Positive Connections: 100-year-old theatre brings new life to Kansas town

Positive Connections

KINGMAN, Kan. (KSNW) – A century-old theatre is bringing new life and new people to a Kansas town.

“It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are. You still get that excitement and that nostalgic feeling when you walk in the door. You realize this is a place of value, history, and fun and excitement,” said Kingman Historic Theatre General Manager Deena Lampe.

The Kingman Historic Theatre was built in 1920 as a silent movie and vaudeville house. Today, it’s a movie and live events venue boasting much of its original art deco and historic charm.

“There is so much history here. The ticket office used to be a cigar bar for the men. They used to serve peanuts on a cart out in the lobby as concessions,” explained Lampe.

Deena Lampe got her career start with the theatre about seven years ago. However, it was decades before that when she first experienced the space and all of its wonder. Her grandmother grew up going to the theatre.

“It cost a quarter, and now, I am able to bring my daughter here and relive that same excitement,” Lampe explained.

It is one of the reasons why Lampe and the theatre’s board members are so passionate about preserving the theater’s rich history and continued success.

“It’s not my theater or the board. It is Kingman. It is the Kingman community,” Lampe said.

To keep that community feeling alive, the theatre’s board members have had to get creative. Whether that be with fundraising efforts or attracting new types of acts and movies.

“Movies alone are not going to support us. We do have a good, you know, attendance most times, but the way the movie theater goes most of the time, the money for the ticket goes to the big companies, and so, we mainly make our money off the concession, and we try to keep that pricing down low enough so people can afford to come and have their kids here,” said Kingman Historic Theatre Board Vice President Janice Smith.

“One of the big things that we shifted to was trying to get concerts and live music, and part of that was taking a very small stage and adding onto it without totally changing structure, so the stage it’s on now is actually built over the original orchestra pit,” Lampe explained.

Thanks to fundraising efforts and community tax credits, the theatre has gone from using dated equipment like projectors to running digitally. It has updated the building’s roof, purchased a new screen, among other things. It also has plans to install a new surround system in October. The ultimate goal? Keep the historic theatre up and running for years to come.

“We are here. We are excited to be here. We are ecstatic about the future, and we do not plan on going anywhere, so we would cordially invite anyone to make the short drive to Kingman, see what Kingman has to offer,” Lampe said.

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