The history behind The Blue Note building

Yes, you’ve heard right: Richard King is selling The Blue Note at 17 N. Ninth St. But this former “movie palace,” won’t be going the way of other movie venues in downtown Columbia, Missouri. These two articles, “Richard King sells The Blue Note, Mojo’s,” and “Richard King passes torch, sells The Blue Note, Mojo’s.

The live music venue is being purchased by Matt Gerding and Scott Leslie, who will maintain its purpose and vibe.

Important for more than the most recent 34 years of great music, The Blue Note is part of downtown theatre history. Don’t let anyone tell you the building started out as vaudeville theatre. Built in 1927 by Tom C. Hall, it was once The Varsity Theatre and it showed movies from then until the 1960s, according to this National Register of Historic Places document on the North Ninth Street Historic District (Downtown Columbia, Missouri MPS) (map [see note]), 5-36 North Ninth St., Columbia (1/21/04).

This report refers to the building as one of the largest and newest buildings in that district. It was built at a cost of $100,000, or $1.3 million in today’s purchasing power, according to Measuring Worth, a website that gives comparative, historic values. It was designed by Boller Brothers of Kansas City, according to Debbie Sheals, author of the NRHP document. She notes it was the third movie theatre on that block and the second on that exact spot. The Star occupied that space previously and was also owned by Hall and it either burned or was razed.

But The Star isn’t the only theatre missing from downtown Columbia. By 1930, Ninth Street offered 3,591 theatre seats in a city of roughly 15,000. In 2010, Columbia had 4,227 seats for a population of roughly 100,000. Prior to television and now Netflix, people went to the movies much more often, according to this 2010 article, “Capturing Columbia’s Cinema Century,” in the Columbia Business Times.

Here is a list of some of Columbia’s missing theatres:

Haden Opera House: 1884-1901, destroyed by fire. Showed the first film in Columbia in 1897.

Airdome at Tenth & Walnut.

Columbia Theatre at 1103 E. Broadway. The interior was destroyed by fire and the first floor remains as a law office.

The Uptown on Broadway is now a retail space.

The Elite at 13 N. Ninth St.

The M Theatre at 8-10 N. Ninth St.

The Columbia Broadway Drive-In Theatre, where Gerbes is on Broadway now.

The Biscayne III on Stadium, where the Shoppes at Stadium are now.

The Columbia Mall 4, close to where Barnes & Noble is now.

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