Uptown Theater

The Uptown’s original design was carried out by Kansas City architect Robert Gornall. His design began construction in the mid 1920s, with the office and retail portion of the Uptown completed in November 1926. Gornall’s plan called for the theatre to extend along the rear portion of the building, with a tower at the north end as both entrance and foyer. But then Universal Film Company acquired the unfinished building in 1927. Austrian-born designer, John Eberson was then hired to complete the Uptown’s construction in 1927. 

The building had a design that carried elements of the Italian Renaissance style to create an atmospheric theatre experience. It stood out for being the only one of its kind in the entire state of Missouri. It also had an amazing feature of an inside that replicated an outdoor Mediterranean courtyard, complete with a nighttime sky ceiling with twinkling stars, clouds, and mechanical flying birds.

This theater opened to the public on January 6, 1928 with a showing of “The Irrestible Lover”.

The Uptown experimented with theater experiences, as shown in 1939 when they copyrighted a “Fragratone system”. This system would funnel fragrances into the auditorium via the ventilation ducts at appropriate moments during productions. And fittingly, the theater hosted movies, live vaudeville acts, and stage productions until the late 1970s.

During the 70s, the theater was primarily a concert venue until its closure in 1989 due to back tax difficulties.

The theater would later be redeveloped in the mid 1990s, when Larry Sells purchased the Uptown with plans to restore it. The renovations that followed restored the original splendor in details and colors of the original design. This led to it being one of the few remaining atmospheric theatres still in operation.

The Uptown is now ranked number 82 on Pollstar’slist of the top 100 theaters in the world.

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