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Missouri Theatre: The ‘Darling of Columbia’

The evening of October 5, 1928, was more than just the first time the Missouri Theatre opened its doors to an eager crowd of theatergoers. To many historians and patrons of the arts, that evening marked the exact date the theater came to life. Over the years, the Missouri Theatre has been referred to as an “unrivaled beauty,” as a “magnificent splendor” and even as the “darling of Columbia.”

The theater was designed by the Boller Brothers Architects of Kansas City, and it operated as a vaudeville house, welcoming performances by Bob Hope and the Missouri Rocket Girls, better known nowadays as the Radio City Rockettes, until 1953, when it began showing movies as a single-screen movie theater. In 1973, the Baroque-style theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role as Missouri’s only remaining pre-Depression-era movie palace and vaudeville stage. In 2007, the Missouri Symphony Society began to restore the facility to its former glory, a project that culminated in a grand concert by Tony Bennett, who’s inspiring performance would set the stage for the theater’s star-studded future.

The restoration brought the theater into the modern age in a way that made it possible for it to host new acts and welcome groups for events and meetings while still preserving many of its most-cherished details. Today, groups can gather beneath the original Belgian-marble wainscoting and authentic plaster reliefs and gaze up at the stained-glass art panels and stunning 1,800-pound Italian chandelier that have both hung in the same place since the theater’s inception.

The Missouri Theatre is owned and operated by the University of Missouri, which rents the space to meetings groups for receptions and performances either inside or on the theater’s rooftop deck. The theater’s prime location in the heart of The District, Columbia’s thriving downtown area, makes it a great venue for meeting groups, as attendees can easily visit the dozens of restaurants, shops and bars nearby while also enjoying Columbia’s robust public-art collection.

Meeting Space

Although the entire Missouri Theatre building is available for rent for events and meetings, planners can also reserve a section of the theater for more intimate gatherings at a rate of $150 per hour with a four-hour minimum. The main auditorium seats 1,200 guests, and the other meeting spaces of the building are the Patio, which seats up to 140 guests at tables and holds up to 300 standing; the Grand Foyer and Locust Street Lounge, which seats up to 130 guests at tables and holds up to 400 standing; the Missouri Theatre Lounge, which holds up to 100 guests standing; and the Stage, which seats up to 80 guests at tables and holds up to 150 standing.


University Catering and Event Services handles the culinary program for meetings and events held at the Missouri Theatre, where its menus range from casual boxed lunches to elaborate seven-course candlelit dinners set up onstage or on the rooftop patio. The theater allows outside catering vendors, but meeting groups would miss out on delicious items such as tea-smoked duck with honey five-spice butter and apple on croustade, the vegetarian ravioli in basil cream sauce, and the decadent tiger brownies with caramel and pecans. Alcohol is allowed if arranged and licensed through University Catering and Event Services.


The Missouri Theatre is not only one of the most beautiful buildings in the state but also the hub of mid-Missouri’s performing arts. The theater has been called the cultural living room of Columbia, since it regularly draws visitors from at least a 50-mile radius to see names like Kristin Chenoweth, David Sedaris and Kris Kristofferson light up the stage. There are events occurring at the theater year-round, and a schedule of upcoming events, concerts and more can be found at For off-site entertainment, the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau helps to arrange group activities, meals, entertainment and more.


Meeting at the Missouri Theatre is about more than just reserving a great space, and groups will have the chance to arrange exclusive backstage tours with a knowledgeable host before, during or after their events. The tour uncovers highlights like the artist’s dressing rooms and gives details on little-known facts about the history of the building, like how the central chandelier weighs 1,800 pounds and has more than 200 lightbulbs illuminating its sparkling crystal finish. After the tour, guests are ushered across the same wooden beams that have acted as the stage for many of the world’s finest artists over the past decades.

Missouri Theatre

Location: Columbia, Missouri

Type of Venue: Off-site, theater

Capacity: 1,200

Nearby Accommodations: The Broadway Columbia, A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel

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