Stella Theater

312 W. Main Street,
Council Grove, KS 66846

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 20, 2011 at 8:34 am

A book published in 1921, “The Story of Council Grove on the Santa Fe Trail,” says that T.W. Whiting built the Stella Theatre in 1916 and gave the deed on the property to the daughter, Mrs. Glen Kelly, for whom the theater was named. The house was sold to W.R. Bratton in 1921. A book from 1912 reveals that Whiting’s full name was Thomas Wilbert Whiting.

Boxoffice of September 18, 1954, said that Cle Bratton was remodeling the Ritz Theatre at Council Grove. The item said the the Chief Drive-In would remain in operation until the Ritz reopened on October 31. Cle Bratton and the Chief Drive-In are mentioned in Boxoffice again in 1956.

The Ritz was being operated by Mary Picolet by 1986, when she was quoted in this Chicago Tribune article (which only mentions the theater in passing, but is about an event too entertaining for me not to link to it.) I’ve also found Mary Picolet mentioned as operator of the Ritz as late as 1997, so she might have run the place right up until its closing.

The 1912-1913 edition of Julius Cahn’s Theatrical Guide listed an earlier theater in Council Grove, the Etta Opera House. I don’t know what became of it after 1921, when it was serving as an armory, or if it ever operated as a movie house, but small town opera houses of that era frequently did present movies.