Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet

1400 Main Street,
Kansas City, MO 64105

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Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet

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The 3,000-plus seat Mainstreet Theatre opened in October 30, 1921 with Conway tearle in “After Midnight” on the screen and on the stage Eddie Foy & the Younger Foy’s in “The Foy Fun Revue” plus vaudeville acts. It was the only theatre in Kansas City designed by the Chicago firm of Rapp & Rapp. Its interior design was French Baroque style and the exterior a blend of Neo-Classical and French Empire styles. The lobby area is topped by a dome encircled by circular windows.

It was the first theatre in Kansas City to contain a nursery for parents attending shows. The Mainstreet Theatre also featured an underground tunnel which connected it to the nearby President Hotel. Also, its basement and sub-basement contained space for animals used in the elaborate vaudeville shows put on at the theatre, including cages for animals as large as elephants (and elevators big enough to carry them up to the stage) and pools for seals.

From the time the Mainstreet Theatre opened until 1938, it was part of the so-called “Junior Orpheum” circuit, and among the famous names to play its stage were Charlie Chaplin and Cab Calloway.

The Mainstreet Theatre closed for the first time in 1938, briefly reopened in 1941, and remained closed until 1949, when it was reopened by the RKO circuit, as a movie palace, called the RKO Missouri Theatre. On December 1, 1960 it was renamed the Empire Theatre, and was for several years a Cinerama house. The Empire Theatre closed once again in 1985.

Though plans to turn it into a Planet Hollywood-style entertainment venue and eatery were floated, it never came to fruition. Its owner was then seeking to demolish the historic (though not landmarked) structure, but local preservationists sought to save the former Empire Theatre. The Empire Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in February 2006.

In September 2008, work began to convert the theatre into a six-screen movie theatre. It reopened in April 2009, and reverted back to its original name Mainstreet Theatre. The two largest theatres have 300 seats each, and the smaller theatres will have 50 to 100 seats. On Novermber 15, 2012, it became the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 115 comments)

Carlj
Carlj on January 19, 2013 at 8:21 am

Our parents took my sister and I here Christmas Day 1979 to see Superman. was a great theater and was glad to see it reopen

BeltwayBrian
BeltwayBrian on March 11, 2014 at 7:25 am

Nothing but love for this theater. It was my first (three consecutive nights) visit to an Alamo Drafthouse and I was not disappointed (Flash Gordon!). Love to know that this old gal has some very cool history. Viva Cinerama!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm

The Durwood circuit’s plans to convert the balcony of the Empire Theatre into a separate auditorium were reported in the October 24, 1966, issue of Boxoffice. Durwood had acquired the house from RKO in 1960 and subsequently remodeled and renamed it the Empire. An upstairs lounge had been converted into the 136-seat Academy Theatre prior to the twinning of the original auditorium.

Durwood’s plan was to continue operating the 900-seat ground floor theater as a Cinerama house called the Empire I, while the new, 1,200-seat theater in the former balcony and upper part of the auditorium, which was to extend to the top of the original proscenium, would be operated as a roadshow house called the Empire II.

The $300,000 conversion was designed by architects Hugh Hamlin and Charles Pike of the firm Northern & Hamlin.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Here is a bit of additional information about the period when the Empire was operated by Stan Durwood’s AMC Theatres. It is from the NRHP Registration Form (PDF here) for the Mainstreet Theatre, and the details differ somewhat from the original conversion plans noted in the 1966 Boxoffice article:

“In 1967, Durwood split the Empire into two theaters, by adding steel girders to the front of the balcony and extending a deck from the balcony to the proscenium. This made a large theater upstairs with 1,005 seats. It was first called the Royal, and later the Empire I. The Empire II (first floor) continued as a Cinerama Theatre. In 1980, the upstairs was further split in two with a wall down the middle. Each theater seated about 400. A small lobby under the balcony had been converted earlier to a narrow theatre with a small screen seating about 100. It was called the Academy then later known simply as the Empire 1, 2, 3, and 4.”

imaxman
imaxman on August 25, 2015 at 6:48 pm

In the fall of 1968 I saw “2001 Space Odyssey” I suppose in the lower Empire 2. Possibly in that same time period I say “Around The World in 80 Days” in the upstairs theater, a reissue? Last film I saw in the upper small theater was “Flap” Anthony Quinn Release Date: November 1970 (USA). That was the last film I saw there as I returned to California.

rivest266
rivest266 on April 23, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Grand opening ad from October 30th, 1921 can be found in the photo section.

rivest266
rivest266 on May 5, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Reopened as RKO Missouri on July 26th, 1949. Ad in photo section and at https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01110225224715029151525560093.

rivest266
rivest266 on May 5, 2018 at 3:44 pm

Full page ad at https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01110225224715029151525560283

rivest266
rivest266 on May 6, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Full page ad as Empire on December 21st, 1960 https://www.genealogybank.com/nbshare/AC01110225224715029151525636527

rivest266
rivest266 on May 7, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Upstairs Empire theatre renamed Royal on June 26th, 1968

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