Kansas City’s restored Midland, Mainstreet Theaters will reopen

posted by RobbKCity on August 24, 2007 at 7:56 am

KANSAS CITY, MO — The Kansas City Star recently published an article stating that the restored Midland and Mainstreet (formerly the Empire) theaters are slated to reopen in Spring, 2008.

Both theaters are currently undergoing restorations as part of the new $3 billion Power & Light entertainment district being constructed in the convention hotel area of Kansas City’s downtown loop. More than $60 million will be spent refurbishing the two venues. The Power & Light District retail shops and restaurants are scheduled to begin opening in January, 2008.

The Power & Light District is a 9-square block redevelopment in the south loop of the downtown business district. It takes its name from the former Kansas City Power & Light Building, a landmark art deco skyscraper that was Missouri’s tallest building for decades.

The Mainstreet Theater will be operated by AMC Theaters as a six-screen, all-digital, boutique movie theater. The Kansas City Star reports that it will be the most technologically-advanced theater exhibition experience in the world. AMC Theaters plans to make the Mainstreet its' flagship theater, and use it to test new marketing concepts and technology. The Mainstreet will cater to urban adults, and feature documentaries, independent, and foreign films. It is the first large, downtown movie theater to open in Kansas City for decades.

The Midland Theater will reopen as a live music performance space and nightclub. Both theaters will feature in-house restaurants and bars in former retail portions of the buildings.

The facades of the two structures will also be restored to their original appearance. Both theater renovations meet National Trust for Historic Preservation guidelines, and have received final approval.

The Mainstreet Theater, designed by Rapp & Rapp, opened in 1921 with 3,000 seats as a vaudeville house. The building is a familiar downtown landmark recognized for its prominent French Baroque terra cotta dome. It was converted to film screening in 1949. Its name was later changed to the RKO Missouri, Cinerama, then AMC Empire Theater, which closed in 1985. The building sat empty since 1985. The theater will reopen under the historic Mainstreet marquee. The Mainstreet was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in February, 2007, after Kansas City purchased the building.

The Loew’s Midland Theater, designed by Thomas Lamb, opened in 1927 as a movie house under the Loew’s banner. It seated 3,500, and the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The Midland stopped showing movies in 1981; was restored, and then became a live performance venue.

The Loew’s Midland was the first theater in the US to have air conditioning. The theater is also well known for its over 500,000 feet of gold leaf, five giant Czechoslovakian hand-cut crystal chandeliers, irreplaceable art objects and precious antiques, and spectacular wood and plaster work. The Loew’s Midland later became the AMC Midland Theater.

When the Mainstreet and Midland reopen, downtown Kansas City will have five historic theaters in use including the Folly (Standard), Lyric (Capri), and Music Hall. The newly-built Kansas City Repertory Theater also recently opened, and a new, two-hall Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is under construction.

The Kansas City Metro area also has several other restored theaters in use: the Gem, Uptown (John Eberson), Madrid, Dickinson Top-Two/Mission, and the Boller Brothers-designed Rio/Overland, Aztec/Fine Arts, and Granada theaters.

The metro’s Mainstreet, Midland, Folly (Standard), Uptown, Hollywood, Granada, Aztec/Fine Arts, and Rio/Overland theaters are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Three landmarked theaters are in the downtown business loop.

Kansas City is among few US cities that have two or more remaining restored, atmospheric theaters that are open to the public, and on the National Register: John Eberson’s Uptown Theater, and the Boller Brothers' Granada Theater. Only Wichita, Kansas, shares the distinction of having open, restored atmospheric theaters by both Eberson and the Bollers in the same city.

For a city of its' size, Kansas City has a large number of restored, historic theaters in a variety of uses. Kansas City has one of the highest per capita number of live performance, and theatrical, spaces in the United States. The Folly (Standard/Century), a former burlesque and vaudeville theater designed by Louis Curtiss, and opened in 1900, was one of the first, large, full-scale and complete historic theater restoration projects in the United States. Joan Dillion led that effort in the early 1970s, and became an authority on theater restoration and history. She is the co-author of the book, American Theaters: Performance Halls of the Nineteenth Century.

Kansas City Theaters At-A-Glance

  • Restored and landmarked theaters by Rapp & Rapp, Thomas Lamb, John Eberson, Louis Curtiss, and the Boller Brothers.

  • Two restored and landmarked atmospheric theaters: by John Eberson and the Boller Brothers.

  • Three restored former vaudeville houses: Louis Curtiss' Folly, John Eberson’s Uptown, and Rapp & Rapp’s Mainstreet.

  • Four restored Boller Brothers theaters in metro area: Rio, Mission/Aztec, Granada, and Hollywood; eight additional unrestored Boller theaters.

  • Five restored art deco theaters: the Gem, Dickinson Top-Two, Hollywood, Rio, and the Music Hall.

  • Eight restored theaters used as live performance halls: Gem, Midland, Folly, Lyric, Hollywood, Uptown, Madrid, and Music Hall. One unrestored theater used as performance hall: Boller’s Granada in Lawrence.

  • Four restored theaters currently used for film screening: Mainstreet, Granada, Rio, and Mission/Aztec/Fine Arts.

  • Eight restored metro theaters on National Register of Historic Places: Mainstreet, Midland, Folly (Standard), Uptown, Hollywood, Granada, Aztec/Fine Arts, and Rio/Overland.

  • About 29 theaters remain that were built before 1950. The Folly dates from 1900. By Spring, 2008, 13 theaters buildings have been renovated or restored, and one more will soon undergo restoration: the Paradise.

  • Several Metro Boller Brothers' theaters are used as churches or commercial space.

Note: The Kansas City Metro area suburbs have two Boller Brother-designed theaters called Granada Theater: an unrestored Granada in Lawrence, Kansas, that is used as a live music venue; and the restored Granada Theater in Kansas City, Kansas, that is the atmospheric theater that screens films. The Kansas City Metro straddles the Missouri and Kansas state line, and Kansas City, Missouri, is the original and oldest portion of Metro area.

Kansas City Star

Story 1

Story 2

The Power & Light District

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Cordish Company

Cordish announcement on Midland; Mainstreet theater restorations

Comments (6)

beaumon on August 27, 2007 at 4:22 am

Awesome news. The Midland is magnificent. I saw a concert there in 1998 and they let us in early and my friend and I spent a good half hour just walking around in awe of the place. It’s the crown jewel of KC.

Aparofan on August 27, 2007 at 6:54 am

I’m very excited about the Empire reopening. I’m curious to see the interior. I wish more mainstream movies were being shown but that’s not a big deal. I have fond memories of both places from my childhood and hopefully will have many more.

Mike Gallagher
Mike Gallagher on March 26, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Does anyone have drawings or pic of the planned interior of the referbished Mainstreet Theater?

RobbKCity on April 9, 2008 at 4:35 pm

It has been reported that the restoration and renovation of the theaters is taking longer than planned, and the new opening date is scheduled for the fall.

RobbKCity on April 9, 2008 at 4:41 pm

The architecture firm doing the renovations is:


hampton_woods on July 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Dear RobbKCity,

You most definitely wrote an outstanding article on the 2007 status of the remaining historic theaters in the greater Kansas City area.

Hope that you don’t mind if I ask a couple of questions.

  1. What are the names of the “eight additional unrestored Boller theaters?

  2. What are the names of the “Boller Brothers' theaters that are used as churches or commercial space?”

I am sure that those questions probably overlap.

Thank you in advance for your kind attention to these questions.



You must login before making a comment.

New Comment