Tony: This is the Way Butch Rigby’s Screenland Empire Crumbles

So, Hearne just broke the story that the crown jewel in the Screenland Empire is soon to switch hands. But where does this leave the Kansas City’s beloved Movie Theater Mogul Butch Rigby? Rather great sources note that the guy and a few of his closes associates will now be doing business out of his house. But there are still the other links in the local Screenland chain to examine that also indicate it is going through tough times.

First, a bit of back story. Rigby wasn’t always the toast of the Kansas City film scene. He has a law degree and a license from the days of way back but he never made a big splash in the local legal community. Movies and the local film community have always been the first love of this local entrepreneur. Still, Rigby started out before the Crossroads boom and some really smart real estate choices propelled him to local mogul status. The Crossroads Screenland theater was the toast of KC when it opened six years ago. I was never a big fan because all my favorite movies are in the blaxsploitation genre, but I liked what Rigby was doing and I always felt there was a real community vibe regarding Screenland. So it was from the success of the Westside/Screenland Theater that the exploits of Rigby grew.

Fast forward to present day and Kansas City in the grips of The Great Recession.

First of all there’s the question of competition. Of all the Rigby locations, Screenland Armour seemed like the best bet to make it in the long run. But The AMC Mainstreet is eating into their business according to one local movie expert. Ticket receipts as high as 3-5k a weekend have now fallen to $1000 – $1500, with only the hope that folks are filling up at the snack counter and bar. Even more since harsh times makes folks long for comfort food. Still, there’s no question that AMC Mainstreet has taken away major business – reportedly in the neighborhood of 50 to 75 percent – from Rigby. Light at the end of the tunnel or too little too late? Screenland Armour has Ironman but then again everybody with a white wall and a projector does.

Then there’s the failed Screenland Experiment in KCK. They tried Obama rallies, a Theater Group and even Spanish Language movies but nothing has really worked. A local nonprofit –Imago Dei – is buying it from Rigby and running it now. Not as a movie theater. Screenland Granada was a valiant effort but to no avail in a part of town that hosts quite a few Latino video and record stores but no real theater.

Speaking of enclaves, Screenland is taking part in management deals in Crown Center and up in Liberty/Out North/Boondocks/wherever. These aren’t cash cows but folks who love the brand might find some hope in this new strategy.

So, what’s the next move for Kansas City’s movie mogul as video on demand, portable movie players and YouTube redefine the new digital age of media. Well, I’ve noted previously that Rigby’s going back to his legal roots with his Kander Rigby venture but I have to think that such a devoted cinefile will find someway to stay in the local movie biz despite some major setbacks for his brand.

Stay tuned for the Rigby Sequel.

Tony Botello
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7 Responses to Tony: This is the Way Butch Rigby’s Screenland Empire Crumbles

  1. Anonymous says:

    Time for Peter Pan to grow up. Screenland Granada was destined for failure from the beginning. Butch felt that he would make it a success through sheer force of will. Had he done just the least bit of market research he would have known the project would never fly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Butch never lacks for enthusiasm. Sometimes reality just takes a big bite out of life. I would never count him out though. As myopic and naive as he may be he’s also a pretty smart guy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    don’t know the guy..never met5 him but take it
    to tony to try and run the guy down.
    He’s a risk taker. A person who has vision and
    passion for his life.
    But it seems that people nowadays are trying to
    cut down guys like this. They haven’t done anything in their lives so now they want to
    verbally cut down those who have tried.
    I give great credit to the people like this.
    We’ve built businesses…gone thru the good and
    bad times…yet we still go after that next
    deal or venture…because we are who are we are.
    When guys like hearne and tony try to minimalize
    people like this its disgusting.
    For those who havent ventured out of your comfort
    zone…who haven’t taken a shot…go back to
    your little rooms and stop trying to shoot
    guys like this down.
    I’m sure mr. rigby will do fine and the little
    naysayers will never make a dent in anything.

  4. Anonymous says:

    could someone tell me
    what his Liberty deal is that Tony referenced?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Obviously a mistake. Tony makes mistakes and Hearne doesn’t catch’em? Say it ain’t so.
    He probably meant St. Joseph.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Tony you better check your facts. Not only doesn’t Butch have operations in Liberty but AMC doesn’t have a MAINSTREAM movie theatre either.
    Your fact checking is getting as good as Hearne’s of late. Pretty soon you’ll be resurrecting dead Chiefs players. If you’re going to fuck up stories do it on your own site with your pictorial lineup of whores.

  7. Anonymous says:

    joe delany
    say what jojo

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