Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet

1400 Main Street,
Kansas City, MO 64105

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Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The 3,000-plus seat Mainstreet Theatre opened in October 30, 1921, the only theater 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 theater 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 theater, 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. In 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 107 comments)

RobbKCity on June 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I still feel sad about AMC leaving the Mainstreet because AMC/Durwood Theaters has had a presence in downtown Kansas City for decades. This company was born in Kansas City, Missouri with the purchase of the old Regent Theater downtown. When they move from their headquarters building to Leawood, they won’t have any presence there at all anymore. The Power and Light District was originally Stan Durwood’s (AMC) idea. I wish AMC had ended up with ownership of the Mainstreet after it was restored, and not Cordish. I had hoped at one time that AMC would build a new headquarters building west of the theater.

CSWalczak on June 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Alamo Drafthouse plans to rename the lounge at the Mainstreet the Chesterfield to recall a piece of Kansas City history: View article

KCB3Player on June 26, 2012 at 5:53 am

So what – the Marquee Lounge was pretty kool too. I do not remember any lounge called the Chesterfield unless it was the Lounge upstairs in the dome when the theater was called the RKO Missouri. The stairs going up to that lounge are gone. Also the 2nd floor ballroom that was also a dance studio. I worked there in 1965, 66 and early 67 and went thru every inch of that wonderful old theater. The lounge was pretty nice but had a lot of clutter in it just like all the store fronts became a catch all of old theater items like projectors speakers etc. I wish they would have left that 2nd floor ball room – it was beautiful and was one of a few areas of theater not destroyed by years of neglect. I wanted the old Academy and Studio marguee signs but they got thrown into the dumpster when the theater was beeing completely gutted. The old Empire signes with the crown was in there too.

KCB3Player on July 18, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Tinseltoes – I have enjoyed seeing the different changes of the RKO Missouri (Mainstreet Theater). Do you have a ref of the changes that were made to the Liberty to the Roxy theater that also appeared in Box Office. The Roxy was a beautiful little Durwood Theater (actually their 2nd theater in KC)

KingBiscuits on August 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Actually, I would say the Drafthouse company taking over is the best thing to happen to this theatre. This is a theatre that should be getting exclusives and indie fare (instead of playing the same movies as everyone else) and this company does just that. Also, you never read a bad thing about the Drafthouse chain and they know everything that is right about filmgoing.

CSWalczak on October 1, 2012 at 10:16 pm

The Mainstreet is closing temporarily for conversion to the Alamo Drafthouse format; reopening is estimated to be around November 15, 2012. View article

CSWalczak on November 15, 2012 at 9:31 pm

This theater has reopened as the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet; the seat counts in some of the theaters has been reduced is some of the screening rooms. View article

WTKFLHN on December 30, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I can remember going to the Missouri and seeing a movie and sitting in the front row by the Orchestra pit to see a “Blackstone, the magician” show around 1950, I think. He made a canary in a small cage disappear and I got to check his coat sleeves to make sure he didn’t have it there.

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 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!

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