It was built by Marcus Loew, completed in 1927, at a cost of $4 million and is the largest historic theater within 250 miles of the city. The Midland was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb of New York and the Boller Brothers of Kansas City, and Boaz-Kiel Construction of St. Louis erected the structure. The theatre, built in French and Italian Baroque, was representative of Lamb's work in the 1920s.
The exterior of the theatre was constructed in a Renaissance Revival style in cream glazed terra cotta brick, adorned with engaged pilasters, winged figures, leaves, flowers, swags, volutes, urns, and arches. A four-story arched window rose above a copper and gold marquee that contained 3,600 light bulbs.
The Midland was the first theater in the country to have air conditioning, which the theater still does to this day. It was also the first theatre in the country to have a cantilevered loge, or mezzanine of seats supported without any pillars to obstruct the view from lower seats. The theater is also well known for its over 500,000 feet of gold leaf, five giant Czechoslovakian hand-cut crystal chandeliers, irreplaceable art objects and precious antiques, and spectacular wood and plaster work. The nearly 4,000 seats made the Midland the third largest theatre in the nation at the time it opened. It was surpassed only by the Roxy Theatre and Capitol Theatre, both in New York.
At the time the Loew's Midland opened, it was home to a Robert-Morgan theatre pipe organ. The organ was used at the theatre until after World War II, when larger screen sound movies eventually resulted in the end for stage shows and in-house organ music. The organ began to deteriorate from lack of use until it was purchased and removed in the 1960s by Robert Fray and placed in his home. After the organ changed hands and was moved across the country several more times, it was eventually purchased by local enthusiasts in 1984 and is now at home in the Kansas City Music Hall.
The Midland closed in January 1961, and then after some remodeling, it briefly reopened as an arena that served as the home for Kansas City's professional bowling team, the Kansas City Stars. The Stars were financially unsuccessful, and they left the Midland in December of the same year.
AMC Theatres purchased the Midland in 1966, and the theatre continued to operate as a movie house until 1981. Since then, it has become a performance hall, still used today for concerts, Broadway and stage shows, ballet and other events. It has also served as the Kansas City home of the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular over more recent years. The theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The theatre closed in May 2006 to prepare for its upcoming renovation.
The Midland Theatre is expected to re-open in 2008 following $28 million in changes to the structure. The theatre, which has become part of the Kansas City Power & Light District project, will be converted into a live entertainment nightclub.
Among the major changes on tap for the redevelopment, the main-level seating rows will be removed and replaced with a tiered open floor plan that will allow for cabaret-style tables and chairs, or standing for general admission events. The Midland's exterior marquee is to be restored to its original appearance when the theater originally opened. The five level office portion of the theatre that faces Main Steet will be converted into a mix of bars, lounges, and administrative space. According to the Cordish Co. of Baltimore, the developer of the project, all changes will meet historic preservation guidelines as required by state and federal government.