Esquire Theatre

211 East 12th Street,
Kansas City, MO 64106

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KCB3Player
KCB3Player on August 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Afternoons or in the evenings after 8:00 pm. Enjoy the restoration of the Orpheum, Loew’s State (Palace) the Joy and the Saenger Theaterss (and a few others). I think the Joy is now a night club but at least it was saved. The Orpheum is similar to our Orpheum that was demolished in 1961.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on August 26, 2014 at 1:31 pm

By the way. I live in New Orleans, now. So be looking for a 504 area code.

Don H.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on August 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Mike. I’ll do that, I promise. When is the best time to call?

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on August 25, 2014 at 2:42 pm

the Capri was a Durwood Theater near 11th and Broadway and then became the Lyric for many years of performances by the Lyric Opera and the Kansas City Ballet. I really thought that UMKC would take it over. It is a very good theater originally built as a Shriner’s Temple. KMBC TV had their studio in the basement. I hope it can be saved. I did not work at the Plaza but that was a 2nd Cousin of mine that did. If it would have still been owned by the J.C.Nichols Co. it would have never been destroyed -it would have been a great live performance Theater and could could have been easily renovated. I used to go to all the WHB Saturday morning Shows and always sat in the balcony. I saw Goldfinger there. Loved that theater too. Feel free to call me sometime and let’s talk old KC Theaters. 8168133664

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on August 25, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Mike. Where was the Capri Theatre you mention? I think I’ve heard of it, but I don’t find in KC listings here.

Don H.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on August 25, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Mike. Did you ever work at the Plaza? The was a man with your last name there. He was an assistant mgr. But he left before I got there. I have heard his name mentioned. But I don’t know his first name.

Don H.

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on August 25, 2014 at 3:56 am

Maybe South Pacific was moved over to the Capri when the Tower finally closed its doors because my family did go to the Capri. There was one more long engagement movie at the Capri before BenHur. BenHur was the longest running movie ever in any KC Theater. I will never forget seeing it there and could not believe how wide the screen was and that beautiful sound. Sadly, my Dad took me to the Auction when the contents were being sold in preparation for the demolition of the Tower and Esquire Theater. All the beautiful Italian Marble on the walls of the long entry way just destroyed with no attempt to salvage it. The screen had already been removed and half of the seats were gone. We walked up to the projection booth and also just looked at the beauty of the theater especially the ceiling and the stage that was going to be gone in a short time. It was a sad time for KC especially because the Orpheum was meeting the same fate just a few months later.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on August 24, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Mike. You were talking about the sound system at the Plaza. I recall working there in 1956, when the film “Forbidden Planet” was playing. Back then, new shows started on Wednesdays and closed the following Tuesday.Well “Forbidden Planet” had one of the most stunning 4 track stereo soundtracks I’ve ever heard. On the Wednesday night show, it would knock your socks off. On Thursday, not so much. A lowly usher wouldn’t dream of going up to the projection booth to complain. So, I told my boss, the assistant mgr. He listens and says. “sounds OK to me”. So, I jumped about on Friday and he said the same think. On Saturday, he finally gave in and went up to the projection booth. The projectionist went to a relay rack, open the door and looked inside. He says, “Don’s right. there are 2 amps out. Will call RCA service co and get them out here Monday”. Monday night and Tuesday the movie sounded AWESOME again.

Don H.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on August 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm

South Pacific did indeed play at the Tower in ToddAO. The mgr at the time was Roy Hill, I think it probably ray for about a year or so. I know I saw “South Pacific” at the Tower when I was still working at the Plaza. It took me quite a while to get a pass to see it, even on a matinees. KCBE, the Disney movies you saw at the Esquire, may have been because the Esquire was in the FOX Midwest 1st run unit, with Uptown, Fairway and later, the Granada. If for some reason the Tower wasn’t running in the unit, the Esquire would be open and in the 1st run Fox unit. Disney movies always played 1st run at Fox. And they were Golden. Always a sell out on weekend matinees, especially. I can remember working at the Fairway, having the theatre sold out, and a double line from the box office, all the way to the back of the theatre in the parking lot and back out to the street. Those were the days.

Don H.

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on August 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I just remembered that the Todd-A-O screen at the Tower was set up for the very long run of Oklahoma which ran for more than a year. The next movie was Around the World in 80 Days but was later transferred up the the RKO Missouri (Mainstreet, Cinerama and later Empire.I think either Around the World in 80 Day or Suddenly Last Summer was the last film to play the RKO Missouri before it was changed to 3 projection Cinerama. At that time the first ¼ of the balcony was removed in addition to the side lodges in front of the organ pipe grills. That was all covered by drapes.

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on August 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

To WTKFLHN – The large slightly curved Todd-A-O screen either went to the Brookside or the Plaza Theater. I am thinking the Brookside. The Wide Screen at the Orpheum was large but still smaller than the Tower’s huge screen. I do not remember South Pacific ever showing at the Tower, I thought that it was the the very first move shown at The Capri Theater. I may be Wrong. I was once told that the Orpheum Screen may have gone to the Capri instead of the Plaza. The screen at the Plaza was actually a curved Todd-A-O Screen but may have been brand new when it was mounted in front of the stage with light orange stage drapes. The Plaza was the 1st theater with any kind of surround sound ( it was actually a 2 channel stereo but sounded fantastic anyway ). The Esquire had no stage left – it was removed when the Pantages was built. I do not remember it having any stage curtain when I saw some Disney movies there in the 50s.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on August 22, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Not that it matters much at this late date, but the Esquire didn’t get very good movies to show on that last 4 week run before we finally closed. “The Wreck of The Mary Deere”, for example. (Really ?) Also we had a hefty union payroll. For the life of me, I can’t figure why they needed a full time stage hand. There wasn’t any stage at the Esquire, No curtain, no movable masking. If we had been allowed to operate that theatre like they do today, I think we would have been there a lot longer that 4 weeks.

Don H.

WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on July 16, 2014 at 2:56 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
                
WTKFLHN
WTKFLHN on July 16, 2014 at 2:49 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

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on January 15, 2014 at 3:07 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 January 15, 2014 at 1:55 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 3, 2011 at 3:40 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.

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on August 3, 2011 at 1:35 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

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on August 3, 2011 at 1:27 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

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on May 9, 2010 at 3:09 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

KCB3Player
KCB3Player on May 9, 2010 at 3:04 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

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 9, 2010 at 2:06 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.

JAlex
JAlex on May 9, 2010 at 10:58 am

Digging further into my research, an item in the St. Louis Post-
Dispatch of June 23, 1920 stated the new 12th Street Theatre was purchased by the Skouras interests from Richards and Flynn for $250,000 (including the FN franchise).

JAlex
JAlex on May 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

It was noted in the July 3, 1920 issue of Billboard that Spyros Skouras announced the purchase of the 12th Steet Theatre in Kansas City, together with the purchase of the Kansas City First National franchise and that F. L. Newman was to be the managing director of the theatre. It is not clear what the status of the theatre was at the time. This was the Skouras Brothers' first venture out of St. Louis and they already had the St. Louis First National franchise and obtaining the KC franchise gave them the entire state of Missouri.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 7, 2009 at 1:07 am

Another clue to the earlier history of the Esquire appears in Boxoffice of May 3, 1947. The item was about the Tower replacing the Esquire as Fox Midwest’s “A” house in Kansas City, playing first run movies day and date with their Uptown Theatre. The item says that, as the Twelfth Street Theatre, the Esquire had been a burlesque house.

However, an item in The Reel Journal of August 28, 1926, said of a fellow named Cullen Espy: “Starting his career with Skouras Bros. some years ago as manager of the Twelfth Street Theatre in Kansas City….” It seems unlikely that the Skouras brothers would have operated a burlesque house, so if the place had that policy during the late 1920s-early 1930s, they must have sold the theater to another operator, and then Fox Midwest bought it in 1938. As a Skouras operation in the earlier 1920s The Twelfth Street had been a regular movie theater.

In addition, comments exchanged by Warren Harris and Claydoh77 on March 28, 2008, at the Tower Theatre page reveal that this house was called the Wonderland Theatre beginning in 1932. The Wonderland was a grind house. So far there’s no information about when the Wonderland became the Downtown.

So the time-line of names now appears to be: Twelfth Street Theatre from around 1922, when it was operated by the Skouras brothers (probably the original owners,) and then at some unknown date it was converted to a burlesque house operating under the same name until 1932, then it became the Wonderland Theatre for a time, and then the Downtown Theatre, and then the Esquire from 1938 until closing.

I believe the Twelfth Street/Esquire is in the last photo on this web page, right next to the Pantages/Tower. A similar picture is on the Tower’s Cinema Treasures page, but this larger photo makes it clear that there are two theaters side by side. The Twelfth Street is the nearer theater, with the arch on the front.