The Boulevard Theater, located at 900 George Washington Boulevard, still stands today, although it no longer functions as a theater. The theater originally opened on May 17, 1945, featuring Betty Grable in “Diamond Horseshoe” as its inaugural film. It was part of the George Washington Boulevard Shopping Plaza. The theater changed hands a number of times, owners included National General Corporation, Mann Theatres, and Dickinson Theatres..
On May 13, 1945, the Wichita Eagle provided readers with a sneak peek into the theater. The article highlighted that “upon entering the new Fox Boulevard theater at the intersection of Washington and Lincoln, patrons would be greeted by a large map illustrating the Chisholm Trail’s route from Texas to Wichita… The decorative map, adorning the foyer, was created by renowned cartographer Robert T. Aitchison, who had gained fame for his maps of the state… The interior of the theater followed a similar theme, with blue walls adorned with silver scenes depicting the Chisholm Trail. In the darkened theater, these scenes took on a phosphorescent quality, lending a unique decorative ambiance. The stage curtains also featured a similar style of decoration.”
L.B. Douglas, who had previously managed the Planeview Theater, served as the opening manager of the Boulevard Theater.
The Wichita Beacon, on May 17, 1945, mentioned the Midwestern character of the building, emphasizing “the significant murals painted by A.E. Wadsworth, which adorned the sidewalls.” The newspaper also highlighted the theater’s notable feature: “a 500-space parking lot,” a rarity for theaters at the time, which were predominantly located downtown with limited parking options.
I know this theater played a lot of amazing movies. The one I remember the most was “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I remember loving the movie, except for the part when the guys’ faces melted when they opened the ark. That was pretty intense.
Like so many of the theaters in town, this was another one that I spent many afternoons playing. I did not go into the auditorium when the lights were off. The auditorium always scared me. Which in retrospect is stupid, because the lights are off during the movie and I never had a problem with that. I don’t remember the artwork on the walls or curtain, they must have been removed or painted over at some point.
My dad had his office upstairs across from the projection booth. I remember sitting on the floor many times after getting in trouble. I remember there were curtains instead of doors to the auditorium. At certain times of the day, if someone opened the curtain, sunlight from the the lobby would wash out the movie screen.
The Boulevard Theater closed on February 24, 1984
On its last day, The Wichita Eagle did a story, featuring one of my favorite ladies, Edna Kline. “Edna Kline promptly answered the telephone Sunday in her most courteous voice. “Boulevard The-a-ter, “ she said, emphasizing a long “a” sound in the middle of the word.”
“Yes’ ‘ she told the caller, “the the-a-ter has been sold. Today is the last day…. Well, the Crest will be the only the-a-ter left in Wichita. There are movie houses. But they’re not the same as the-a-ters. ”
Well said Edna! You know Edna sold tickets for almost 40 years. She also closed the Orpheum and the Miller. Edna was one of my favorites. A very sweet lady. When she passed away, Bill Warren bought a ticket shaped ad in the Eagle paying tribute to her. Speaking of Bill Warren, this was one of the theaters he worked at as a kid. There is a picture out there of Mr. Warren in lederhosen standing in front of The Boulevard’s signage for “The Sound Of Music.”
The Boulevard Theater’s last show was “Strange Invaders,” marking the end of an era for this iconic entertainment venue.
Over the years, the Boulevard Theater underwent various transformations. It was a gymnasium, a banquet hall, a live entertainment venue, and an internet company’s offices. As of summer of 2022, the theater sits vacant.
Check out some of the other theaters of Wichita in 1974.