The Granada Theater
is a theater located
at 1013-1019 Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City
Kansas City is the third-largest city in the state of Kansas and is the county seat of Wyandotte County. It is a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, and is the third largest city in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. The city is part of a consolidated city-county government known as the "Unified...
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...
, United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...
since February 9, 2005, it was designed by the Boller Brothers
Boller Brothers, also spelled as Boller Bros., was an architectural firm based in Kansas City, Missouri which specialized in theater design in the Midwest of the United States during the first half of the 20th century...
. It was deemed a Kansas City, Kansas Historic Landmark on July 31, 1986.
An Abridgment of the United States Department of the Interior National Park Service National Register of Historic Places Nomination
The Granada Theater, located at 1013 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas (Wyandotte County) certainly fits National Register specifications for Entertainment/Recreation and Architecture. Constructed in 1929, the building is an excellent example of the grand movie palace type built in Kansas and the rest of the United States mostly in the early part of the twentieth century. The Granada is also a fine example of architecture from Boller Brothers, an architectural firm active at the time of the building of the Granada, but no longer in business. The Granada Theater was built by the general contractor E. Drier & Sons for $150,000.
In 1929, Ben Gorman and William A. Toplikar were responsible for the construction of the Granada Theater. Gorman, who was a Russian immigrant, came to America in 1902 and began his career as a cabinet maker. He and Toplikar, a realtor, were successful in getting the theater built as an atmospheric theater, which was a new concept in movie palace design originated by John Eberson in the early 1920s.
The theater design provided the patron with the feeling of sitting in an outdoor courtyard at night. The domed ceiling was painted dark blue for the appearance of an outdoor dark sky. Small electric lights were set in the ceiling to represent twinkling stars and cloud machines along the side walls projected drifting clouds across the impression of a sky. The total design of the theater resembled a Spanish courtyard surrounded by stone walls with the starlit sky overhead. Props, including artificial birds, flowers and urns, helped create this experience for the moviegoer. Seating was for approximately 1200 on the main floor and balcony. The north wall of the orchestra pit is curvilinear and the front of the balcony has a concave curve. The ceiling is slightly arched. Two aisles divide the main theater into three sections. None of the seating is historic, though balcony seats date from the mid-twentieth century.
The rusticated plaster walls have scored faux mortar joints to imitate stone. Directly under the balustrades, decorative wrought iron grills cover the wind chambers that contained the organ pipes. The ceiling above the balcony featured projecting wood faux rafter tails from which gilded lanterns hang.
The Granada Theater’s north façade, the main one, has a symmetrical broad, flat, rectangular plane. At the center of the building, is the theater entrance at street level. Above the entrance is a large Palladian window, extending the height of the second and third floors. Around this window are panels of terra cotta with a quoin-like effect. The top of the window has a tripartite cloverleaf design, and along with the panels, forms pointed arches. Spiral columns with Corinthian capitals from mullions define the Palladian form.
All of the windows are deep set, rectangular, multi-light, steel-framed casement sashes with fixed transoms. On either side of the second story, brackets support balconettes with balustrades that project from the wall below the second-story windows. A pair of lanced poles projects from the bottom of each window, supporting canvas awnings above the windows.
Ground level is the ticket booth, located at the center portion of the building. Non-original glazed ceramic tile covers the base of the three-sided, glass-encased ticket booth. The ticket booth has a half-hipped roof and a non-original dentiled cornice extending across the top of the ticket booth and over the entrance doors.
Above the entrance, the projecting, rectangular metal canopy spans the central bay of the building. The marquee is not original, but a recreation based on historic photographs of the original marquee. Sides of the marquee have a shaped parapet design, reflecting Spanish influences. Incandescent lights outline the display panels on the front and sides of the marquee. Wood corbels frame panels with the letter “G” that embellish front corners of the marquee.
The current color scheme has walls of pale pinkish-white. The terra cotta panels and modillions are medium pink. Faux wood lintels and balconettes are deep terra cotta, and steel casement windows, doors, columns, cornice and canvas awnings are turquoise. Directly inside the main theater is the rectangular foyer that has matte glazed tiles on the floor and plaster walls. Mounted movie poster display cases are on the side walls. Four sets of double, solid wood paneled doors provide access to the lobby that spans the width of the building. It continues the Moorish theme with an ornamental, arcaded cornice featuring shields and a rope motif. The rich green and red paint on the plaster cornice and scrolled capitals appear to be original. Stairways on either side of the entrance lead to the second floor. A solid railing has circular medallions with serpentine ornamentation. Two chandeliers originally hung from the lobby ceiling but were replaced by modern fixtures. Four doors lead from the lobby into the auditorium.
A concession stand is a recent addition. The theater’s original design did not include a concession stand. When added, several rows of back seats were removed. The Granada Theater still retains its historic form, plan, proportions, scale and massing, reflecting craftsmanship in execution and design, communicating its historic feelings as a movie palace.
Granada Film History
The construction and development of the Granada epitomized the spirit of civic enterprise of
Kansas City, Kansas, that began with a change in the form of municipal government in 1910. Ben Gorman, a leading furniture dealer and W.A. Toplikar a realtor were instrumental in creating an atmosphere that allowed inspired the creation of an recreation district, with the Granada Theatre as the cornerstone.
The theater had its invitation-only premiere opening on the evening of May 22, 1929. It opened with Coquette, Mary Pickford’s Academy Award winning role and her first “all-talking picture.” Three full pages of that day’s Kansas City Kansan newspaper were devoted to the opening, with a mixture of articles, advertisements, and tributes. The following day, the theater opened to the general public.
The public opening was kicked off that afternoon by a 100-car parade sponsored by the theater and the Uptown Merchants Association. The opening souvenir program touted “we who live to please, must please to live.” The program went on to explain that “The Granada is not to be excelled or even equaled by any theatre in greater Kansas City.” The Granada opened with parking facilities, lounge room, cooling systems, and talking/sound equipment for the “photoplays.” The Granada also boasted of keeping “the spirit of the progressiveness of this community alive” and an environ that included “stars twinkle through feathery clouds upon a perfect setting of a Spanish patio, with Kansas City having a new “Place to Go.”
Unfortunately, while the theatre was “up-to-date” the movies were not. Midwest Fox agreement for the Granada did not include first run movies when the theatre opened. Only five theatres in Kansas City were granted first run rights and those were all located in KCMO, which allowed the Granada to still play a foremost role in KCK. However a long battle ensued to obtain first run rights, with a campaign launched in the Spring of 1937. By August, the Granada was allowed to present San Francisco and Nobody’s Fool only two weeks after the opening.
In 1938, the Granada Theatre was the site of the Hollywood Premiere of Songs and Saddles. Gene Austin, Lynne Berkeley, Joan Brooks, and Candy& Coco all made personal appearances at the premiere at the Granada. Joan Brooks, originally from KCK, made her film debut as a screen comedienne in this movie.
In 1941, the Granada Theatre hosted the premiere of Rodeo Rhythm, which featured Roy Knapps’ Rough Riders. The film had been shot primarily in Platte City, Missouri, and featured the film debut of a number of KCK “wonderful kid riders” trained by Roy Knapp. On December 12, two showings of the film were scheduled with personal appearances by the stars. It was turned into a major civic event with a parade with floats, bands etc. and a special supper for the cast.
Finally in 1951, the long battle to have first run films was won by the Granada Theatre. Both Fox and Universal motion picture distributors signed an agreement to allow the Granada to have first run. It was a huge advantage to the Granada, because neither the Electric nor Avenue theatres also located on Minnesota Ave would have first run. The Granada in preparation for the big event, remodeled with new seats, carpets, and added a new refreshment counter. No surprise, the city celebrated with a parade complete with a float representing the location of the movie, the mayor spoke, as did the Fox Midwest representative. Then the movie On the Riveriera with Danny Kaye was shown and thus began the Granada dominance in KCK with the decline of the other theatres.
For over forty years, the Granada was Kansas City, Kansas’ foremost movie theater. The larger Electric Theatre and the Avenue Theatre could not compete with the Granada’s attractions. The Granada hosted the premieres for a few films and the regional premiere for a number of films, with some of Hollywood’s elite attended the openings on their nationwide promotional tours. As a marketing vehicle, the Granada box office would often take on the trappings of its films to advertise and create interest
in the movies (i.e., igloos for Alaska, a doghouse for Lady and the Tramp, tepees, birdhouse for the Birds etc. )
However with the arrival of drive-in theatres and the invention of television, ticket sales at indoor theatres declined. With the declining revenue, Fox Midwest notified the Granada manager of the closing. Sadly in May 1970, the final curtain fell for films at the Granada Theatre. The only other major film event occurred at the Granada Theatre on August 12, 1988, with a public disturbance at the showing of The Last Temptation of Christ. Although the Granada Theatre continued to have the presence in the KCK community, its role as a film house was over.
Granada Theatre Community
Assessing the impact the Granada Theatre had on a community is not easily defined. As a theatre building you can point to the daily entertainment value of films and live shows, as well as film or stage premieres, film career starters, and star-studded events that took place. But that leaves out so much of the role the Granada Theatre had in the community. It doesn’t detail the parades, beauty pageants, or protests. It doesn’t discuss the kids clubs or book and clothing drives for the indigent. It doesn’t consider the safety meetings, political voting, or the presentation of police photos of an epic flood in Kansas City Kansas.
Below is a chronological list of some of the events that took place at the Granada during the eighty plus years of existence. Each item listed was documented by a newspaper article, program, or photo. Where there was a disagreement of fact in supporting documentation, deference was given to the article that was written closest to the time of the event. A special thank you to Monte Gross, who spent hours with me pouring through microfiche and other material at the Wyandotte County Historical Museum in an effort to obtain, verify, and disprove information. I hope this timeline will provide the true “picture” of how the Granada served as the jewel of the Kansas City Kansas (KCK) community.
Granada Theatre Timeline
1928 November: Excavation begins
December 11: Preview of Architectural Sketch in newspaper
December 11: Announcement that name of the theatre will be selected by popular vote
December 30: Announcement of land lease for Free Auto Park for theatre
1929 March 1: Planned opening of Granada Theater, but rescheduled
William H. Wagner appointed as manager of Granada Playhouse (Manager 1929-32)
Lloyd Richmond, son of Dr. Thomas Richmond of 712 Ann Avenue, hired as Granada Organist
Reed Porter was hired as doorman
April 9: Cooling system installed adequate to maintain an even temperature
May 22: Invitational Gala
Films: Coquette & Syncopation Presented
May 23: Official Public Grand Opening Parade with the following participants
-Mayor Don McCombs and Chief of Police William McMullan
-Miss Kansas City Kansas (Winner unveiled at the parade)
-Senorita Granada (Contest winner from Wyandotte High School)
-Ben Gorman, W.A. Toplikar
-Wyandotte High School Band
-Catholic High School Band
-Koontz Ladies Band
May 24: Newspaper runs article “More Than a New Theater”
1932 New Manager of Theatre: Roy Cato (1932–35)
1934 April 15: Granada Theatre reopened automobile parking station across Minnesota Avenue
Sufficient to hold 1000 cars with an attendant on duty
Cato also referenced as playing the organ “a distinctive feature of the Granada shows”
June 22: Br’er Fox Club for Kids announced a new contest for girls Junior Bathing Beauty
First Prize – Jewel Thomason, $1
Second Prize – Betty Jo Dolwan, 50 cents
Third Prize – Bonnie Lee Goldsberry
June 23: Bathing Beauty contest for Boys
August 9: Granada Theatre Assistant Manager Reed Porter (formerly doorman) appointed as
Manager of Linwood Theatre in MO
August 31: Martha Hamilton Dance Studio present dance numbers at Br’er Fox Club matinee
September 7: Phillips 66 sponsors matinee with free admission in exchange for used school
textbooks with books collected distributed to needy children thru local child welfare group. Approximately 1,000 children attended.
1935 New Manager of Theatre: Gerald (Jerry) F. Baker (1935–40)
March 17: Four Usherettes added to Granada Staff joining the ushers
Alice Voss, Chief Usherette, Juanita Robb, Mildred Scheloski and Dorothy Ruckel
September 14: Phillips 66 announces another Schoolbook Matinee at Granada Theatre
September 15: William Wagner (former Manager) and Reed Porter (former assistant manager)
take up new duties at the Fox Midwest theatre in Independence, Kansas
November 30: KCK Council of Parents and Teachers offers a free show in return for a gently
used Garment/ shoes to be donated to the thrift shop. Billed as Second Annual Free Show and
1936 January 25: Dance classes begin at the Granada Theatre
March 3: Granada Theatre announces 70 are enrolled in Dancing School under the direction of
Miss Marguerite Knowles, who has appeared on Broadway and on the R-K-O circuit.
April 22: Wedding Reception for wedding of Mr. & Mrs. Herman Laid Contest Winners
May 1: Dance recital of seventy students ages 4–25, presented between the two regular shows
May 3: Announcement of Beauty Contest to be held at the Granada Theatre
May 20: Beauty Contest for Miss Kansas City Kansas for women to compete in the Miss
Kansas Contest, with the eventual goal of Atlantic City for Miss America title. Judges were:
-Jerry Baker, Granada Manager
-Bob Withers, Midwest Film Exchange
-Harry Taylor, Columbia Pictures
-Ralph Morrow, Universal Film Exchange
-Leon Abrams, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayo
H.E. Dillon, Warner –First National
John Wangberg, RKO Distributors Corporation
Winners: Thirteen contestants took the stage with the following results, First place, Miss Virginia
Lee Waite (Sponsored by the Tenth and Minnesota Association) and Second Place, Miss
Margaret Greenway (Sponsored by Elledge Motor Co.)
May 21: Fourteen more contestants took the stage with the following results, First place, Miss
Betty Lou Waite (Sponsored by Central Laundry and Linen Supply) and Second Place, Ruth Marie
Snowden (Independent entry). Both nights winners competed against each other immediately
with Miss Virginia Lee Waite winning the title of Miss Kansas City Kansas and advancing onto the
state title of Miss Kansas in Topeka.
1937 Spring: Campaign launched to get First run features in KCK
July 10: Sob Sisters held screen tests with the first showing of the film at the Granada Theatre
August 17: First Run Features San Francisco and Nobody’s Fool presented for the first time only
2 weeks after opening in KCMO instead of 4 weeks
August 27: Editorial in the Kansan addresses the need toward proper movie recognition for KCK
Article announces a new deal was struck for regular 2 week clearance on movies instead of four
weeks beginning in September the new film season.
August 29: Kansas City Kansan continues to run articles on the need for “first run” in KCK
September 5: Kiddie Safety Club with prizes at the Granada at 12:30
1938 October 19: Hollywood Premiere of Songs and Saddles” at the Granada Theatre. Gene Austin,
star of the movie, will make a personal appearance with Lynne Berkeley, Joan Brooks, and Candy
& Coco of the Cocomalt Radio Program. Joan Brooks was originally from KCK.
1940 New Manager of Theatre: Charles W. Barnes Jr. (1940–41)
1941 New Manager of Theatre: Dave Develone (1941–42)
July 30: Men’s Bathing Beauty contest to select KCK’s Super-man of 1941
October 5: Announcement of the return of The Clare Tree Major Children’s Theatre of New York
to KCK for the second season to be performed at the Granada Theatre
October 29: Reed Porter (Former assistant manager) gets film roles including opposite Dorothy
Lamour’s next picture The Fleet’s In.
November 10: Toby Tyler, stage play performed by Clare Tree on the Granada stage
December 12: Gala Parade to herald Film’s Debut with 13 floats and Rough Riders
Dinner for entire cast with Senior and Junior Chamber of Commerce
World Premiere of the film Roy Knapp’s Rough Riders with Fred Scott, Pat Dunn, and Patricia
Redpath, many of the songs for the movie were written by Moore of Kansas City
December 15: Poor Little Rich Girl, stage play performed by Clare Tree on the Granada stage
1942 New Manager of Theatre: Hugh H. Sivard 1942-45
January 26: WIggs of the Cabbage Patch, stage play performed by Clare Tree at the Granada
1945 New Manager of Theatre returns: Charles W. Barnes Jr. 1945-65
1946 New Marque installed opened with Clark Gable is back
1951 May 24: Announcement of two major motion picture distributors sign agreement allowing
Granada Theatre to have rights to first-run movies beginning with Memorial Day program
Granada commits to install new seats, carpets, and new refreshment counter
May 29: Parade down Minnesota finishing at the Granada to celebrate First-Run movies
-Participants include Mayor Clark E. Tucker, Executive Manager of Chamber of
Commerce Ellsworth Green Jr., Sean Lawler of Fox Midwest Theatres.
-Radio station KCKN conducted interviews of dignitaries, broadcast at 10pm
-8:35 Into the theatre for short speeches
-9:00pm the movie On the Riviera will be shown
June 14: Granada Theatre institutes earlier openings at 12:30 7 days a week for the 1pm show
August 6: Official KCK Police Department Flood photos on display
September 2: Special Stage Show Today with Larry Storch, Jayne and Adam DiGatano, Tony Di
Pardo and his orchestra
October 28: 200-pound safe stolen from Granada Theatre which contained 16.83 in checks
1952 January 8: Midwestern Premier of the Film Cimarron Kid at the Granada Theatre with personal
Appearances by five members of the cast, Audie Murphy, Beverly Tyler, James Best, John
Hudson, and Yvette Dugay.
February 1: FoxMidwest theatres in a 5 states area will begin a presidential primary lasting a
week. The Granada Theatre gave a ballot to cast the primary vote for each adult ticket
purchased by a voting age patron.
March 16: Jimmy Westerfield opens his new modern barber shop in the Granada Theatre.
April 17: Premier of The Pride of St. Louis with the movie stars, Joanne Dru, John Ireland, and
Constance Smith made personal appearances.
1965 New Manager of Theatre: Carl A. Stewart (1965–66)
1966 New Manager of Theatre: Gary Shaw (1966–67)
1967 New Manager of Theatre: Frank Tungett (1967–68)
1968 New Manager of Theatre: Neil Swan (1968–70)
1970 May 3: Announcement by Fox Midwest Theatres that the Granada would close for economic
May 5: Granada Theatre closed
1976 February 3: Final touches put on “Granada Garden Theatre” by new owners the Catron Family
February 4: Western Double features shown
February 5: American Graffitti/Red Sky at Morning (Fri/Sat only)
February 8: Faron Young and the Grand Ole Opry’s Comedy team present 2 live shows
Granada Theatre robbed, but show goes on
February 13: Gone with the Wind (Fri/Sat/Sun only)
April 22: 40th Wedding Anniversary of Mr. & Mrs. Herman Laid
1984 Granada Theatre Historical Society formed to purchase and restore Granada Theatre
1986 Kansas City Kansas gives $189,500 grant and a Community Block Grant of 100,000 to help with
Restoration of the Granada Theatre with organ, eventually adds a 60K loan
May 23: Granada Theatre re-opens with a Roaring Twenties Night
Granada Theatre Performing Arts School opens under the direction of Sue Ayers
July 31: receives Kansas City, Kansas Historic Landmark
1987 January 16–17: Silent Film, Son of Sheik, organist Bob Maes
Feb 20-21: Silent Film, It, organist Bob Maes
March 19–20: Silent Film, Black Private, organist Marvin Faulwell
April 16–17: Silent Film, Steamboat Bill Jr., organist Paul Fredricks
May 14–15: Silent Film, Hunchback of Notre Dame, organist Ron Cartnell
1988 May 10: Councilman Ron Mears calls for an Audit of the money spent on the restoration and
running of the Granada
May 23: Grand Birthday Party, organ concert by Bob Ralston and Charleston Contest
June 12: Newspaper recounts total grants and loan from the city total $334,500
June 25: Mrs. America Pageant is held
June 26: Artie Shaw Orchestra
July 22: Amazing Kreskin
August 7: Announcement of Granada set to hold silent film and pipe organ series
August 12: The Last Temptation of Christ opens at Granada Theatre amidst protests.
August 28 Dukes of Dixieland
September 16: Lee Erwin Organ Concert
September 17–18: Silent Film, The Eagle, organist Lee Erwin
October 9: Walt Strong Organ Concert
October 14: Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
October 15–16: Silent Film, Safety Last, organist Paul Fredericks
October 29–30: Silent Film, Phantom of the Opera, organist Bob Vaughn
November 18: Jim Riggs Organ Concert
November 19–20 : Silent Film, Blood and Sand, organist Marvin Faulwell
December 10–11: Silent film, College, organist Bob Vaughn
December 14: Kay McAbee Organ Concert
1989 January 8: Donna Parke Organ concert
January 13: Woody Herman
January 14–15: Silent Film, The Kid, organist Marvin Faulwell
January 24: Dave Russell
Feb 10: Tom Hamilton Organ Concert
Feb 13-16: Organ Concert and Workshop with Dennis James
Feb 18-19: Silent film, The Thief of Bagdad, organist Bob Vaughn
March 11–12: Silent film, Seven Choices, organist Dennis James
March 19: David Russell Organ Concert
March 22: Tom Hazelton
April 15–16: Silent Film compilation, Golden Age of Comedy, organist Paul Fredericks
April 17: Ty Woodward Organ Concert
April 27: Hector Oliveir
May 13–14 Silent Film, Dancing Mother, organist Bob Vaughn
1990 Ticket surcharge added to help fight the Granada Theatre Debt
1994 Granada Theatre served as set for the Robert Altman movie Kansas City
1997 Purchased by Wade Williams (temporary owner 3 times since 1976 to protect the building)
2004 November 6: Approved by the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review for nomination to the
National Register of Historic Places
2005 February 9: Granada Theatre placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.
2006 April: Butch Rigby Purchases
July 7: Opens as Screenland Granada with Pirates of the Caribbean
Showed films with Spanish sub-titles
2007 January: Dropped the subtitle policy
Summer: Screenland Granada Closes
2009 March 12: IMAGO DEI Arts purchases theatre from Butch Rigby to open an Arts Center
April: Bernice Wililams opens an Art Exhibition
May: IMAGO DEI Permanent Collection Art Exhibition
May 22: Granada Birthday Party
June: Richard Harrison opens in the newly remodeled Art Gallery
June25–27: First show presented the musical - You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown
July 10: Visual Art Gallery opens in side retail space with the Youth Arts Initiative Reception
July 23–25: A live musical with movie clips, Blame It on the Movies! was presented.
August 7: Jeff Smith opens in the Visual Art Gallery
August 20–22: The musical Schoolhouse Rock Live! was presented.
September 11: Tom Huch opens in the Visual Art Gallery
October 10: Sandra Bowden opens in the Visual Art Gallery
October 22–24: Kansas City premiere of an original stage play Twain’s Eden
November : Be Courageous juried show opens in the Visual Art Gallery
November 13–14: IMAGO DEI’s dance company presents, Redeemed
December 11: David Johnson opens in the Visual Art Gallery
2010 January: George Chrisman opens in the Visual Art Gallery
February: Greg Cissell opens in the Visual Art Gallery
March: Linda Parmer opens in the Visual Art Gallery
March 19–20: IMAGO DEI presents Transfiguration Vocal Ensemble
April 9: Vicki Williams opens in the Visual Art Gallery
Battle of the Bands is in the theatre
May 14: Don Robson opens in the Visual Art Gallery
May 22: Granada Birthday Party
June 10–12: World premiere of the original stage play, Sophia’s Adventures
June 11: Erlene Flowers opens in the Visual Art Gallery
July 8–10: World premiere of the original musical, Good Kids
July 9: Sylvia Rose Augustus opens in the Visual Art Gallery
August 12–14: Imago Dei Arts presents the musical Tintypes
August 13: Harold Smith opens in the Visual Art Gallery
September 10–11: IMAGO DEI presents, Amen featuring resident artists Potters Clay Sacred
Dance Company and Transfiguration Vocal Ensemble
October 8: KCK Has Talent, a talent show featured community members
November 11–13: A Christmas Carol: An Urban Cautionary Tale
November 12: Gail Aggen & Alisha Young open in the Visual Art Gallery
November 20: Ownership returned to Butch Rigby
2011 June: Granada Theatre is sold again.