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MU, Missouri Symphony Society Announce University’s Purchase of Missouri Theatre

Action completes lease-to-purchase agreement signed in 2011

June 19, 2014

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi,, 573-882-4430

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Completing an agreement signed in 2011, the University of Missouri and the Missouri Symphony Society announced today that MU has purchased the Missouri Theatre for $3.7 million. Acquiring the Missouri Theatre will save the university an estimated $57.8 million in future construction costs. Additionally, the Missouri Symphony Society will continue to use the venue for offices and performances.

“When we signed the lease with an option to purchase the building three years ago, we knew this was a win-win situation for everyone,” said Gary Ward, interim vice chancellor for operations. “The Missouri Theatre will continue to host performances that have great appeal to the Columbia community, while the university will be able to add a much-needed performance venue to the options available for students, faculty, staff and the Columbia community.”

“The Missouri Theatre has been a part of Columbia’s landscape since 1928 and is a treasured landmark for our community,” Missouri Symphony Society Board President Lili Vianello said. “We see this as an opportunity to ensure this historic building is maintained and available for generations to come, while also allowing our organization to focus on its core mission of enhancing and increasing the cultural awareness of classical music in mid-Missouri.”

Prior to leasing the theater, MU struggled with a lack of facility space to meet programming needs of several departments and campus organizations, including the School of Music, the University Concert Series and the Missouri Student Association. In 2011, Jesse Auditorium hosted 240 events and programs. In 2013, university officials hosted approximately 500 events in the two buildings, including prominent lecture series, conferences, concerts and performances.

Prior to the purchase of the building, MU officials had proposed the construction of a building to house the School of Music that included a 1,200-seat concert hall, recital hall, practice rooms and faculty studios. While the facility is still being planned, this purchase will significantly decrease the estimated construction costs as the Missouri Theatre will take the place of the proposed concert hall, said Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science. The original construction cost for the performing arts center was $97 million. University officials anticipate saving $57.8 million, which was allocated for the concert hall.

The theater was built in 1928 and is on the National Register of Historic Places as Missouri’s only remaining pre-depression era movie palace and vaudeville stage. The site on which it was built was the home of G.D. Foote, the builder of Academic Hall at MU. The land was purchased in 1927 by J. Dozier Stone, who tore down the house for the location of the theater. The Missouri Symphony Society purchased the property in 1987 and, in 2008, completed a $12 million renovation, restoration and expansion of the building.

“In the very near future, Missouri Theatre will be even more important to Mizzou as we move forward with our Renew Mizzou project,” said John Murray, director of event operations at MU. “As part of the Renew Mizzou project, Jesse Hall will be closed during the 2014-2015 academic year, and Missouri Theatre will be the only facility available to meet our programming needs.”

As part of the agreement, the Missouri Symphony Society will maintain offices in the Missouri Theatre and receive 10 rent-free days for performances each year with the opportunity to rent additional dates. In return, MU will be allowed to use musical instruments and equipment owned by the Missouri Symphony Society.

Since its founding in 1970, the Missouri Symphony Society has dedicated itself to providing musical performances of the highest caliber and educating young performing artists. The not-for-profit society has established a reputation for musical excellence and has continued to expand its audience through chamber music outreach and youth music education programs. Mid-Missouri’s only professional resident symphony orchestra, the Missouri Symphony Orchestra, was established by the Missouri Symphony Society and is composed of musicians from throughout the United States and around the world.

The Missouri Symphony Society also hosts the annual Hot Summer Nights festival, the largest classical and pops festival in the heartland. Hot Summer Nights is currently underway with performances in the Missouri Theatre and other venues around Columbia and mid-Missouri.