The KiMo Theater opened September 19, 1927 as a “picture palace” at a time that movies (silent ones) were becoming the rage.
The Pueblo Deco style combined the spirit of the American Indian cultures of the area with the flamboyance of the Roaring Twenties. Oreste Bachechi, who operated the Pastime Theater had dreamed of building a theater that would compare with the Greek, Chinese and Moorish styled theaters of the time. Carl Boller of Boller Brothers had designed a Wild West/Rococco styled theater in San Antonio and a Spanish/Greco/Babylonian movie house in St. Joseph, Missouri. Ideas were developed from trips to the pueblos of Acoma and Isleta and the Navajo Nation. Completing the KiMo were nine large murals by Carl von Hassler and two smaller ones. The theater cost $150,000 and was constructed in less than a year. The Wurlitzer that provided the music for the silent films was another $18,000.
Isleta Pueblo Governor Pablo Abeita named the theater in a contest; KiMo being a combination of two words literally translating “mountain lion” or more loosely “king of its kind”, was appropriate.
The first movie shown was “Painting the Town Red” and the “talkie” was “Melody of Broadway.” Vaudeville and out-of-town road shows shared the stage with the movies.
There was a luncheonette and curio shop on either side of the entrance and at one time KGGM radio was on the second and third floors.
Following the flight from downtown, the KiMo suffered from lack of repair and was slated for demolition until the city of Albuquerque purchased the theater in 1977. Several stages of restoration have returned much of its glory.
The KiMo theater now serves as a performing arts center with seating for 650 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more information about performances and events or renting the theater, go to www.CABQ.gov/kimo.