arcade was on Broadway, this was clearly not it, but what theater was it?

For a while I thought it might be the missing Orpheum Theatre, which Leo Keiler was operating in the 1920s, but that turns out to have been the Kentucky Theatre itself. The Orpheum is mentioned as the former Old Opera House in Keiler’s 1958 obituary, and as the former Kentucky Theatre in John Keiler’s 1929 obituary. It was operating as the Orpheum in 1929, but I haven’t discovered when it returned to the name Kentucky Theatre.

The building at 111 S. Fifth doesn’t look large enough to have held the Kentucky’s original 1,600 seats, over 600 of which were in the gallery, according to the Cahn guide’s listings of the Kentucky Theatre. From the side view this theater doesn’t look as though it even had a gallery. It just isn’t tall enough.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but the brick auditorium is attached to the back of the Arcade Theatre’s entrance building, and satellite view shows that the Arcade’s entrance ran back a long way. The entrance had shop entrances along both sides, in the manner of an Italian galleria. It looks like LoopNet was right, and the red brick building is the Arcade’s auditorium. It’s just about the right size for 700 seats.

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