The Midland Theatre
The Midland Theatre is a historic entertainment venue in the Power & Light District of Kansas City. It first opened in 1927 as Loew’s Midland Theater; at the time it was the third-largest theater in the United States. It became well known for its opulent interior, which included features such as gold leafing, hand-cut crystal chandeliers, and other ornamentations. After the original theatre closed in 1961, it was acquired and operated by AMC for a number of years. It underwent extensive renovations and restorations in 2008. Today the theatre is sponsored by Arvest Bank, and is formally known as the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland. It hosts a number of live shows and performances throughout the year. The theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
The Midland Theatre, today known as Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, continues to host live performances throughout the year.
1929 postcard of the Midland, then known as Loew's Midland Theatre. Image courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections.
The Midland's illuminated sign on the night of its grand opening, October 28, 1927. Image obtained from Comfortably Cool, Cinema Treasures.
The theater underwent extensive renovations in 2008, which included the conversion of some seating space into an area for cabaret-style tables. Image obtained from Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland.
The theater is well know for its luxurious interior ornamentation, which includes gold leafing and crystal chandeliers. Image obtained from Venue Report.
Backstory and Context
Kansas City's Midland Theatre was built in 1927 by theater chain company Loews Incorporated. Founded by Marcus Loews, the company built and operated theaters in several major cities. At one point it even acquired Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures. In 1924, local businessman Herbert M. Woolf approached Loew with a proposal to build an opulent theater in Kansas City modeled after ones in Chicago and New York City. Construction of the theater began in 1926 and was completed only a year later at a cost of $4.5 million.
Popular architect Thomas Lamb was commissioned to design the theater, with assistance from Robert Boller. It was built in the Renaissance Revival style and included elements of French and Italian Baroque. The building’s interior in particular was noted for its extravagant décor. It included five million square inches of silver and gold leafing, massive hand-cut Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers, and various artworks. With originally over 4,000 seats, the Midland was the third-largest theater in the United States at the time of its completion. It was also reportedly the first theater with a heating, cooling, and air ventilation system.
The Midland Theatre had a lavish grand opening on October 28, 1927, with speeches, an orchestral performance, and a screening of the movie The Road to Romance. The theater originally presented silent films and live shows, but soon upgraded to screen sound films as well. From 1952 to 1971, the headquarters for the NCAA was housed in the building’s office space. After 33 years of operating as a Loew’s theater, the Midland closed in 1961. Months later it was converted into a bowling alley and housed the National Bowling League’s short-lived Kansas City Stars team. After the team and the bowling alley folded, the building was reconverted into a multi-screen movie theater in 1962.
After changing hands several times in the early 1960s, the theater was purchased by AMC in 1966. In 1981 it removed the movie screens and the venue began featuring only live shows. In 2008, in conjunction with the development of the Power & Light entertainment district, AMC oversaw a $28 million dollar renovation of the Midland Theatre. The refurbishment included the restoration of many historic elements, the remodeling of seating to create a space for tables or standing room, and the addition of several bars and lounges. In 2012 AMC ended its association with the Midland after closing its Kansas City headquarters. The following year Arvest Bank purchased the naming rights to the theater, which was renamed the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland. It continues to host a number of concerts, plays, ballets, and other live performances.
“Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland.” Cinema Treasures. Accessed July 9, 2018. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2612
Collison, Kevin. “Arvest Bank buys the naming rights to the Midland Theatre.” Kansas City Star. September 4, 2013. Accessed July 10, 2018. https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/development/article326682/Arvest-Bank-buys-the-naming-rights-to-the-Midland-Theatre.html
“Film History of Midland Theatre.” Visit KC. Accessed July 9, 2018. https://www.visitkc.com/filmtourism/self-guided-tour/midland
Miszczuk, Edward J. “Loew’s Midland Theatre – Midland Building.” National Park Service – National Register of Historic Places. 1977. Accessed July 9, 2018. https://dnr.mo.gov/shpo/nps-nr/77000808.pdf
“Overview.” Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland. Accessed July 9, 2018. http://www.arvestbanktheatre.com/venue-info
Westhaus, Drew. “Taste & See KC: Tour the historic Midland theater.” KSHB Kansas City. October 2, 2017. Accessed July 9, 2018. https://www.kshb.com/lifestyle/tasteseekc/taste-see-kc-tour-the-historic-midland-theater
Image 1: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2612/photos/11319
Image 2: http://pendergastkc.org/collection/9130/mvsc-sc58-3371/loews-midland-theatre-kansas-city-mo
Image 3: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2612/photos/247801
Image 4: http://www.arvestbanktheatre.com/extras/photos-posters
Image 5: https://www.venuereport.com/venue/arvest-bank-theatre-at-the-midland/profile/
Photo by David Trowbridge
Photo by David Trowbridge