OTTAWA, Kan. – Movie-goers from Ottawa, Kansas have never needed to visit Tinseltown.
Hollywood came to them in the form of a little piece of movie history, and, it’s now a potential Guinness Book of Records honoree.
This movie house is the Sunflower State’s piece of Hollywood history.
Peach Madl and her staff at the Plaza Grill and Cinema in Ottawa say they’ve done their research. When the local newspaper and historical society introduced Madl to previously unseen photos, she and her staff started combing the archives.
“I knew it,” Madl said. “We were the oldest in the world.”
In fact, local records show the twin-screen theater as having been in continuous use since 1905. Madl is in the process of lobbying the Guinness World Record Committee to certify The Plaza as being the world’s oldest movie theater in continuous use. Guinness’ website current recognizes a theater from Europe as having been in use since 1908.
“We were dancing in the street,” Peggy Armstrong, Plaza employee, said. “It was wild. We were blowing up phones and then it became serious. We had to prove this because there were gaps where there was no information.”
“Something as progressive as movies were here at the same time that they were on the east and west coast,” Madl said. “How that happened, we have no idea.”
The theater has many of its original features, including the original stage, the original projectionist booth and a water-cooled ventilation system, both of which are outdated, but still on display.
Madl said she hopes to turn the Guinness news into a future for the theater. Madl has owned the theater since 2006, and during that time, she’s watched times get tougher for smaller theaters that don’t have multiple screens.
“It’s bringing more people into town,” Armstrong said. “Everyone benefits. The restaurants do. The movies do.”
“This information will keep us here so we can continue to share the history of powerful these little places were to many of our generations,” Madl said.
And perhaps, this historical site will bring the world to take in a show.
Madl said she’s begun the paperwork associated with the Guinness recognition process, but she doesn’t expect results until next year.