Kentucky Theatre (Lexington)

Coordinates: 38°02′40″N 84°29′43″W / 38.04443°N 84.49516°W / 38.04443; -84.49516
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Kentucky Theatre
The theater's facade with marquee glowing at night.
Location214 East Main Street
Lexington, Kentucky
Coordinates38°02′40″N 84°29′43″W / 38.04443°N 84.49516°W / 38.04443; -84.49516
OwnerLexington-Fayette Urban County Government
OperatorFriends of the Kentucky Theatre[1]
TypeIndoor Movie Theatre
Broke groundOctober 1921
OpenedOctober 4, 1922

The Kentucky Theatre is a historic cinema in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, United States, that first opened in October 1922. The building is currently owned by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and leased to a non-profit that shows films and hosts concerts and events. The theater's schedule emphasizes foreign, independent, and art films, although more typical Hollywood movies are occasionally shown, as well. It is one of a few[not specific enough to verify] remaining movie palaces in the United States.

Each summer, the Kentucky Theatre hosts a Summer Classics series, showing a different classic film each Wednesday throughout the summer. Most films in the series are paired as one-night double-features or shown with an accompanying cartoon. These also include performances by organists part of the Bluegrass Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society, which include classic and modern pieces and a sing-along before the show.[3]


Following extensive damage in 1987, from a fire in an adjacent restaurant, the theater was closed. Over the next five years, a number of renovations were conducted and the grand reopening was held on April 11, 1992.[4][5]

In the late 1990s, the city renovated and reopened the adjoining theater. It is referred to informally as the State Theatre, although it is operated as a second screen for the Kentucky. The State was a long-time venue for the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour which now plays at the Lyric theater.

In 2000, the Kentucky and its manager Fred Mills found themselves embroiled in controversy over the showing of an X-rated film entitled Disco Dolls in Hot Skin. Undercover officers confiscated the film and Mills was charged with distributing obscene material. The theater filed suit and the film was returned. Mill's charges were dismissed upon arraignment, and the Lexington city council voted 11 to 4 against holding a review on the issue.[6] The phrase "Defend the First Amendment" was put onto the marquee after the incident.

In 2020, the Kentucky was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[7] The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government terminated the operating contract with The Kentucky Theatre Group, Inc. at the company's request.

In September 2021, the Mayor recommended that the management contract be given to the Friends of the Kentucky Theatre, a non-profit 501(c)(3). In January 2022, the theater reopened under the direction of the Friends of the Kentucky Theatre.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kentucky Theatre gets new management".
  2. ^ "The Kentucky Theatre — Coming Soon".
  3. ^ "BGATOS Events".
  4. ^ "The Kentucky Theatre — Coming Soon".
  5. ^ "Site Suspended - This site has stepped out for a bit".
  6. ^ "The Family Foundation". Archived from the original on 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
  7. ^ "Kentucky Theatre to close temporarily".
  8. ^ Brewer, Saraya; Wickstrom, Matt. "Lights, Camera, Action". Smiley Pete Publishing. Retrieved 20 August 2022.

External links[edit]