The Movies! was a small chain of franchised movie theaters. Franchised theaters were new at the time. The Jerry Lewis Circuit was also seeing some success with the format.
The Movies! located at 767 N. West Street, was franchised by American Automated Theatres Inc. (AATI). The concept focused on family films shown in small theaters placed in or near strip malls. Joseph Cooper Burks of AATI pitched the concept as a “one button” operation.
A Wichita Beacon article on November 14, 1971, touted “The theaters are served by one of the latest innovations in movie projection: the automatic projector. This automatic system pretty well handles the entire operation from opening and closing the curtains to starting and stopping the music and beginning the movie.”
David and Marge Heller were the proud owners of The Movies! 1 & 2, the city’s only west-side theater at that time. They did not have a background in movie theaters, Mr. Heller was a test pilot for Boeing.
The November 1971 Beacon article mentioned that the new owners wanted it to be a family business, “The Movies is a family operation as the Hellers are aided by their son, Joel, while daughter Rebecca, a senior at KU, is only able to offer moral support.”
The Movies! 1 & 2 opened on October 15, 1971, with “Two Lane Black Top” starring James Taylor, Warren Oates, and Laurie Bird along with “Walt Disney’s The Aristocats” with voices by Eva Gabor and Nancy Culp.
Within a year, the Hellers bailed on the location. AATI stepped in to continue the operation before closing it in September of 1972. A Beacon article on September 22nd said the corporate office had no plans for further operations in Wichita.
On December 21, 1972, the theater came back advertising the best popcorn in town. I could not find any additional information on who took over the multi-screen building. That worked until the theater closed for good on November 15, 1973.
The building still stands and houses “Generations Antiques & Artisans.”
We stopped in one evening and met the owners, Heather and Jesston. They were very kind and interested in hearing more about the building’s previous life.