1711 E. 12th Street,
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Previous Names: Panama Theatre
Arguably the most famous of the silent movie houses for African-American patrons in Kansas City was the Panama Theatre. Joe Hamm and Frank Banks of Panama Amusement opened the venue on a ten-year lease on June 11, 1919 with a Grand Opening of continuous films from 1p to after midnight at E. 12th Street and Woodland Avenue.
The pair made the momentous decision to hire James Sylvester Scott as the musical director after his stint at the first of what would be two different locations of the Lincoln Theatre. Scott became known as the “Little Professor” for teaching music and being buried in thought as he created original music for the long days and nights that were required by the Panama Theatre.
Scott was a draw and the theatre’s hosting of political speeches made its first ten years a success. New operators took on the theatre and sound was added as the theatre became the Hollywood Theatre from 1930 to its end of a new 15-year lease in 1945. But Scott’s fortunes - like many movie theatre musicians - ebbed when his regular gig vanished.
The venue had a great neighbor in the A&P Grocery Store and both buildings were owned by Hollywood Theatre owner Emily W. Smith. But a rash of bombings in 1936 showed tensions on the rise even as Smith explained that she always hired union projectionists. The Hollywood Theatre ceased operations at the end of 1945 and was converted to one of four churches. If the classified advertisements are correct, the building was sold at salvage and demolished in the early 1960’s.
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