Charleston, MO

Historic McClutchen Theatre in Charleston, Missouri is not forgotten but needs a lot of restoration

CJ Coombs
McCutchen Theatre, Charleston, Missouri.Photo byGoogle Maps.

The McCutchen Theater is a picture of history. It's located at 106 East Commercial Street in Charleston, Missouri (Mississippi County). The architectural styles of this building included Art Deco and the Moderne style, both of the Modern Movement.

The theatre sits on a concrete foundation and the walls are bricks of various colors. The architect of the building was Uzzell S. Branson, and the builder was Clarence Staples. Four years ago, the building was nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and on August 6, 2019, it was added.

The theatre

The McCutchen Theatre is a three-story brick building built in 1947-1948. The purpose of the building was to house a single-screen movie theatre. The building's exterior design is postwar Art Deco. The front of the building contains a large metal and neon marquee which is hung at an angle away from the building.

There is a ticket booth in front made of porcelain enamel and glass along with two entranceways. The seating that used to be in the auditorium was removed and the roof above had collapsed, so the interior was exposed to weather elements.

The theatre is in the commercial district of the city not far from Main Street, the major thoroughfare. The city also contains other early to mid-1900s buildings.

Like other small towns, having a theatre provided a means of entertainment for local residents. The McCutchen Theatre was built after the American Theatre burned down in 1947. It was an older theatre made of wood and brick. The owners of the American Theatre, O.W. and May McCutchen, hired architect, Uzzell S. Branson, and builder, Clarence Staples, to reconstruct the theatre. In 1969, Malco Theatres, Inc. purchased the theatre.

In 1901, the site that was home to both theatres used to be the E.W. Ogilvie C.O.D. Store. In 1913, East Commercial was the first paved street in Charleston, a street where Mr. and Mrs. McCutchen started operating the American Theatre. This theatre was in what used to be a furniture store.

On Thursday, December 19, 1929, the American Theatre featured 'the first talking picture to be shown in Charleston' called 'The Rainbow Man.' (Source.)

The McCutchens owned two theatres, the American Theatre and the New Theatre. This family also owned theatres in Sikeston, Missouri and Blytheville, Arkansas.

On April 22, 1947, an electrical fire started in the American Theatre but was managed. About three weeks later in May 1947, the theatre burned down. Planning for a theatre that was fireproof subsequently began. When the new theatre was opened in July 1948, it was named after the McCutchens and when the theatre opened, it was a big deal.

Interestingly, there were movie studio representatives such as Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers who came to the opening as well as some telegrams from established stars. Because the McCutchen Theatre had more options like capacity size, air conditioning, and a cry room, this theatre became the more favored movie venue.

Malco Theatres, Inc. based out of Memphis, Tennessee purchased McCutchen's three theatres in 1969. O.W. McCutchen died in 1954, and his wife died less than a year after the sale of the theatres.

In May 1977, it was announced that McCutchen was closing. The LinkedIn website indicates the owner of the theater is Ross McCutchen since 2018.

According to the 2020 census, the population of Charleston was 5,056. Other notable buildings in Charleston listed on the National Register of Historic Places include the Hearnes Site, the Missouri Pacific Depot, the Moore House, and the Jacob Swank House.

Thanks for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

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