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Wichita For Film Buffs

When people think of the film industry, they tend to picture places like Hollywood, New York City, and Los Angeles, but these aren’t the only places bursting with big-screen connections. Check out these Wichita ties to the film industry.

Rich History

Rich History

Miller Theater

Movies quickly became a way of life for Wichitans in 1922, as that year saw the opening of two grand movie palaces. The Miller Theater and the Orpheum Theatre brought with them a boom in the entertainment industry, and it was not uncommon for Wichitans to visit the theater to see a show or vaudeville three or four nights a week. The new movie palaces were ornate and beautiful, featuring breathtaking European design elements and Baroque detailing.

The Miller Theater

The Miller Theater featured three balconies and a stunning, palatial design. The theater could seat up to 2,000 patrons. Though the Miller Theater was once the the most spectacular theater that Kansas had ever had, it eventually fell into a state of disrepair and, in 1972, was demolished.

The Orpheum

The Orpheum

Orpheum Theatre. Photo by Doug Hahn.

The Orpheum would go on to be the location for the Kansas premiere of “Gone With The Wind,” attended by Wichitan Hattie McDaniel, who portrayed "Mammy" in the film. The 1939 motion picture was a winner of eight Oscars. Of those Oscars, one was awarded to McDaniel, the first African-American to win the award.

The Orpheum Theatre also shut down in the early 70’s, but was saved from demolition by a band of community members who came together to fight for the theatre. It was named a historic site on the National Register of Historic Places, and eventually reopened, though the specific reopening date is uncertain. Today, the 93 year old Orpheum Theatre is being restored, and still holds regular concerts and movie screenings, lectures and other events.

An Internationally-recognized Independent Film Festival

 

Celebrating it's 14th year, Wichita’s Tallgrass Film Festival is one of the biggest film-related events in the Midwest. This year, the  five-day festival will showcase 191 programmed films from from 33 countries around the world, featuring categories for foreign films, documentaries, shorts, retrospective pieces and more.  In 2015, the festival drew 15,000 people to Wichita.

The Tallgrass Film Festival has been named one of the “Best Under the Radar Film Festivals” in North America by Flavorwire, and one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”

The festival serves to offer both a venue and a voice to independent  filmmakers by spotlighting films that would otherwise not have a proper theatrical screening, while also showcasing Wichita's cultural & artistic communities.

The festival features a variety of special events like gala screenings, panels, parties, special interest programs and more. The 2016 Tallgrass Film Festival will be held Oct. 12-16.

A Classic Horror Festival and Film Revival Group

A Classic Horror Festival and
The October at the Old Town Horrorfest has been haunting Wichita for six years. A Product of Wichita film Director Leif Jonker's Wichita Big Screen Initiative, the festival has screened classic titles such as  “Halloween,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Directors cuts of both “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” and several others. 
The Wichita Big Screen initiative has garnered the support of nearly 2,000 local film-lovers on Facebook. Through this group, Jonker has been able to bring a variety of  film revivals, restorations and anniversary screenings of cult classic films to Wichita.

One of a Very Few Remaining Drive-In Theaters

One of a Very Few Remaining Dr

Originally called Rainbow, Wichita's Starlite Drive-In opened in 1974. After 42 years in Wichita, the Starlite is still going strong, and it's one of just 348 drive-in theaters remaining in the United States. Of those, just five are located in Kansas.

The Starlite Drive-In offers Wichita moviegoers a retro-style movie experience, complete with 50’s style advertisements that air before and between films.

The theatre has remained operating for more than 40 years, as a true testament to the strength of Wichita’s film-loving community.

A World-Class IMAX Theater

A World-Class IMAX Theater

Measuring six-stories high, the screen in the IMAX at the West 21st Street Warren is one of the biggest in the world, and the biggest digital display in the United States. The system uses the most powerful digital projection system in the world, and it still takes two projectors to accommodate a screen this size. To run the sound system, at least 60,000 watts of power are necessary.

With such a massive screen and enhanced sound, the Warren Theatres website calls this the “world’s most innovative movie-going experience.” The IMAX opened in December of 2010, screening Tron as the first IMAX film in Wichita. 

Popular Movie Mentions

Wichita has received mention in many blockbuster films. Most notably, Wichita is referenced in the 2009 film Zombieland, starring Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin. Emma Stone's character in Zombieland is called "Wichita" in reference to her character's town of origin. Here are some other mentions of Wichita in the movies:

Twister (1996) - "Yeah, well Kansas is a mess, there's a big crease right through Wichita."

The Ice Harvest (2005) - This movie is set in Wichita, Kansas. I will never understand the most famous line "As Wichita falls... so falls Wichita Falls." It's deep and/or dark beyond my intellect.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) -  Neal: "Are you saying I could be stuck in Wichita?" Del: "I'm saying you are stuck in Wichita."

Big Fish (2003) - "Her neighbor drove her, on account of your father was on business in Wichita."

The Big Kahuna (1999) - A Kevin Spacey movie set in Wichita. There are a couple of quick shots of downtown that a movie crew came to town to shoot. The skyline hasn't changed much since then.

All the President's Men (1976) - "...that’s a question straight out of Wichita, Kansas."

A Surprisingly Common Filming Location

5 Conversations

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5 Conversations

This 2005 independent film follows five simultaneous plotlines highlighting similarities and coincidences. This movie was filmed entirely in Wichita, KS. 5 Conversations © 2005 Films on Consignment
The Attic

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The Attic

In this PG-rated film from 1980 a woman who was left at the altar dreams of killing all of the men who have treated her poorly throughout her life. The Attic was filmed, in its entirety, in Wichita. The Attic © 1980 Forum Productions, Attic Associates
The Big Kahuna

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The Big Kahuna

The Big Kahuna, rated R, stars Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli. Following the three businessmen as they attempt to make a sales pitch to a client, filming for this production took place in New York City and Wichita. The Big Kahuna © 1999 Franchise Pictures, Trigger Street Productions
Darkness

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Darkness

The unrated 1993 film, Darkness, is focused around a town plagued by vampires. Armed with a chainsaw, shotgun and Holy water, can the hero save his town? Darkness was filmed in two Kansas locations: Augusta and Wichita. Darkness © 1993 13th Dream Entertainment
The Gypsy Moths

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The Gypsy Moths

The Gypsy Moths, released in 1969, chronicles three skydivers as their travelling show passes through a town in the Midwest. In addition to portions of the movie being filmed in-studio in California, filming for The Gypsy Moths took place in several Kansas towns, such as Abilene, Benton, Cottonwood Falls, El Dorado and Wichita. The Gypsy Moths © 1969 John Frankenheimer Productions Inc., Edward Lewis Productions
King Kung Fu

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King Kung Fu

In 1976's King Kung Fu, a talking gorilla trained in martial arts is sent to America from China in order to bring Chinese martial arts to the Western world. While King Kung Fu is in Kansas, he is met by a few people who believe that he could be their ticket to the big time. As they attempt to capture and sell King Kung Fu, he escapes. This G-rated movie was filmed entirely in Wichita. King Kung Fu © 1976 Lance D. Hayes
Mars Attacks!

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Mars Attacks!

When Martians invade Earth in Tim Burton's 1996 Mars Attacks!, they are hard to beat. The PG-13 movie was filmed in Argentina, Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington D.C., and several Kansas locations including Burns, Lawrence, Leon, and Wichita. Mars Attacks! © 1996 Tim Burton Productions, Warner Bros.
MindField

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MindField

In MindField, which was released in 2003, a former government worker faces an odd series of events after leaving his job, and mysteriously ends up mixed up with a serial killer. The unrated movie was filmed entirely in Wichita. MindField © 2003 Films On Consignment
Night Screams

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Night Screams

In 2003's Night Screams, two dangerous killers escape an asylum on the same night as a high school party. While hiding from police, the killers end up at the party, which is in Wichita, KS. Night Screams was filmed, in its entirety, in Wichita. Night Screams © 1987 Overseas FilmGroup
Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter\'s End

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Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End

When a father returns to the family he abandoned, his wife must reunite her husband with her reluctant son. The TV Movie from 1999 was filmed in Emporia, Kansas; Osage City, Kansas; and Wichita, Kansas. Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End © 1999 Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Sarah Productions, Self Productions, Trillium Productions
Skylark

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Skylark

Another Sarah, Plain and Tall film, 1993's Skylark was filmed in Maine as well as the three Kansas locations Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End was filmed in, Osage City, Emporia, and Wichita. Skylark © 1993 Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Sarah Productions, Self Productions, Trillium Productions
Twister

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Twister

If you haven't already guessed, this 1989 movie focuses around a phenomenon well known to Kansans: tornadoes. Rated PG-13, this movie was filmed in Wichita. Twister © 1989 Vestron Pictures
Wichita

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Wichita

the 2014 film Wichita is set in 1882 Wichita as a bounty hunter, a fugitive, and a drifter all wind up there. This movie was filmed in Wichita. Wichita © 2014 Prestigious Films, Wrecking Crew Productions
Knight and Day

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Knight and Day

Though it may not have been filmed in ICT, 2010's "Knight and Day" starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Dias film was originally titled "Wichita," as Diaz's character originally intended to be from Wichita. The airport scene is supposed to be representative of Wichita's then Mid-Continent Airport. Though the name was changed during the production process, The film's credits list two extras in the film as "Wichita airport travelers." Knight and Day © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Regency Enterprises, Pink Machine, Tree Line Film, Dune Entertainment, New Regency Pictures, Wintergreen Productions

Though it is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of film sets, Wichita sets the scene for several different movies, even bringing big-name actors like Danny Devito and Kevin Spacey to ICT! Check out these movies that were filmed in Wichita:

  • 5 Conversations
  • The Attic
  • The Big Kahuna
  • Darkness
  • The Gypsy Moths
  • King Kung Fu
  • Mars Attacks!
  • MindField
  • Night Screams
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End
  • Skylark
  • Twister
  • Wichita

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