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Missouri Theatre

The Missouri Theatre is a concert and entertainment venue that opened on October 5, 1928. Located in downtown Columbia near the intersection of Locust St. and Ninth St., across from Missouri United Methodist Church, Missouri Theatre is the only surviving pre-Depression movie theater and vaudeville stage in Columbia, Mo.

The Missouri Theatre was designed after the Opéra Garnier—a 1,979 seat Paris opera house—by the Boller Brothers and was built in 1928 at the cost of $400,000, equivalent to over $4.5 million in today’s currency. The auditorium houses one of the most magnificent elements of the theater—a sparkling 200 bulb crystal chandelier that weighs 1800 pounds.

Advertisements in the Columbia Daily Tribune newspaper proclaimed the “Formal Opening of your new Missouri Theatre—Friday Evening… A $400,000 Showhouse of Unrivaled Beauty and Extravagant Setting in Central Missouri. The Magnificent Splendor of This Palace of Amusement Will Dazzle and Thrill You.”

The theater opened Friday, October 5, 1928, with over 300 guests, as reported by the Columbia Missourian. Radio City Rockettes complimented the opening night with fanciful dancing as well as vibrant music by pianist Jack Keith and his Missouri Orchestra. Columbia residents could enjoy all this entertainment and more for an admissions fee of 25 cents (matinees) or 25 cents (balcony), and 35 cents (floor) for evening shows; children were admitted for 10 cents.

Even at the beginning, despite its magnificent glamor and extravagance, Missouri Theatre was difficult to maintain and operate. In 1953, the theater was leased to Commonwealth Theaters, Inc., which successfully operated the theater until 1983. But due to the development of multiscreen theaters in Columbia, Missouri Theater struggled as a single screen theater until 1988, when Missouri Symphony Society purchased the theater.

In the early 2000s, Missouri Theater underwent several restorations and a multimillion-dollar renovation project. In 2011, Missouri Theater became the official home to the University Concert series, acting as a concert and recital venue for many of the University of Missouri (MU) School of Music performances. On July 1, 2014, MU gained complete ownership of the Missouri Theatre. Missouri Theatre hosts multiple arts education programs and organizations, like the Missouri Symphony Society (MOSS) and serves as a venue for the annual True/False Film Festival.

Missouri Theater remains the premier performing arts facility in Columbia and of mid-Missouri. The Missouri Theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 6, 1979.

Feature photo by Joy Park

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