Newman Theater was a beauty downtown

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

The Newman Theater is shown on these 1919 postcards. It was the third and finest of Frank L. Newman’s movie houses in Kansas City.

The Newman Theater was located in the Brady Building, which had been gutted by fire in 1918. It was the largest and most expensive motion picture theater to be built downtown at the time. It was built on a 100-foot frontage at 1114-18 Main St. — a stone’s throw north of 12th Street. Newman’s other downtown theaters were the Royal, one-half block north, and the Regent, on 12th Street near Walnut.

Noted theater architect Alexander Drake drew up the plans for the fireproof, steel and concrete building that cost almost $400,000 to erect. Seating capacity was a little over 2,000, and the orchestra pit could accommodate a 35-piece orchestra. A large mezzanine floor promenade was located between the first floor and balcony that housed various lounges and sitting areas. There was even a children’s nursery area in the theater.

Each year on the anniversary of the date of the Newman’s opening, a weeklong celebration took place that featured special stage acts. One of the premier local acts, The Marie Kelly Dancers, were featured one year.

Frank Newman left Kansas City in June 1925 after 11 profitable years operating his theaters. He went on to manage theaters in Los Angeles for the Famous Players-Lasky Film Corporation, which paid Newman $900,000 for the Newman and Royal theaters. Many of Newman’s employees followed him to California.

In later years the Newman Theater was called the Paramount and later the Towne Theater. The theater was razed in the early 1970s in order to make way for a high-rise steel and glass office building that now occupies the site.

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