Lee Theatre

211 S. Independence Street,
Harrisonville, MO 64701

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Commonwealth Amusement Corp.

Previous Names: Schnell Theatre, Perkins Theatre

Nearby Theaters

One of three theatres that the town of Harrisonville had at one time. It was located in the heart of town a block east of Main Street. It opened in a former hardware store as the 648-seat Schnell Theatre 1915. In 1935 following a remodel it reopened as the Perkins Theatre which was soon operated by Commonwealth Amusement. In 1949 they closed it for a remodel. It reopened as the Lee Theatre in May of 1949. It was closed by Commonwealth Amusement in 1953. In 1956 it was reopened by an independent operator and closed in 1988 for upgrades which never happened.

Contributed by Church Van Bibber, dallasmovietheaters

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

jayscottbaker on December 5, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I miss my old theatre. (The given info isn’t exactly accurate, though.) That was my home from about 1983-1988. Working at Lee and the Cass County Drive-In for $2 and hour plus all the free movies we could watch. The last of and older era. Good times… and it inspired the career I have now. It’s a shame that we’re losing all of these old movie houses. The outer wall collapsed as they were doing some work and they didn’t shore it up right. It wasn’t worth the effort to fix it so… wrecking balls were called in. (The Drive-In is gone too. It’s now a sub-division.) “Stadium-seating” just doesn’t explain the magic that it once was. (At least we still have our memories… and “Cinema Paradiso.” That’s as close to accurate as it gets.)

beetle65 on March 18, 2014 at 8:23 am

I worked at both theatres all thru 4 yrs of high school. I graduated HHS in 1968 and spent 40 yrs as an engineer on Santa Fe/BNSF Rwy. I loved the Uptown theatre and Miss Lillian Jones the owner. I knew two managers. Jerry Shaw and Dave (not clear in mind anymore). I took some photo’s during that time of projectors in both theatre’s and lobby of Lee Theatre. Some photo’s of Cass County Drive In. I could write a book on my 4 yr experience. Nobody would read it though. If interested I may try to post some of these old photo’s. Sam Bailey

dallasmovietheaters on September 17, 2018 at 8:29 am

Charles Schnell opened Harrisonville’s second silent theatre in June of 1916 in the former Sherpy Hardware store which had moved to the East Side of the town’s square. The theatre appears to have had an 60-plus year run with some sporadic closures along the way.

After Harrisonville’s first silent theatre had gone out of business in 1914, local merchants – liking the uptick in business caused by the theater – equipped the Wirt Opera House housing the Briles Theatre in 1914 for free films. The matinee show was designed to attract “country people” from rural neighboring areas who would shop in the town square. The evening show was for the town’s people. Word of 700 patrons attending some shows probably spurred Schnell to lease the former Sherpy Hardware Store in 1915 likely on a twenty-year lease establishing Harrisonville’s Schnell Theatre.

The building’s brick exterior was reinforced with steel and fire-proof booth with 628 seats. The gutting of the original structure allowed large double doors on the front and back to create cross ventilation with ten 60" ceiling fans. In 1922, Arthur T. Perkins took over the Schnell Theatre and the following year installed a $4,000 electronic orchestral organ. In 1928, Perkins installed Synchrophone technology moving the Schnell into the sound era.

In 1935, as the lease was likely coming to termination, Perkins updated the theatre with new signage, a new name and reduces count to 500 new seats in his Perkins Theatre likely on a new 20-year lease. The theatre became part of the Commonwealth Theatres Inc. circuit. A year later he sold the theatre taking an industry job. Lee T. Chamberlin was the manager of the Perkins.

Early in 1949, Commonwealth Circuit closed the theatre for remodeling. The refurbished venue reopened the theatre as the Lee Theatre in May of 1949 one would hope in memory of Commonwealth’s popular Harrisonville showman, Lee Chamberlin though more than likely not. The next year, the circuit added the Cass County Drive-In as another film option for the townspeople. Commonwealth closed the Lee but was reopened in 1956 undoubtedly on a new lease and under new ownership. The local theatre lasted into the video age but appears to have closed in 1988 for upgrades that backfired. The building was demolished.

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