Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Old Theaters

I am currently working on an article for Show Me the Ozarks Magazine about restoration of the Colonial Fox Theatre in Pittsburg, Kansas, and I wrote a similar article a few months ago about the Coleman Theatre in Miami, Oklahoma. The restoration and renovation of old theaters seems to be a definite trend, not just here in the Ozarks region, but all across the country. Because of television, DVD players, and the like, there aren't as many theaters as there once were in the United States; so I guess there's a certain nostalgic element at work here. People long for the glory days of yesteryear, when nearly every small town in America had a movie house, and they want to hang on to a bit of that past by restoring some of the old theaters.
In addition to the Colonial Fox and the Coleman, I'm aware of a few other theaters across the Ozarks that have been renovated. Two in Springfield, the Landers and the Gillioz, come to mind, for instance.
Built in 1909, the Landers is reportedly the oldest and largest civic theatre in Missouri. The Landers, which has been in continuous use either as a performing arts center or a movie house since it opened, has undergone several renovations over the years, both before and after it became home to the Springfield Little Theatre in 1970. I recall going to a Springfield Little Theatre production at the Landers in the fall of 1971. In fact, I know the exact date--November 12--because it was the night my wife and I got engaged.
The Gillioz was built in 1926 and, unlike the Landers, was still in use as a movie house during the late 1960s and into the 1970s. I recall going to a few movies there during that time frame, but the crowds gradually stopped coming as the business and entertainment hub of Springfield shifted from the downtown area to Glenstone and the Battlefield Mall. The building fell into disrepair, and the Gillioz closed in 1980.
In recent years, the downtown or Park Central area of Springfield has made a comeback of sorts, and so has the Gillioz. A restoration group acquired the property in 1990, and the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The theatre finally re-opened in 2006 and now hosts theatrical plays, musical performances, and other live productions.

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