Orpheum Theater lends a hand to Crown Uptown Theater as it addresses recent lightning damage


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Two weeks ago Friday, severe weather caused a fire at the Crown Uptown Theater. The damage has thrown a wrench in the theater’s summer plans. 

An investigation revealed the Crown was struck directly by lighting three times which caused an electrical fire. Executive Director Max Wilson said he’s glad he was able to extinguish the fire before more damage was done.

“It would have been right here,” said Wilson pointing to the area where lightning struck. He walked down to the basement where the fire scorched the electrical box.

“So flames were just pouring up out of that top part,” Wilson said.

Heightening the drama, the fire happened in the middle of a live performance.

“We had horn players, a section of three horn players just right here,” said Wilson as he pointed above his head to the wooden beams directly beneath the stage. 

Everyone evacuated safely and no one was hurt that evening. The live wires have since been patched, but the charred breakers still lie on the basement floor. “She was right where she needed to be,” continued Wilson as he tapped the fire extinguisher on the wall.

Wilson fears the inclement weather we may see this weekend in Wichita may make things worse.

“My number one fear in life has always been lightning, so of course, that’s what damaged our building,” said Wilson. “What strange fate that tonight we also have severe thunderstorms for the last two performances that have been rescheduled.”

Those performances will take place at the Orpheum Theater, where Orpheum marketing director Mallory Rine said they were happy to help the Crown Uptown in this time of need. 

“Everybody’s in it together, everybody knows what it feels like to struggle and to, and also to thrive,” said Rine. 

Wilson said he’s grateful to the Orpheum. “It’s just kind of everybody coming together to figure out a way that we can push forward,” concluded Wilson.  

It can be up to16 weeks before the necessary repairs are made to the air conditioning units inside the Crown. Wilson said the long wait is due to manufacturers waiting for parts due to pandemic-related delays. 

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