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The instrument of choice for the Warwick Theatre was the American Fotoplayer by the American Photo Player Company.
The instrument of choice for the Holland Theatre was the American Fotoplayer by the American Photo Player Company.
John G. Holland launched his Holland Theatre on July 27, 1914. Holland charged five cents on a grind policy with programming about 45 minutes of films that played continuously from morning till midnight. Holland left the theater in a year but it carried on with his name for more than 13 years. Owners including Charles Bull, D.J. Piatt, and C.L. Brosius tried to make a winner out of the silent-era movie house with middling results.
Likely knowing that the cost of sound installation was too great, the venue closed late in 1927 despite a lease that ran until 1939. The space was retrofitted as a clothing store called The Fields. The building has since been demolished.
R.R. Gunby and C.L. Hannon opened the West Theater on August 22, 1924 with Dorothy Mackaill in “Mighty Lak-A-Rose” supported by Gilbert Holmes in “Hello Pardner.” They operated on a five year lease from building owner and local real estate person, Fred Farmer. O.F. Sullivan took on the venue, likely on a 25-year leasing agreement with Farmer, closing it throughout May of 1928 to reverse the seating and give the house a needed refresh. That refresh was, in the eyes of a local critic, “as pretty as a little red wagon.” A year later, in June of 1929, Sullivan equipped the theater for sound for the venue to remain viable.
Sullivan and his wife would acquire other local theaters under his Sullivan Independent Theatres Circuit nameplate. Sullivan downgraded the West to a third-tier discount house with all seats just a quarter in its final stage of operation. Sullivan closed the West Theatre (nicknamed “The Little Dreamhouse”) on December 13, 1953 with “Texas Stampede” with Charles Starrett and Dick Sands in “Phantom From Space” supported by a cartoon and a newsreel. The space had been a retail location prior to becoming a theater and transitioned back to retail location following its nearly 30-year run as a theater.
Harold and Alice deGraw of the Oneonta Theatre launched the first and only new hardtop theater in 58 years at 11-15 Elm on November 20, 1970 with Spencer Tracy and a cast of many in the Showcase Cinema’s opening film of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” Prior to launch, the deGraws consummated a deal to have the venue operated by Boston-based Esquire Theatres of America. The theater fulfilled its 30-year lease before closing.
The Maxey Theatre launched December 7, 1922 with Norma Talmadge in “The Eternal Flame.” Following its renaming as the Palace Theatre, it would end on May 11, 1966 with “The Group” before being demolished for a new bank.
The Dunbar Theatre was at least Wichita’s second African American movie house. In the silent era, the Melrose turned Gilpin Theatre had launched on Main Street in 1921. It has its own Cinema Treasure page. The Dunbar Theatre launched for American Enterprises Inc. Circuit on August 15, 1941. The opening program featured Dorothy Lamour on the “Road to Zanzibar,” Mantan Moreland in 1941’s “The Gang’s All Here,” and a cartoon. The venue had Brenkert projectors and RCA sound at launch. Economical design by architect Raymond M. Harmon maximized safety and space usage in the 500-seat venue. The Dunbar was named for poet / author Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The venue at North Cleveland Street represented a shift of the hub of African American commerce and nightlife. That hub once existed from Water and South Main but began to gravitate to the North End / McKinley Park Neighborhood - especially on and near the Main Street area of the Neighborhood that thrived into the 1920s. Fading due to the Depression, the hub of African American nightlife moved slightly northward to Cleveland and Ninth Street area. (The North End / McKinley Park Neighborhood are known now as Old Town and McAdams neighborhoods.)
The Dunbar Theatre was taken on by Dickinson Theatres during World War II. The Dunbar participated in a city-wide World War II patriotic visit by Dororthy “Dottie” Lamour who came to Wichita on April 26, 1942 as part of the Victory Pledge campaign that also timed out with her feature film, “The Fleet’s In.” A neighboring ice cream parlor and nearby drug store served as de facto concession stands for many patrons prior to or after Dunbar movies, live shows, or community events.
Dickinson sold or leased the venue in 1948 - likely the latter as a 15-year subleasing agreement - to independent interests. The theatre continued to 1963. A downturn in the area led to the vacant property being condemned by the City of Wichita - a certain goner several time during and after urban renewal in which many similar era structures were eradicated. But the Dunbar remarkably staved off demolition due to great work by the community to save the historically relevant former theater. Starting in 1990, the building was designated as a local landmark and, in 2008, it was listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Power CDC purchased the Dunbar at auction for $25,000 and has been renovating the property since.
The building has been given vibrant murals on its outside, an infrastructure change on its interior, and a restoration of its marquee, attractor, and vertical blade. LK Architects created a design to move the gutted building into a vibrant arts center dedicated to African-American heritage in the Wichita area. Status - renovating.
The Crawford Theater’s final show was Walt Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and Betty Grable in “Three for the Show” on January 2, 1956. A salvage sale started the day after with a treasure trove of hidden ephemera uncovered prior to the theater’s demolition. The local press opined that the Crawford’s two biggest blows occurred when talkies were installed in Wichita in 1928 leading to the live venue’s conversion from top tier live showplace to second-tier movie house in 1930 and the demolition ball that crushed the venue in February of 1956.
Fox Midwest closed the Wichita Theatre at the end of a leasing period on November 30, 1960 with “Ten Who Dared” and “The Half Pint.” The building was demolished in July of 1970.
Slothower Theatre Circuit opened the 800-car Derby Drive-In in diminutive Mulvane, Kansas, on June 12, 1956 with “The Last Hunt” and “On the Threshold of Space.” Commonwealth took on the venue and first close the venue following the 1964 season.
Commonwealth retained the lease and decided to relight the Derby in 1969 relaunching with “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Green Berets” on June 20, 1969. That didn’t go so well and Commonwealth closed following the 1969 season. Robert Howard reopened the Derby one final time on May 24, 1973 as the Country Drive-In Theatre. It closed after the 1974 season and was auctioned off in December of 1974. It was demolished and the entry is best left as the Derby Drive-In formerly known as the Country Drive-In.
Commonwealth closed the ozoner on August 19, 1979 with a double feature of “The Warriors” and “Up in Smoke.” The property was embroiled in a zoning debate over the next four years as the property owner tried to create a mobile home park after having the screen tower demolished after the final season. (Also, it was never the Country Drive-In Theatre - that was the Derby Drive-In that turned to the Country moniker.)
The Roxy exits Wichita’s downtown with Azteca Studio Films on April 15, 1956 and a double feature “Historia de un Corazón” with Rosario Granados and “Los hijos de María Morale” with Irma Durantes. The building was converted that year for other purposes and later razed.
Operators Woody Barritt and Al McClure left Fox Midwest to operate this venue. They closed it on August 13, 1972 with John Wayne in “The Cowboys” and Dick Van Dyke in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” The pair auctioned off the the remnants of the drive-in to raze the Rainbow Drive-In in favor of the rebuilt Landmark Twin Drive-In (later Starlite).
Commonwealth made news by opening Wichita’s first hardtop theater since 1952 and did so with the city’s first twin-screen indoor venue. Opening as the Twin Lakes Theaters 1 & 2, Commonwealth featured “The Odd Couple” on June 12, 1968 with Miss America Debra Barnes in attendance.
In 1988, United Artists acquired Commonwealth. But in the multiplex era, UA was trying to rid itself of aging singles, doubles, and triples. It dropped the venue on October 24, 1990. Richard Durwood’s Crown Cinema Corporation took on the venue the next month as the Twin Lakes Cinema. Crown and Durwood closed it as the Twin Lakes Cinema with Eddie Murphy in “The Distinguished Gentleman” and Richard Pryor in “The Toy” on January 21, 1993 citing low attendance and reaching the end of its 25-year lease.
The two sentence entry above as submitted by Cactus Jack notes that the Palace was open in 1957 and had been closed in 1958. For more detailed history of the Palace, it is provided below:
The Palace Theater opened on a ten-year lease by Southwest Amusement Circuit on January 17, 1916 with Frank Keenan in “The Crowd" supported by Fatty Arbuckle in “Fatty’s Fickle Fall.” P. Hans Flath was at the $10,000 pipe organ that night. It was the Boller Brothers. design that set the theater apart in the first generation of movie theaters with their creative use of terra cotta, stained glass windows, and great quantities of marble. It was organist Flath who would become a star over the next five plus years at the keyboard. Flath would move to the new Miller Theatre playing its mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. The Palace hire Don Williams as his replacement. Southwest Amusement would re-up the lease for an eye-popping $500,000 over 20 years in 1925.
Southwest Amusement and “Doc” Miller operated the downtown movie palaces including his Miller, the Palace and the Wichita until selling his entire 50-theater Midwest Theatre Company to Fox Theatres in 1929. Likely, the cost of transitioning to sound was a challenge although The Palace had the distinction under Midwest and Miller of having been the first Wichita theater to wire for sound on May 14, 1928 with the film, “When a Man Loves” and short subjects. (Note: though the film was without dialogue, the film was the third Warner Bros. feature with a pre-recoded disc soundtrack.)
The Palace’s pipe organ - presumably an Austin Organ Co. make - was de-installed and donated to Friends University in 1938 during a streamline makeover. The Palace Theatre was known as “the House of Hits” and Fox Midwest re-upped for a final 20-year lease in 1945. Fox ran the venue until selling it to Sullivan Independent Theatres in 1953. Sullivan converted the Palace to widescreen for presentation of CinemaScope titles in 1954.
The Palace closed in style with “Mutiny on the Bounty” on April 27, 1963 following a road show engagement. Competition from suburban theaters with free parking and drive-in theaters led to its closure. Sullivan carried on with the downtown Crest until selling it to Commonwealth in December of 1963 after almost 40 years of theatrical operations in Wichita. The Palace reached expiry of lease as a vacant building in 1965 eyed as the City tried to go through urban renewal in its central business district. The Palace was razed in a botched demolition job in 1966 with the walls prematurely collapsing - although there were no injuries. It was replaced by a parking lot.
Closed September 2, 1979 with a Disney double-feature of “The Jungle Book” and “Unidentified Flying Oddball”. A classified ad listed the theater contents for sale just prior to its demolition
The Meadowlark Twin Theatre closed for the season on September 19, 1982 with “Night Shift,” “Arthur” and “Caddyshack” on Screen I and “Sorceress,” “Death Race 2000,” and “Death Sport” on Screen II. The Meadowlark Twin was demolished in 1983 replaced by the Georgetown Village retirement community.
John Winfrey designed the K-42 Drive-In for Sullivan Independent Theatres Circuit. The venue closed for the season on September 22, 1986 with a triple feature of “Aliens,” “SpaceCamp,” and “Big Trouble in Little China.” It didn’t reopen and was razed for an industrial site.
Closed permanently following the November 6, 2022 showings due to light business.
The entry for the Circle Cinema by Jeff Chapman reads, “At this time little is known about the Circle Theatre. In the 1970’s it was operating as an adult movie theatre. It was closed in 1983. At this time little is known about the Circle Theatre.” For those hoping for accurate information - including the venue’s name, it’s below.
The circular stadium-shaped adult cinema and retail shop began as what was going to be a chain of sports-themed restaurants called Big Leaguer(s). Opening in 1969 and inspired by the Astrodome, the “mini-stadium” venue booked special guest Rocky Marciano to stoke business. The concept fizzled quickly fading within about six months. The venue was then converted to a live events concept known as The Sound Sircus with live concerts. That business had stops and starts losing its liquor license and for not serving minority patrons closing in 1975.
After a refresh, the venue was reopened as the Circle Cinema - an adult theater arriving late in the porno chic period of film exhibition. It opened on January 21, 1976 with Andrea True in “The Seduction of Lynn Carter” and Bambi Allen in “Affair in the Air.” As a welcome to the neighborhood, the City of Wichita busted the venue for obscene content. The crackdown was unwarranted as the venue showed X-rated fare and not the unrated “XXX” content that might have more of a chance in the court system. By the late 1980s, the Circle catered to gay patrons. The successful venue continued with triple feature films and video rentals.
In 2005, the City tried to zone the business into obsolescence without success and instead constantly harassed the cinema’s patrons with vice busts trying to close the business in that manner. Give the plucky Circle folks credit for not caving even if the entertainment was not in line with most of the public’s sensibilities. The venue’s theatrical exhibition was temporarily closed on March 16, 2020 due to COVID-19 and did not look to be making a comeback. The main business emphasis was on adult toys and CBD products but it was still conducting business / operational as the Circle Cinema.
The entirety of the entry above reads, “Opened in 1918, not much else is known about the Arcadia Theatre. Please share any information you may have on this movie house.” Here are some details about the live events-centric Arcadia Theatre that opened in 1919 though not as a movie house and from my research (though one could create a day-by-day of the Arcadia’s history as there appears to be nothing unknown about it):
The Arcadia Theatre opened in its first iteration as the 2,500-seat Arcadia Grove Theatre on September 29, 1919 in time for the annual Wheat Show Exposition in Wichita’s new Exposition Building. Pictures show the spectacular rooftop garden theater as arguably one of the prettiest venues of its type in the United States. Simply amazing. Apparently architect Lorenz Schmidt was behind the original Arcadia and the new $1 million Exposition Building first conceptualized in 1917 as an annex to the cavernous Forum which was built in 1910. The Arcadia Grove was located at 201 South Water Street and was on the building’s second floor next to the Forum and the new Rose Room ballroom.
But the problems and complaints from patrons of the Arcadia Grove were so pronounced during the 1920 Expo that events were moved or cancelled. So - though beautiful - the rooftop concept was totally reworked as the New Arcadia Theater, a 1,931 seat venue which was used as a smaller venue to the 4,000 seat Forum. The New Arcadia launched as a live venue on September 26, 1921 just in time for the
The Arcadia was a live event venue that had an almost unfathomable run operating from 1921 to 1965. Appearing there live were Nelson Eddy, Duke Ellington, Spike Jones, Ethel Barrymore, Ed Wynn, et al. When Eddy performed next to a circus going on at the Forum, lions' roars were quite audible. Eddy. quite the sport, sang louder claiming that he could be more vociferous than any animal in the kingdom. The swan song for the Arcadia was a live performance of “Spoon River” on February 27, 1965. It was used as a polling place in April of 1965.
A demolition crew came in to prep the venue for razing at which time the balcony completely collapsed cracking the foundation pillars and buckling the Arcadia’s main floor. Having occurred just months after its final capacity show, a local reporter asked whether the demolition crew’s intentions to make the cave-in happen or if it was the building’s poor condition that led to the collapse. Not putting anyone’s minds at ease, the demolition said that the collapse would have occurred at one of the next shows with any capacity or swaying in the balcony. So it was a situation where the demolition of the landmark theater was fortuitous.
Sullivan Independent Theatres opened the 81 Drive-In on August 15, 1946 with “The Queen of the Ice” Belita in “Silver Skates” supported by a Three Stooges shorts, and other short subjects. It was just the second ozoner in Kansas behind Wichita’s more primitive Broadway Auto Theatre.
The 81 was far more modern sporting the State of Kansas' largest neon sign (as of 1946/7) with varilite functionality making an evening entry visually pleasing. Unlike the Brodway, the 81 was modernized with speakers at every spot and, purportedly, its own patented ramp design.
The 81 Drive-In closed at the expiry of a 25-year leasing period with Dean Jones in “The Million Dollar Duck” and Walt Disney’s “King of th4 Grizzlies” on September 26, 1971. It was later razed.
Commonwealth Theatres closed up here at the expiry of a 25-year leasing agreement on October 29, 1972 with a triple feature of Robert Redford in “The Candidate,” Ruth Gordon in “Harold and Maude,” Richard Harris in “Man in the Wilderness.” The East Side National Bank & Trust Co. purchased the land and created a 9-story bank with the drive-in becoming its parking lot following its January 1970 demolition.
The decorative map by Robert T. Atchinson that hung in the lobby showing the path of that Trail is in the background.
The Normar Theatre opened on April 3, 1929 with Nancy Carroll in “The Shopworn Angel.”