This small-town movie theater has been open since 1907, making it the oldest purpose-built cinema in operation in the world. This space in the Pickrell Building in Ottawa, Kansas, has been showing movies since May 1907. Though the theater closed for a short period during the Great Depression, it has never been used for another purpose.
When the theater first opened, it was known as the Bijou, then became the Crystal in 1910. In 1935, it opened again as the Plaza after a remodel, and has had that name ever since. For most of its existence, the theater has had a single screen, and used a two-lamp, 35mm Simplex projector setup from 1935 that alternately showed 20 minute reels. In the late 1980s the theater was renovated again, and became a duplex with two smaller screens.
Behind the wall that holds those screens, the old stage area still remains. This area has been turned into a two-level museum of movie memorabilia museum. The original stage is located on the upper level. In the museum you’ll find a collection of cameras, props, posters, and scripts that range from the 19th century to today. Highlights include a vintage Edison Kinetoscope, a wand box from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and an early draft of 1983’s Return of the Jedi (back when it was still titled Revenge of the Jedi). Costumes from many different movies are also on display.
Know Before You Go
Open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Open for private groups and parties on Monday and Tuesday. Private tours of the museum are available.