Kentucky Theatre

112 N. 5th Street,
Paducah, KY 42001

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Additional Info

Architects: William Brainerd

Previous Names: Orpheum Theatre

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The Kentucky Theatre was opened on September 24, 1901. Initially a live theatre it later went over to movies. On February 27, 1922 it was renamed Orpheum Theatre. It was closed in 1940. It was given a new facade and reopened in 1942 and on September 27, 1945 it returned to the name Kentucky Theatre. It closed as a movie theatre on July 30, 1958. It then went back to live theatre use for almost a year, closing on April 5, 1959. It was demolished.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 26, 2009 at 10:02 am

Boxoffice of December 24, 1955, said “The Kentucky Theatre, 1200-seater at Paducah, Ky., shuttered recently….” The house had long been run by the Keilor family’s Columbia Amusement Company.

The March 2, 1959, issue of Boxoffice reported that the Kentucky Theatre and the adjacent Palmer Hotel were slated to be demolished to make way for a shopping center. One of the partners in the project was Jack Keilor. The item said that the Kentucky Theatre had been built by his grandfather, John W. Keilor, and had opened on September 24, 1901.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm

The September 25, 1901, issue of the Paducah sun said that the Kentucky Theatre had been designed by Paducah architect William Brainerd.

An article in the March 9, 1904, issue of the Paducah Sun said that Brainerd had just returned from Henderson, Kentucky, where James English (manager of the Kentucky) was contemplating building a new theater. I’ve been unable to determine of this project was ever carried out.

The July 9, 1904, edition of the Sun said that William Brainerd had been hired to design a new opera house at Owensboro, Kentucky, and that it would be “…a similar plan to the ‘Kentucky’ of this city….” So far I’ve been unable to discover if this theater was built either. If the Owensboro and/or Henderson projects were carried out, they are either not listed at Cinema Treasures or are missing their aka’s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 13, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I’ve come across several references that place the Kentucky Theatre on North Fifth Street, between Broadway and Jefferson. One is page 112 of Paducah: Frontier to the Atomic Age, by John E. L. Robertson. Another is the advertising of the Williams Bicycle Co. in various issues of the Paducah Evening Sun in the 1900s, which give the shop’s address as “126-128 North Fifth St., Next to Kentucky Theater.” That would put the Kentucky Theatre on the east side of Fifth Street in the block north of Broadway.

If the Kentucky was on N. Fifth, that would leave the question of the brick theater at 111 S. Fifth, which this LoopNet listing insists is the Arcade Theatre. As the Arcade was on Broadway, this was clearly not it, but what theater was it?

For a while I thought it might be the missing Orpheum Theatre, which Leo Keiler was operating in the 1920s, but that turns out to have been the Kentucky Theatre itself. The Orpheum is mentioned as the former Old Opera House in Keiler’s 1958 obituary, and as the former Kentucky Theatre in John Keiler’s 1929 obituary. It was operating as the Orpheum in 1929, but I haven’t discovered when it returned to the name Kentucky Theatre.

The building at 111 S. Fifth doesn’t look large enough to have held the Kentucky’s original 1,600 seats, over 600 of which were in the gallery, according to the Cahn guide’s listings of the Kentucky Theatre. From the side view this theater doesn’t look as though it even had a gallery. It just isn’t tall enough.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but the brick auditorium is attached to the back of the Arcade Theatre’s entrance building, and satellite view shows that the Arcade’s entrance ran back a long way. The entrance had shop entrances along both sides, in the manner of an Italian galleria. It looks like LoopNet was right, and the red brick building is the Arcade’s auditorium. It’s just about the right size for 700 seats.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 6, 2018 at 10:40 pm

AKA Orpheum Theatre around 1929, per John Keiler’s obituary of May 24.

dallasmovietheaters on December 7, 2018 at 2:53 pm

The Kentucky Theatre launched on September 24, 1901. It transitioned from a live venue to motion pictures. On February 27, 1922, it became the Orpheum Theatre under new operators. It closed in 1940. It got a new facade in 1942 but appears to have been closed through much of World War 2.

On September 27, 1945 it reopened and was changed back to the Kentucky Theatre.The Kentucky Theatre completed its film exhibition on July 30, 1958. It then was a short-lived live venue for plays in 1958 and 1959. Its last performance was the Charity League Follies ending on April 5, 1959. After the Cleveland Wrecking Company offered the theatre seats for sale in April and May of 1959, it was razed along with the historic Palmer House Hotel for a parking lot and J.C. Penney’s department store.

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