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Welcome to the Historic Uptown Theatre

The Uptown Theatre has been a centerpiece of Marceline society and culture for nearly 100 years and on 3 July 2023 it became the first historic property in Marceline listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Uptown was built in 1930 by local movie magnate A. B. Cantwell and local contractor Fred Wolfskill. The left (north) side of the building was originally The Cantwell Theatre (originally the Snappy Theatre). In 1929, Cantwell purchased the Kaiser-Koch Department Store to the right (south) and the men erected the new theater.

Glenn Dickinson, a regional movie theater magnate took up the lease and opened the theater as the Dickinson Theatre. That lasted only 6 years, until 1936, when Cantwell unceremoniously canceled Dickinson’s lease.

The theater was renovated by it’s new tenant R.C. Jones, who opened it up as The Uptown Theatre later that year. A scorned Dickinson sought revenge and opened the Chief Theatre a block north of the Uptown, about two buildings north of the I.O.O.F. Building. 

The Uptown originally showed silent movies. Once talkies became popular, Cantwell made sure to follow the trend, closing the theater to upgrade the equipment in order to show the latest films. After that, he was able to get movies into the theater quickly—within 3 months of them being shown in St. Louis and Kansas City.

In 1939, Dickinson bought this theater, vowed to shut it down, but instead closed The Chief. The next year, the Chief burned down (some suspect it was for insurance fraud; Dickinson had a problematic history). Dickinson promised to re-open it, but never did; it was demolished in 1946. As a result, the Uptown Theatre became the only year-round place for movies in town from that point on, entertaining thousands upon thousands of people.

During World War II, this theater became a hub for newsreels, war propaganda, selling war bonds, and hosting events to help the war effort.

In 1956, Walt and Roy Disney returned to Marceline again. This time, Walt held the Midwest premiere of his “The Great Locomotive Chase” in this theater. The stage he stood on is the same one we have today as is the clock he motions toward in so many famous pictures.

In 1998, the Disney Corporation decided to hold the world premiere of “The Spirit of Mickey” here too.

Interested in joining our preservation efforts? Check out our Join and Contribute page.

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