In April, one of Kansas City’s most iconic independent movie theaters closed. Tivoli Cinemas was a beloved institution — cover girl Heidi Gardner even worked there as a teen — but the Westport theater couldn’t survive the Netflix era. Across the country, small theaters are waging a tough battle to stay open. And with AMC Theatres based in Leawood, independent movie theaters in Kansas City are surrounded by elite competition.
AMC and other chains like Regal and Cinemark control roughly 50 percent of screens nationwide while popular streaming services like Netflix and Hulu release new content weekly. We toured all of the independent cinemas in the Kansas City area to take stock of the post-Tivoli landscape.
Glenwood Arts Theatre
Come for Glenwood Arts Theatre’s ticket deals, stay for the art deco charm. Tucked away in Overland Park’s Ranch Mart South shopping center, this six-screen arthouse theater was repurposed from an old grocery store. Plonk out a few notes at the rainbow-painted piano, and head into the cavernous theaters under the glow of ’60s-style marquees. This year, the theater will once again host the Kansas International Film Festival, which takes place Nov. 8-14.
3707 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan. 913-642-1133, fineartsgroup.com. Tickets $6.20-$9.50.
Liberty Hall Cinema
Catching a show at Lawrence’s Liberty Hall feels like a visit to the theater — in the more traditional sense. The historic concert hall on the college town’s main drag greets moviegoers with soaring marble archways and hand painted ceilings, a classy alternative to the hustle of your average AMC.
Liberty Hall also houses a concert venue, video store and coffee shop. Apart from featuring first-run films on its two screens, it hosts monthly special screenings of classics like A League of Their Own and Black Christmas.
The Liberty Hall complex also bears a video rental shop and cafe.
644 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, Kan. 785-749-1972, libertyhall.net. Tickets $8-$10.
Step past Rio Theatre’s candy-colored ticket booth and try not to feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The Overland Park theater only has one screen, but its retro marquee and neon decals make catching a movie feel like a trip to the days of 60-cent movie stubs.
It’s no surprise that this aesthetic also draws local Instagrammers, boosting Rio’s revenue. Each year in September, Kansas City’s Latin American Cinema Festival screens films at the theater.
7204 W. 80th St., Overland Park, Kan. 913-383-8500, fineartsgroup.com. Tickets $6.20-$9.
Founded in 1928, Screenland Armour is the oldest independent movie theater in town. The North Kansas City stop offers a dive-y bar stocked with local beers, cushy couch seating, an arcade and an eclectic blend of popcorn flicks and indies across four screens.
For co-owner Adam Roberts, creating a personalized experience separate from the predictable ordeal of going to a chain theater is crucial. Screenland Armour often curates events around movie premieres, whether it’s a lip-syncing contest before Rocketman or a monthly screening of a lesser-known horror movie.
“I think of what trailers there should be, what extra content there should be, that’s all part of the curating that’s truly a celebration of what the movies are,” Roberts says. “We do art house, we do independent and we do retro, but we also do the big blockbusters, which kind of pay for us to do those smaller things.”
408 Armour Road, North Kansas City, Mo. 816-994-7380, screenland.com. Tickets $6-$11.
Screenland Armour’s hip sibling in the Crossroads doubles as a boozy arcade. As the smaller of the two theaters, Tapcade shows one indie film on a weekly basis. Unwind after a long day by grabbing Star Wars-themed tacos from the restaurant and schooling your friends in ’80s-style Pac Man. The theater’s $5 all-you-can-play arcade constantly shuffles through 40 vintage video games, helping them to draw film fans, gamers and happy-hour crowds alike.
1701 McGee St., Suite 200, Kansas City, Mo. 816-492-6577, screenland.com. Tickets $8-$11.
Fall Movie Picks:
Sept. 8: ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas
This story follows the three teenage bluesmen and how they rose to become one of the most beloved rock bands on the planet.
Sept. 13: The Goldfinch
In the film adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name, an artsy 13-year-old boy is taken in by a wealthy family in New York’s Upper East Side after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sept. 20: Ad Astra
Brad Pitt plays an astronaut who travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father. Along the way, he uncovers secrets that can destroy mankind.
Oct. 18: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
The biographical film follows an Esquire journalist reporting on the life of beloved television icon Fred Rogers, who is played by Tom Hanks. Grab your tissues for this one.
Nov. 1: Harriet
See the extraordinary journey of abolitionist Harriet Tubman as she helps hundreds of people escape slavery by traveling the Underground Railroad.
Nov. 8: Doctor Sleep
The upcoming horror film based off the Stephen King novel is a sequel to The Shining and follows now-adult character Danny Torrence as he struggles with alcoholism and copes with his psychic powers.
Nov. 22: Frozen 2
Six years after the original movie’s premiere, Disney favorites Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven are back to find the origin of Elsa’s powers in order to save their kingdom.