Uptown Theater

3700 Broadway,
Kansas City, MO 64111

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Uptown Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Uptown Theater opened on January 7, 1928, to capacity crowds, with vaudeville acts, a full orchestra, and the film “The Irresistible Lover”. It was built for Carl Laemmle’s Universal Pictures.

Designed by famed Austrian-born theater architect John Eberson, the auditorium, which once sat 2,300 patrons, was created to look like an Mediterranean courtyard, complete with Classical style arches and columns, and sea-side views on the side walls. The ceiling featured a field of twinkling stars, drifting clouds, and for a time, mechanical birds.

In the late-1930’s, the Uptown Theater copyrighted a Fragratone system, which funneled fragrances into the auditorium via the ventiltion ducts. The theater continued to feature stage shows and film until well after WWII, and remained one of Kansas City’s most profitable theaters as late as the 1960’s.

In the 1970’s, both the Lyric Opera and the Palace Dinner Theatre used the Uptown Theater as their home in addition to hosting concerts and live performances on its stage. In 1989, the Uptown Theater at last closed its doors and soon fell into a state of disrepair.

Five years later, the UGA LLC bought the theater and began a year-long, $15 million restoration project which returned the theater back to its former glory, including Eberson’s decoration in the auditorium, and the lobby’s original color scheme. Seating in the main auditorium was also reduced by about 500 seats. Furthermore, a large addition was made to the original Uptown building to facilitate meetings and banquets.

Today, the Uptown Theater is one of the Midwest’s finest restored historic movie palaces. It plays host to concerts and special events, such as weddings, corporate events and other ocassions.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 31 comments)

johngladeau on August 14, 2008 at 8:51 pm

I’m John Gladeau, President of the Old Hyde Park Neighborhood Association. I would like to correct a statement made by someone who misrepresents themselves on this site as “the truth”. I have never said anything derogatory about Larry Sells. He and the redevelopment group he is associated with did an outstanding job restoring the Uptown theater. I consider Larry to be a friend and find it offensive that someone would assert that I would publically or privately make such an unsavory comment about him. Furthermore, as a community leader I would never use profanity in any media interview regardless of the issue at hand. I suspect the person who posted the comment is the same cowardly individual who has been posting things all over the internet to defame my character and the character of others. He needs to find better things to do with his time.

MPol on May 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

What a fabulous-looking theatre! Hope it stays.

MPol on May 31, 2009 at 8:12 am

What a beautiful theatre!

Jean on July 20, 2009 at 5:28 am

I am related to KATZ of Balaban & Katz. My late mom and her cousin used to get into all the b&K theatres for free as kids!

Jean on July 20, 2009 at 5:30 am

Oops! Wrong Uptown!

seymourcox on September 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm

From the J.K. Redmond Photo Archives come these vintage images of the Uptown Theatre -
View link

TLSLOEWS on December 24, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Very Uptown kind of theatre,great pictures.

jgrebe on April 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm

The organ that was installed , a Robert Morton 3m/13r has been installed in a suburb of St. Louis, MO and has grown to a 3m/36r
since the late 1960’s

WTKFLHN on July 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

I can remember going to the Uptown on Sunday afternoon’s. Alberta Byrd used to give organ concerts and play request for about 30 min. before the show would start. This was probably around 1949 or so.

Don H.

WTKFLHN on August 27, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Although I don’t live in KC anymore, I was happy to catch some glimpses of the remodeled Uptown when President Obama made a speech on his recent trip to KC. It looks Great! My compliments to Larry Sell and his efforts to keep this beautiful theater in good shape.

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