Esquire Theatre

211 East 12th Street,
Kansas City, MO 64106

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Esquire Theatre

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One of the long gone downtown houses of Kansas City. Opened as the Twelfth Street Theatre in around 1922, became the Wonderland Theatre in 1932. Then Downtown Theatre and later renamed the Esquire Theatre. It closed in the 1960’s.

Contributed by Chuck Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 9, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Thanks for the update, JAlex. The 12th Street Theatre must have been at least under construction by mid-1920, so it was probably in operation before its neighbor, the Pantages/Tower, which opened in August, 1921.

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on May 9, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I wish someone had some good interior pictures of the Esquire and the Tower Theater. As for the “grind” house – I am not sure that was true of the Esquire (formerly 12th Street. I think someone is getting confused with the theater across the street facing McGee. It had a performing arts stage, back stage and dressing rooms. I think the Esquire theater was built strictly as a movie house with a theater organ installed. The stage was only big enough for the organ equipment, screen, curtain rigging and later the speakers.

I may be wrong, but I had been told this by my father.regular singer

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on May 9, 2010 at 6:09 pm

To all the Kansas City theater lovers – wouldn’t it be wonderful if we still had the Orpheum, Tower, Paramount, Roxy, Empress, and Palace Thesters, not to forget some of our wonderful neighborhood theaters. I am still looking for a picture of the Aladdin Theater on Truman Road and Belmont when it was in operation. I am told that there are a lot of theater pictures at the UMKC Library, but I have never been there. Also would like the National Theater on Independence Ave.
Several years ago, someone posted pic of the Tower, Esquire and Orpheum Theater all being demolished withine 6 months apart in 1961. They

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on August 3, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Image of the Esquire Theater.

http://digital.library.umsystem.edu/cgi/i/image/image-idx?sid=738293e1c6fb79905fb58dcaf947adc1;med=1;q1=umkcredic;rgn1=umkcredic_all;size=20;c=umkcredic;lasttype=boolean;view=entry;lastview=thumbnail;subview=detail;cc=umkcredic;entryid=x-010.tif;viewid=010.TIF;start=1;resnum=10

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on August 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Image of Esquire Theater front facade.

http://digital.library.umsystem.edu/cgi/i/image/image-idx?sid=738293e1c6fb79905fb58dcaf947adc1;med=1;q1=umkcredic;rgn1=umkcredic_all;size=20;c=umkcredic;lasttype=boolean;view=entry;lastview=thumbnail;subview=detail;cc=umkcredic;entryid=x-015.tif;viewid=015.TIF;start=1;resnum=15

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 3, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Copying and pasting Robb’s links doesn’t work for me. This might be one of the photos, if this link works.

Here is a link to the UM digital library image search page. Searching with Esquire in one box and theatre (-re spelling) in the other will fetch 22 images of the Esquire.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on January 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm

I was assistant manager at the Esquire when it closed for the last time. I have been backstage at the Esquire. The stage was very small and that I know of, there weren’t any dressing rooms. So, I too would think that the Esquire was strictly a movie house. I know that back in its heyday, it was used as an overflow house tor Tower/Pantages. We had a pretty short run that last time. We opened and closed in just 4 weeks. I was given to understand that the ground that the theatres stood on was divided up like this. The long lobby of the Tower and most of the Esquire belonged to one owner. This excluded the stage area of the Esquire. The stage of the Esquire and the rest of the Tower belonged to another owner. There was no for one theatre to stay if the other was being demolished. Sad.

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on January 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm

To WTKFLHN – you must have been with the theater when the owner of the Waldo also opened the Esquire. Yes, it was only opened for a short time and had vry little business. Before it closed before it was mainly the Disney Theater in town (for some reason). I remember seeing quite a few Disney movies there. I remember going in both theaters with my Dad (he was the main singer at the Tower). I can tell you that the stage of the Esquire was built into the Tower Auditorum far right end and was actually changed into the main manager office sometime in the 40s. The Esquire was actually built before the Tower (Pantages) was built. There was a shop built on the site of the beautiful long lobby of the Tower. That lobby was full of beautiful marble, I can r recall seeing various stages of the demolition – very sad.. I am pretty sure it was originally calls The 12th Street and it was a live performance facility but the large performing arts stage did not survive when the Tower was built and that was where offices were. The Tower had an orchestra pit and a lot of dressing rooms built on each side of the stage. It was a large stage but not as large as the Main Street. Both theaters were in very nice condition when they were demolished, especially the Tower with the entire auditorium repained and the orchestra seats broght over from the Orpheum Theater (now that was a very sad loss and I fear that St. Louis is gong to loose their Orpheum ( a twin of ours) very soon.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on July 16, 2014 at 5:49 pm

To KCB3Player. Yes, indeed, I was working at the Esquire during that last short run. And, if memory serves me, the Esquire was owned by Elmer Rhoden, who did also own the Waldo. I can remember that after we spreed mothballs on the wool carpet runners in both aisles, the mezzanine, the lobby and the balcony we loaded all the concession supplies into our cars, and took them out to the Waldo. The manager their took them and invited us to stay and watch the show. They were playing “Lil' Abner”, which I hadn’t seen before. Under the stage in the Esquire, there was a connecting door, which came up in the engine room in the Tower. I went in there once, when it was closed up at the time. I can remember the managers office was upstairs and the mezzanine above that long lobby the Tower was famous for. I never went backstage though, and I can’t remember for the life on me, whether there was still that big Todd-AO screen that they had put in the for ‘South Pacific".

Don H

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on July 16, 2014 at 5:56 pm

By the way, not that matters that much today. But the Esquire was not at the corner of 12th and Grand, but was in the middle of the block. That picture above shows the alley in the middle of the block on 12th st between Grand and McGee. The address at the top of the page, 211 e 12st is correct. The Tower had exits which came out in that alley on the west side of the auditorium, and on McGee st on the east side.

Don H
                  
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