The Kentucky Theatre celebrates 100 years


Kentucky Theatre

Kendall Staton, Asst. News Editor

The Kentucky Theatre (TKT) will celebrate turning 100 years old during the month of October. The month-long celebration will feature an Anniversary Gala to commemorate the history of the theater.

General Manager of TKT Fred Mills has watched the theater grow into a hub of family entertainment since he began working at TKT in the summer of 1963. Mills called TKT “Lexington’s best kept secret” and insisted every Lexington resident should stop in at least once.

“Although someone may have lived in Lexington for 10 years or 20 years, many people have not been in The Kentucky Theatre before,” he said. “It’s important to keep reaching out there – we have this gem in downtown Lexington, (everyone) needs to come experience this.”

Mills hopes the upcoming celebrations will bring in more customers and connect people through the love of cinema.

The theater’s month-long celebrations begin with the Anniversary Gala and Shindig at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, featuring silent auctions, 1920s films, birthday cupcakes, period cocktails and more during the 2-hour event. Attendees are encouraged to wear cocktail attire.

Immediately following the Gala, a casual Anniversary Shindig will begin, featuring live swing music performed by The Swells. Tickets for the events can be purchased online.

Through the offerings of the anniversary celebrations, Mills hopes to expand the theater’s impact on the citizens of Lexington.  

“We’ve always tried to make the theater everybody’s theater, since I’ve been associated with it,” Mills said. “Over the years I think the theater has meant a whole lot to generations of college students.”

Mills also highlighted the upcoming showing of the 1922 silent film “Nosferatu” which will feature a live organ accompaniment. Costumes are encouraged, but not required, for the showing at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15.

Other events such as showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Coraline,” “Hocus Pocus” and more will take place throughout the month.

Throughout the 100 years of history contained in the walls of TKT, there also lies tragedy. A fire originating in a neighboring storefront caused extreme damage to the theater in 1987. After a forced five year closure and hefty renovation, the theater was able to reopen. 

Mills, who worked at TKT during the fire, was optimistic about the future of the theater. He called TKT resilient and said he hopes to continue sharing his love for cinema in the years to come.

“Maybe out of something bad came something good,” he said. “The theater got renovated and restored, and here we are approximately 30 years later, and we’re getting ready to celebrate our 100th anniversary.”

Hayward Wilkirson, director of TKT, said the theater has overcome a lot of hurdles during its lifetime, including the 1987 fire and, more recently, the COVID pandemic. Through perseverance, the theater has continued to be a home for the arts in Lexington, he said.

Wilkirson said the theater looks forward to a long future serving the Lexington community.

“We’re not the oldest cinema in the U.S., but we’re one of the handful who are 100, and that’s really cool,” Wilkirson said. “We look forward to being here for another 100 years.”