About the history & legacy of cinema in Kansas City
Most people on the coasts know about Kansas City's musical heritage. They've heard about the barbecue. They have a vague recollection that someone once told them it's a nice town. But it's still a "flyover," one of the places they see from the airplane window while traveling between New York and L.A. The idea that this Midwestern city has a rich cinematic heritage would likely never occur to them.
It doesn't always occur to people who live here, either, and the History & Legacy page is designed to change that. This area has produced famous actors and groundbreaking directors, as well as major advances in film exhibition and distribution. There are a remarkable number of historic buildings in Kansas City associated with the industry, including some of the country's most beautiful theaters. And, of course, there's a tradition of both independent and Hollywood-based filmmaking here, going back to the silent era.
Ideas and information are always welcome. There are hundreds of stories to tell, and I look forward to sharing some of them with you.
Loey Lockerby, author and President of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle has been chosen as the Official Historian of CinemaKC. Ms. Lockerby will be sharing great stories about motion picture actors, artists and notables in the film industry with a Kansas and Missouri connection.
During jazz’s Golden Age, legends like Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Bennie Moten helped make Kansas City’s 18th and Vine district a mecca for successful and innovative musicians. In the heart of this historic area, at 1615 East 18th Street, stands the Gem Theatre. Originally named the Star Theatre, it was built in 1912…Read More
The Bollers specialized… ideal choice to design the Country Club Plaza’s movie house in 1928. Like many of the Boller buildings, the Plaza Theater mimicked another, more exotic space, in this case a Spanish country villa. The Plaza remained a first-run house into the 1990s, when competition from the area’s megaplexes finally shut it down. The building was converted into a Restoration Hardware store in 1999, although the facade is still largely intact.Read More
The Centron Corporation in Lawrence, Kansas, produced hundreds of educational films, but its true claim to fame couldn’t be further from “Why Study Industrial Arts?” What made Centron beloved by generations of film geeks involved a pasty ghoul, an abandoned amusement park, and a director who wanted to try something new.Read More
When she left the film industry in 1920, Gene Gauntier had written, directed, acted in and/or produced over 300 pictures, including the first adaptation of “Ben-Hur” and a “Girl Spy” adventure series. She had traveled the world and formed her own production company. She’d been hailed as the biggest star at Kalem Studios, and sued for copyright infringement.Read More
When Walt Disney moved from Kansas City to California in the early 1920s, he had already established himself as a creative force – if not a financial one (his Laugh-O-Gram studios went bankrupt shortly before his departure). His fortunes improved in Hollywood, and several of his talented KC colleagues joined him in his new venture. Some of them became famous in their own right, but even the lesser known artists made important contributions.Read More
During his 31 years with the Kansas City Fire Department, George C. Hale became famous for his dedication. He expanded the department, travelled the world promoting his profession, and invented several life-saving devices. But it was after his retirement in 1902 that he became a significant – if largely forgotten – figure in the development of early moviegoing.Read More