Link to audio: https://soundcloud.com/madelynstampley/space-analysis-speech

For my project, I decided to research and explore the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky. It took a while to make the decision to choose this place, but I knew as soon I made the choice that I would not regret it. I chose the theater originally because of how close it was to my dorm and I thought it would be an easy yet fascinating subject. After revisiting it though, I have become entranced by the theater. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful, yet overlooked, places on campus.

I first visited the theater with some friends last December. We had been wanting to watch The Perks of Being a Wallflower for a while, and with a quick Google search of the nearest theaters that were showing the movie, we ended up at the Kentucky Theatre. We were all newbies to Lexington and had never heard of it before, and had expected it to be just like any other theater. All of us ended up being extremely wrong about this.

I parked the car and walked up to the theater with my friends and was immediately taken aback by the marquee that looked like it was straight out of the fifties.

From this point on, I knew I was in for something different than what I was used to. After my friends and I got out tickets, we ventured inside. Our eyes were as huge as the moon as soon we opened the doors and took out first steps inside. Everything in the lobby was elegant and beautiful- nothing like what we had expected.

I was greeted by a gleaming older man behind a concession stand that was selling assorted chocolates and popcorn. My wide-eyed expression obviously gave the fact that I had never stepped foot in this theatre before away, because the man chuckled and said, “New here?” In order to get the full experience (and of course to fulfill my sweet tooth), I decided to get some snacks from the stand while my friends were busy looking around. The concession stand was filled with candy from local companies and big brands, and it was set up in such a way that it reminded me of something that I had seen in movies from past decades. Everything was set up in such a way that it didn’t look cluttered, but it looked like its placement had a purpose.

As I walked over to the huge doors that opened up to the auditorium, I became filled with excitement. Based off what I had already seen, I knew that the auditorium had to be just as amazing as the rest of theatre. I was not wrong in this belief. Since, we had arrived at the theatre rather early, the lights were still on in the auditorium were still on which allowed us to view the beauty and elegance that left my friends and I speechless. The gold and ruby red color scheme paired with the extravagantly detailed ceiling and walls created an auditorium that was nothing less than beautiful.

I had never thought of a theatre as beautiful until that day. I had actually been used to the grimy theaters that I had always visited before. As the lights dimmed and the movie began, I suddenly became very thankful that I had chosen this theatre from the list of theaters my Google search had given me.

The aspect of the theater that I enjoy the most is the location. The juxtaposition of elegance in the middle of college town leaves you entranced. The Kentucky Theatre has a certain aura that draws you in and makes you want to keep coming back. It is so much more than just the way it looks, though. It is the amazing service you get while there and the soft music they have playing in the background that instantly puts you in a better mood. It is the smiles you are greeted by as soon as you buy your tickets outside. It is all of the little aspects of the theater that creates the allure that draws you in and allows you to be instantly captivated.

While I am not denying that a lot of the scenery and other aspects were put in place to make money, I do not think that everything was purposeful. I believe that a lot of the things that create the environment were created naturally overtime. The theater was built and opened in 1921 and aside from a fire that caused it to be closed for repairs for for two years in the late eighties, it has been in business nonstop. Due the Kentucky Theatre being in business for almost a century, I believe it has overtime adapted a personality and charisma, if you will. It does not give off the corny and generic appeal that a lot of twenty’s themed businesses do. This is due to the fact that it was legitimately built in this time period and has been maintained since then. When you walk into the building, you feel like you are actually stepping into a different time period.

While researching the building, I decided to interview my friend Brittany Ham, a fellow University of Kentucky student, and get her opinion on the theatre and see how she felt about it as a whole:

A Conversation with Brittany Ham

Conducted in person on April 20, 2013

INTERVIEWER

How familiar are you with the Kentucky Theatre?

BRITTANY HAM

Pretty familiar, actually. Every year at my high school, our senior class would host a comedic video competition at the Kentucky Theatre. We would all go there and watch the videos and pick out favorite ones. It was so much fun.

INTERVIEW

Do you still go there?

BRITTANY HAM

Not as often as I’d like to. I think I can honestly say I have been there once since high school. College has kept me super busy, but I’d love to go again sometime!

INTERVIEWER

That sounds like so much fun! I agree with the whole college-keeping-you-busy thing. I feel like I am always tied down by homework! What is your favorite thing about the theatre?

BRITTANY HAM

It’s a great Lexington attraction because it hosts a lot of cool events. It’s also a good place to see classic films you love. I also just really like the whole look it has. It’s really classy and different.

INTERVIEWER

Oh, most definitely. I have heard a lot about the different events they host in the summer. I know you don’t go as often as you would like, but overall would you recommend this theater to your friends?

BRITTANY HAM

Um… To my friends? No, probably not. I would only recommend it more so to people who like to do alternative things and want to broaden their horizons. It’s not your typical theater and it doesn’t show movies that are extremely popular with college kids like us. I feel like my sorority sisters would honestly just walk in and be very, very confused. *Laughs*

Up until this point, I had no idea that the theater was used for purposes other than to show movies. With more research, I found out that during the summer the theater is used regularly as a venue for hosting events for different organizations and schools. They small film festivals and galas for low costs, while providing a venue that is perfect for more formal events.

A few days after my interview with Brittany, I decided I wanted to get someone else’s perspective on the theater. So, I decided to interview Emily Markanich, a regular Kentucky Theatre visitor to see why she keeps going back.

An Interview with Emily Markanich

Conducted in person on April 23, 2013

INTERVIEWER

I’m interviewing you today because I know you’re really familiar with the Kentucky Theatre.

EMILY MARKANICH

*Laughs* Oh, definitely. My friends and I are regulars there! It’s awesome.

INTERVIEWER

What first brought you to the theatre?

EMILY MARKANICH

My boyfriend at the time told me about it and convinced me to go. I’m always up for new things, and he told me it would be different than what I was used to, so I tried it out and I ended up loving it.

INTERVIEWER

The last person I interviewed told me the theatre is more for people who are into broadening their horizons, would you agree with that?

EMILY MARKANICH

Yeah… I guess I’d agree with that, but I don’t think it’s necessarily just for those people. I think the theatre is for anyone really. You’d be surprised at the kinds of people who actually go there. I feel like it sounds like I’m trying to promote the theatre or some thing. Maybe I should work there… *Laughs*

INTERVIEWER

You should definitely be getting paid for this. So, what’s your favorite thing about the theater?

EMILY MARKANICH

Oh man. Probably the way it looks. I know that’s so cliché, but have you seen the place? It’s so different than what I had gotten used to. I went there expecting to just watch a movie, but I didn’t just pay for the movie, I paid for the experience, too.

Emily’s last line really struck me. “You don’t just pay for the movie, you pay for the experience, too.” I think this line pretty much sums up why Emily along with so many other people keep going back to the theater when they could just so easily go and visit the Cinemark Lexington Theater near the mall. Why would you go to a “regular” theatre when you could go and experience something unique for just the same price?

According to a lot of my friends, the reason they prefer Cinemark over the Kentucky Theatre is the limited parking offered for the theater. This has also have to be my biggest complaint with the theater. They do not have an assigned parking lot, which leaves you having to park and walk half a mile to get there. On the weekends, finding a parking spot is extremely difficult and it ends up being the deciding factor for what you end up doing a lot of the times, especially if the weather is not in your favor.

Another thing I heard from people a lot when I asked why they did not go to theater often is that they do not offer a lot of the movies that they want to see. The theater usually shows at least one movie that is popular demand, a few independent and foreign films, and they also show a lot of classic movies, too. It makes sense why this is not popular on a college campus. Most teenagers are looking to see movies that are new, popular, and feature the widely-known actors and actresses. Personally, I like that the theater strays aways from only showing box office hits. It fits perfectly with the avant-garde theme it has going on. The theme of the theater would be extremely confusing if they did not show old movies along with independent films.

The theater was built in 1921 when the Lafayette Amusement Company was offered $20 dollars in gold to build a “palatial new photoplay house.” The people who created this had a specific purpose in mind, which was what I believe to draw people in with the allure of elegance, luxury, and comfort. They executed their purpose by putting in plush carpeting, marble floors, and hand-painted murals. All of these details came together to create something beautiful and most importantly become a space that could be utilized by people of all ages.

This space says a lot about the people who designed and the people who they intended it to be used by. During the time it was initially created, the people who could afford to visit the theater were those of upper or upper-middle class. It was meant to be a place people visited once every-so-often and as a getaway from the stresses of work. It is still used a getaway, but now it is used by college kids as a way to escape the stresses of school or, more often than not, as a way to hang out with friends in a way that is different than what they are used to.

During the time I spent visiting and analyzing the theater, I realized that my assumptions were wrong. I assumed that it would mostly be the artsy types of students and people who visited the theater, since the movies they show are more directed towards them. Instead, I watched people of all types come in- sorority girls and fraternity boys, moms and dads, etc. I think this says a lot about the theater and how its popularity spans throughout different social groups.

I want to conclude this essay by saying how glad I am that I chose the Kentucky Theatre as my subject of analysis. Getting to visit this space frequently for the past month has been a joy. It led me to really understand what the creators of the building wanted people to get from the experience of the theater. It is a breath of fresh air from the usual college rendezvous. It brings out a different, and often overlooked, side of Lexington that I think more people need to see. I believe that if more people gave the theater a chance, they would be just as entranced as I am by the place. It has charisma and charm that most theaters do not even come close to possessing.

Works Cited

Adams, Raymond. The Marquee at Night. 2006. Photograph. The Kentucky Theatre, Lexington, Kentucky.

Adams, Raymond. Interior Front Lobby. 2006. Photograph. The Kentucky Theatre, Lexington, Kentucky.

Adams, Raymond. The Concession Stand. 2006. Photograph. The Kentucky Theatre, Lexington, Kentucky.

Clark, Scott. “The Kentucky Theatre – Downtown Lexington Kentucky Theater.” The Kentucky Theatre. Kentucky Theatre, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. <http://www.kentuckytheater.com/a

bout/the-history-of-the-kentucky-theater/>.

Lee P. Thomas. The Present Kentucky Theatre Auditorium. 2007. The Kentucky Theatre, Lexington, Kentucky.

Lee P. Thomas. (Untitled). 2007. The Kentucky Theatre, Lexington, Kentucky.

“An Interview with Emily Markanich.” Interview by Madelyn L. Stampley. 23 Apr. 2013

A Conversation with Brittany Ham.” Interview by Madelyn L. Stampley. 20 Apr. 2013

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