The West Theater

West Theater
Courtesy: Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum

The West Theatre, at 901 West Douglas, opened on August 22, 1924, with Dorothy Mackaill in “Mighty-Lak-A-Rose” & Gilbert Holmes in “Hello Pardner”. 

The West Theatre building was built in 1922 for Fred Farmer, and was designed by a well-known local architect, U. G. Charles.  The structure was designed as a theater, but in early 1924 the building was occupied by a business called the West Side Racket Store.

West Theater advertisement, 10/16/1924
Courtesy: The Wichita Eagle

The April 29, 1924, issue of the Wichita Beacon said that B. R. Gunby, of Oklahoma, had leased the building from Farmer and would open it as a movie house called the West Theatre in July after about 10 grand in remodeling.

Gunby and C.L. Hannon operated the theater, which was on lease from Farmer.  

On August 22, 1924, The Wichita Eagle noted, “This is the first theater venture on the West Side in a number of years, but the two men are confident of making a success of it.  Mr. Gunby has been in the theater business in Oklahoma for a number of years.  Mr. Hannon has been in business in Wichita.”

An advertisement in the Eagle on May 29, 1927, touted, “Our new cooling and ventilating system will keep you cool at the coolest place in town.”

West Theater advertisement, 10/18/1924
Courtesy: The Wichita Eagle

The theater added a four-piece band, according to an Eagle article from November 19, 1924. “The orchestra is composed of G.C. Munson, violinist and director, Miss Bernieve Hendrix, pianist, Leo Baer, trumpeter and Al Gibson, drums.”

O.F. Sullivan took over the lease and closed the West in May of 1928.  He used the time to give the house a needed refresh.

O.F. Sullivan

The Eagle noted, “The improvements to the West theater included added floor space and a reversal of the seating arrangement.  The ground floor space will be excavated to get a better elevation and Mr. Farmer is considering a balcony.  The contract price for the work now ordered is about $10,000. Mr. Sullivan said expensive equipment is to be added and the entire building will be redecorated.”

O.F. Sullivan opened the West Theater along with the Civic Theater, 81 Drive-In Theater, 54 Drive-In Theater and the Crest Theater. Sullivan also owned the Crawford and Palace Theaters.

A small advertisement in the June 8, 1928, Wichita Beacon announced the reopening of the theater with Hames Oliver Curwood in “Back to God’s Country.”

A year later, in June of 1929, Sullivan equipped the theater for sound.

The last story I could find on the West Theater was a short story on June 29, 1953, in the Wichita Eagle.  It appears a cab driver was seeing a movie and found a wallet on the floor.  He took it out to the lobby and discovered $2,700 in it.  The driver, William Duncan, called the police.  The wallet was returned to its owner.

Sullivan Independent Theatres Circuit turned the West into a second run theater.  The West played its last movie on December 12, 1953, with “Texas Stampede” and “Phantom from Space” along with a newsreel and a cartoon.

The building reverted back to retail use and while the building still stands, the second floor is no longer there.