OZARK THEATRE - 1921


The Ozark Theater... one of the oldest standing movie palaces in the world and the oldest in Saint Louis metropolitan area,  it was built in suburban Webster Groves in 1921. The Ozark hosted various functions and motion pictures for 60 years before brief use as a medical school.
Now the Ozark Theater is owned by a preservation-minded group that has saved four other historic buildings in the area, some of which are current nominees for the National Register of Landmark locations. The Ozark Theater is of historical significance in that few neighborhood theater buildings remain. The Ozark Theater was opened in the early 1920's and included an exterior airdome for outdoor movie viewing in the summer months before the advent of air conditioning. Motion pictures were shown at the Ozark six days a week until 1937, when voters repealed a longstanding "blue law," making Sunday movies possible. The theater became almost a babysitter for families on Sunday as children were dropped off to delight in an afternoon of the fantasy world on screen.
Photos from the 1920's show the original Mission style facade. Much of the facade remains but was covered by a remodeling in 1970 as vintage movie theaters nationwide tried to "update" their look in tandem with the "cinema" movement of the 70's. Recently the Ozark Theatre has been restored to a close approximation of its original look, and it has been returned to its original use as a theatre and performing arts venue.

By a margin of nearly 2 to 1 voters in Webster Groves, Missouri turned back ordinances authorizing a huge corporate development in the center of their town. The development called for the destruction of the Ozark Theater, among other buildings. The vote totals went as follows:

Proposition #1 - an ordinance finding that the buildings in the proposed area are "blighted"

Against - 5,417

For - 3,119 - (63.5% against)

Proposition #2 - an ordinance approving the development plan and authorizing Mills Corporation to acquire the properties through the use of "eminent domain"

Against - 5597

For - 2,943 - (65.5% against)

With this vote the restoration of the unique Ozark Theater is now possible!

Saint Louis Theatre Organ Society.
Copyright 2010 [SLTOS]. All rights reserved.                  
Revised: June 30, 2013