MU purchases Missouri Theatre from Missouri Symphony Society

With the purchase of the Missouri Theatre in downtown Columbia, MU will see many benefits in terms of future expenses, building plans, and performance space.

The Missouri Theatre, located in downtown Columbia, is the latest addition to MU, the university announced last month by purchasing the building for $3.7 million.

This decision has been met with support, as it will not only save the school over $50 million in future construction costs, but also provide performance space for the upcoming school year as Jesse Auditorium is being renovated.

MU had leased the Missouri Theatre for three years before the purchase due to a struggle for performance space between many departments and campus organizations, such as MU’s School of Music, the University Concert Series and the Missouri Student Association.

John Murray, director of event operations at MU, said the purchase will allow the university to keep hosting regular events while Jesse Auditorium is closed.

“Between Jesse Auditorium and the Missouri Theatre, we do about 500 events a year,” Murray said. “We are very busy, and will be able to keep 200 to 300 events going with the theater while the Renew Mizzou project is going on.”

Prior to the purchase of the Missouri Theatre, MU officials had discussed the construction of a new performing arts center that would house the School of Music, seat 1,200 people, and be fully equipped with a recital hall, practice rooms, and faculty studios. The estimated cost of this facility was $97 million.

By purchasing the Missouri Theatre, MU will be able to make significant changes by providing more space while saving an estimated $57.8 million in future construction costs.

Along with these numbers, MU’s aspect of tradition was perpetuated through the purchase of the Missouri Theatre. Being built in 1928 on the land of G.D. Foote, builder of Academic Hall at MU, and currently being Missouri’s only remaining pre-Depression movie palace and vaudeville stage, the Missouri Theatre carries much sentimental and historical value.

Lili Vianello, board president of the Missouri Symphony Society, said the Missouri Theatre is important to the people of Columbia.

“Many people have attended performances and seen movies throughout the years at the Missouri Theatre,” Vianello said. “I have talked to many people who have had their first date there and their first kiss on the balcony. It has a lot of sentimental value for our community.”

In 1987, the Missouri Symphony Society purchased the Missouri Theatre and put $12 million toward a much-needed renovation. Instead of allowing this historical landmark to become a parking lot, the society allowed for the Missouri Theatre to remain standing, and be put to use in the way that was originally intended.

Over the years, the Missouri Symphony Society managed the maintenance and day-to-day operations of the Missouri Theatre. This dedication to management came with a lack of availability in furthering the original mission of the Missouri Symphony Society.

“Finding an organization like the University of Missouri that is better suited to maintain and manage the theater allows us to refocus on our primary mission, which is the music,” Vianello said.

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