1612-1614 N. 10th Street,
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Previously operated by: United Theater Enterpises Inc.
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Dunbar Theatre, Milo Theatre, New Dunbar Theater
The Dunbar Theatre was a new-build African-American silent movie house in Kansas City, KS at the corner of N. 10th Street and New Jersey Avenue / Freeman Avenue. The address would be home to motion pictures for some 37 years. The Dunbar Theatre was named after famed African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. It launched March 3, 1917 with two photoplays and live music all for a dime. It was said to be the finest theatre for African-Americans West of the Mississippi – and one that cost $20,000 to build.
Adjoining the theatre was D.F. Davis’ lunch room which served as the de facto concession stand for the theatre with cold drinks and snacks. The Dunbar Theatre closed at Thanksgiving of 1917. It reopened in August of 1918 under new management. Floyd W. Stone who took on the venue and changed its name to the Milo Theatre on January 10, 1919. It closed months later.
On December 13, 1919, the theatre opened under new management as the New Dunbar Theatre. Some shows feature all African-American films. The theatre closed under new management to install a $10,000 pipe organ and make interior refresh. Controversy occurred when union projectionist rules allowed the theatre to fire the African-American projectionist in favor of a white projectionist. The theatre closed in 1921.
The Dunbar Theatre had a grand reopening on April 9, 1922. The theatre now seated 950 with Sam H. Dudley in “Easy Money" as the opening film. It appears that the theatre did not convert to sound and then something occurred - likely a fire - and the theatre was rebuilt as a smaller, sound-era theatre.
United Theater Enterprises Inc. (UTE) rebuilt the theatre likely using some part of the original structure in 1933 and early-1934 calling it the Regal Theatre. The Art Deco style theatre was modern with upholstered seats and a Moderne style marquee. UTE would run the theatre with the Princess Theatre, also a local African-American house (which has its own page on Cinema Treasures). UTE would also run the Castle Theatre as well as as the Missouri-side Paseo Theatre. The Regal Theatre opened on March 30, 1934 with the film “Bombay Mail” starring Edmond Lowe.
Early in the Regal Theatre’s run legendary African-American projectionist John Henry Adams, Jr., who had been trained by his father and was a part of the Local 170-A Union, spent some 20 years of his 50 years as projectionist for the Regal Theatre and the Princess Theatre. He would later become a projectionist in Kansas City, Missouri.
The Regal Theatre appeared to be coming to the end of a 20-year leased and fire ended the entire operation on January 23, 1954. The final film to play was Clark Gable in “Mogambo”. UTE continued operation with the Princess Theatre and the Castle Theatre but decided against reopening the Regal Theatre. The building’s wall were in good shape and the building was saved though used as a meeting hall. However, it has since been demolished.
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