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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.
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