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Friday, May 6, 2016

Historic downtown theater to close following Thanksgiving weekend

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The AMC One, formerly known as the Palace Theater, will be closing its doors on Sunday, Nov. 28 after the last showing.
( Staff photo by Lecia Forester)
A historical business in Kennett has fallen victim to the changing times and the economy.

The AMC Kennett One, formerly known as the Palace Theater and the Kennett Theater is indeed closing, in the midst of rumors which have circulated over the past few weeks. The closing date will be at the close of business on Sunday, Nov. 28. The last movie that will play on the big screen is the one that is playing now, "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, part one.

Justin Scott, director of Public Relations, for AMC Theaters based out of Kansas City, Mo., says, "AMC continually upgrades the quality of our theater circuit by adding new screens and by disposing of older screens through closures and sales. We do, however, look at our theaters on an individual basis, Unfortunately, the AMC Kennett One has be identified as a theater that no longer competes effectively in the marketplace and will close at the end of business on Nov. 28."

It will be hard to imagine a Kennett without a movie theater, as the Palace, as it once was called, has been a familiar landmark located on First Street in Kennett since the early days of the 1900's.

According to reports, from the Web site, http://www.americantowns.com/mo/kennett/..., it has even served as a meeting place for the First Baptist Church when that church was destroyed by fire November 16, 1916. Services were held in the Palace Theater as well as the Dunklin County Courthouse until March of 1917.

According to Jack Astrachan, long-time resident and former owner of James Kahn's Department Store, when he got out of the Army in 1946 and came back to Kennett, the Palace was owned by the Vandiver family. At that time, as in nearly every small town, there was a movie theater. Kennett even had another one known as the Ritz.

Others in the area included the following:

* Senath-The Richmond;

* Hayti-The Joy;

* Caruthersville-The Gem and the Rogers;

* Portageville-The Shannon;

* Rector, Ark.-The Ford;

* Piggott, Ark.-The Carolyn;

* Malden-The Liberty;

Also, included in the line-up were two drive-in theaters, Tommie's Drive-in which could accommodate 300 cars and the Holcomb Drive-In on Highway 25 that could accommodate 200 cars.

Now, with the changing times, all of those movie theaters are now gone and the last remaining one will close its doors Thanksgiving weekend.

According to Astrachan, the Vandiver family retained ownership of the theater until the early 1980's and somewhere around 1982 or 1983, it was sold to Kerasotes Theaters. At that time the theater was re-named the Kennett Theater and was remodeled and updated. It boasted of Dolby sound, assistive listening devices and was handicapped enabled.

Although it was only a single screen, the capacity inside the theater was 576 people.

At this time under Kerasotes, the theater seemed to be doing very well, according to a letter in 1994 from former Kennett Mayor, Charles B. Brown. In part, according to the letter, it says, that Kerasotes was pleased with the operation in Kennett and was even considering plans for expansion.

Whatever the reasons were, the Kennett Theater was then sold to AMC Theaters , according to Manager Sheila Durk, sometime in April of this year and the day to day operation was taken over in May.

Residents of Kennett will now have to travel to some of the surrounding areas to see a movie. The nearest towns that still have a movie theater are Paragould, Sikeston, Dexter and Blytheville.

No further information concerning the closing was available at press time.

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That's a shame. The square won't be the same without the theater.

-- Posted by cottonman on Tue, Nov 23, 2010, at 1:53 PM

You left the Missouri Theater in Hornersville off your list. It was owned by Lyle Richmond, owner of the theater in Senath, and managed by Oliver "Sock" Perry from the early 1930s until the early 1950s when Richmond sold it to Bernard McFarland. It went out of business a few years after that.

Please publish a correction.

-- Posted by Mogirl51 on Tue, Nov 23, 2010, at 3:22 PM

So sad to hear the theater is closing. I would've thought Kennett would've faught harder to keep it.

-- Posted by lamuntz on Tue, Nov 23, 2010, at 3:39 PM

Good memories of going to the theatre in the years I was growing up in Kennett.

-- Posted by KHS1975 on Tue, Nov 23, 2010, at 5:27 PM

The Palace (don't call it anything else) is one of the very last single screen theaters around. I'm surprised that it has lasted as long as it has. That being said, while I haven't lived in Kennett in nearly 40 years, it is my hometown and I will miss seeing the theater marquee. Hope it doesn't turn into an eyesore like the two in the town where I live now. Also hope that someone has plans to build a multi-screen theater in town. Can't imagine not being able to go to a movie without going out of town.

-- Posted by JungleJim on Tue, Nov 23, 2010, at 10:34 PM

That picture sure brings back memories. Coming out on a crisp winter Saturday night, and there would be the tantalizing aromatic smell of Ford's hot tamales wafting up in the steam from his cart.

Not to mention the perpetual game of sneaking in for free played between us kids and the ticket taker at the door. Wait until a movie ended, there would then be people going in for next showing, and others coming out. Trick would be to swim upstream against the out going flow of people at the exit door, and then merge in the lobby with those headed for seating. Didn't always work though, got my ears pinched a few times while being escorted back out to the street.

-- Posted by Palehorseman on Tue, Nov 23, 2010, at 10:56 PM

Well, Good Ole Hometown,

It's time to pull together. When they close it, likely the property will go on sale. They might Ebay off the equipment, and they may not. If they do, there's always a way to replace it.

IIRC, several other small towns have banded together and "saved" their old movie parlors. Make this an opportunity to show these other places (several of which are smaller than you) that you've got as much or more community spirit than they do!

-- Posted by Renaissongsman on Wed, Nov 24, 2010, at 12:08 AM

As a former employee there with my first full time job, it is sad to see this happen, however not surprising given the decline in things all over. Hopefully someone will bring a theatre back to the city soon though. I do hope the best for those who are now seeking employment because of this as well.

-- Posted by RobbieD on Wed, Nov 24, 2010, at 8:52 AM

If anyone cares, Michael Moore has been sponsoring an initiative to restore and/or to keep open small town movie theaters in several cities and then there's always Sheryl...theaters are closing because they continue to try to compete with cable and other television movie options and also with video rentals, including those red machines that are in every Wal-mart store lobby, but that's only one use for the small town theaters. Many theaters are restored and present live musical acts and band shows - local and otherwise, live plays done by locals and theme days that the big movie-plexes won't offer, such as cartoon days for kids and black-and-white classics like Casablanca and also foreign films. If anyone cares....

-- Posted by Kennett44Girl on Thu, Nov 25, 2010, at 8:00 PM

well,Mr Mayor and city officals, here is your chance to save this Kennett landmark. If you will step up to the plate, Im sure the people of kennett will support the effort. Who knows, it might help get some of you re-elected.

-- Posted by gmdriver on Sun, Nov 28, 2010, at 7:39 PM

It's really sad that the Palace is closing. I have wonderful memories of going there every weekend and watching the matinee with my sisters and brother as a child. The smell of the freshly popped popcorn, and the sounds of the tickets coming out of the machine. I took my daughter quite a few times when she was old enough to enjoy the experience, and now they are closing it down. I was hoping that my daughter would be able to take her family and pass along the tradition. Maybe our elected officials or our towns celebrities will step up and save this historic landmark. Do it for the kids, if nothing else. Surely you all have memories there too that you would like to pass on to your kids and grandkids.

-- Posted by mistyblue on Mon, Nov 29, 2010, at 11:01 AM

Paul Jones who managed The Palace for 20+ yrs strived to get Kerasotes to build a Triplex out on Independence Ave but it never panned out for us as a city.

-- Posted by sholsten on Sat, Sep 21, 2013, at 7:38 PM

The Palace theater closing is a vivid reminder of my life in Kennett. I was born on East 5th Street in 1927. It cost 10 cents for me to go to the Palace Theater every Saturday afternoon...a cartoon, a comedy, a cowboy movie and then a "serial"...Flash Gordon! There were no rest rooms nor popcorn, candy, soda...nothing! You had to purchase those things at a little store on the corner. It is ironic the closing was on my birthday...November 23...83 years later! What a run!I attended south ward school, which is no longer there. Left Kennett in 1937...moving to Sikeston then on to California in 1040.

-- Posted by Bill Hilton on Tue, May 6, 2014, at 6:57 PM

1940...a typo!

-- Posted by Bill Hilton on Tue, May 6, 2014, at 7:00 PM

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