LYLE’S FAVORITE: The view from the stage of Springfield, Missouri’s historic Gillioz Theatre. Lyle Lovett posted a photo of the venue, which inspired Vince Gill to play the 1,000-seater. (Courtesy venue)

Top Names, Fun Festivals Make Nearly 100-Year-Old Theater the Center of Arts and Entertainment in west-central Missouri

It’s fair to say the nearly 100-year-old Gillioz Theatre punches above its weight, bringing in top name acts like Lewis Black, Pat Metheny and Vince Gill to the small city of Springfield, Missouri.

Built in 1926 as one of the many American movie palaces of the era, the 1,000-seat Gillioz has positioned itself as the mainstay of arts and live entertainment in the city of 170,000.

Built by M.E. Gillioz, a Missouri bridge builder who constructed the place out of concrete and steel, the theater is gearing up for its 2026 centennial and there is plenty ahead, Communication Director Lauren Slamb said.

The theater sometimes sells it itself, Slamb said, explaining how Vince Gill decided to play the venue after Lyle Lovett posted a photo of the house during a gig there, Slamb said.

Built by M.E. Gillioz, a Missouri bridge builder who constructed the place out of concrete and steel, the theater is gearing up for its 2026 centennial, she said.

NEARING CENTURY MARK: The Gillioz Theatre remains vibrant as it heads for its centennial. (Courtesy venue)

Springfield has a rich musical history, having spawned bands from the Jordanaires to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and a host of others. Missouri-native Metheny has played the Gillioz a number of times and Springfield is where actor Brad Pitt grew up.

The theater held its first ever jazz festival last weekend (April 5-7), featuring Branford Marsalis and a number of local artists alternately taking the stage.

“We turned our lobby into a jazz café,” Slamb said.

Lauren Slamb

The entryway and lobby were laid out with high-top for people to stand at and food trucks were arrayed in the alley outside.

The theater’s bar and we’re going to served mimosas, champagne and cocktails, all kinds of sort champagne. Wait staff took orders and brought the food to festival goers as they listened to the music.

“We partnered with the Smithsonian,” Slamb said. “They brought in a whole bunch of jazz-centered art for us to use, including a big mural to go behind us while Branford played with our local (18-piece) Missouri Jazz Orchestra.


The theater has continued to show movies, which became popular again during the pandemic.

Slamb noted that the Ronald Reagan movie “The Winning Team,” based on the life of Grover Cleveland Alexander, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, had its premiere at the Gillioz during a weekend in 1952 when then President Harry Truman, who was born in Lamar, Missouri, joined the actor and future president.

“We’ve decided to stick with the films and we’re doing them every first and third Wednesday,” Slam said. “We do a Wednesday matinee and show an older movie and our 60 -plus citizens in Greene and Christian counties, so the Springfield/Nixa Ozark area, all get in for free to see the movie and get a popcorn and a soda.” Slamb secures grants to pay for it and has secured sponsorships by showing slideshows and ad spots during trailers.

“That’s another way to get more money, but we also like to advance our community and to give back to the people that are the reason that we’re here.”

Connecting with the local arts community is a key part of the theater’s strategy.

“We’re trying to lean into our festivals being arts related, whether that’s live entertainment, or like at our jazz festival, we also featured our residents that are housed on the third floor of the Gillioz,” she said.

One is a veterans suicide prevention organization called the Two Black Ravens Foundation, which displayed its artwork during the jazz festival, another is SATO48, which promotes short film creation.

The Gillioz uses ETix for ticketing and partners with Coca-Cola for beverages and snacks, operating concessions in-house, Slamb said, adding that the theater also serves draught beer from the local Mother’s Brewing Company.