Unruly kids, bad parenting, floodlights overhead, police on horseback, the latest Hollywood blockbusters…
This is not the stuff from which flash mobs are made. Maybe the one a couple years back. But sexy as the term "flash mob" is for lazy media types wanting to dial sensationalism into Plaza kid curfew stories, it’s time to deal with the realities of the situation.
Poor kids from poor parts of town want to go see blockbuster first-run movies just like their suburban counterparts.
It’s the American Condition. The kids see trailers for "Fright Night" and they wanna go see it.
Just one problem…
Unlike rich kids in the burbs, poor black kids in town have practically nowhere to go halfway close to where they live. And none of the few that are halfway close really wants them. The Plaza, Crown Center and Ward Parkway theaters, for example, have been doing their best to discourage the urban poor from frequenting their movies for years.
The Bannister Mall theaters are long gone. Who even remembers the Brywood 6 near the stadiums or the Blue Ridge theaters further east? Crown Center closed its movieplex years ago before guardedly reopening some of the screens with art house product only.
The bottom line: poor, urban kids have few options for major movies outside the Plaza, Ward Parkway and maybe AMC’s Main Street.
And forget about the proposed, city-sponsored DJ, night hoops and community center youth gang bangs. Designed, of course, to keep black kids out of mostly white areas where they’re not wanted.
But is it fair to target and only allow them to attend to 7 p.m. weekend movies – not 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. shows? Just because a couple kids broke the law and the upscale areas think they’re bad for biz?
There’s plenty of crime on the Plaza perpetrated by adult criminals but nobody’s figuring ways to keep them out.
And no way stuffy, older adults are capable of dreaming up cool things these kids are gonna want to do instead. They want to do the same stuff kids everywhere are doing; and that’s go to movies and going to the mall.
If KC wants to keep kids off the Plaza, why not build a first rate movie plex in the heart of the urban core?
You know, take the bull by the horns and offer up tax incentives and other perks to convince an exhibitor to take the plunge.
"There have been several attempts to do that and they’ve all failed," says former KC mayor Emanuel Cleaver II, now a Missouri Congressman in the 5th District. "And consequently, (the kids go) to the suburbs and the elite areas like the Plaza. It’s not fair to tell them they can’t go to the movies."
Not only is KC effectively keeping the kids from going to movies on their non school nights, "What they’re saying is, not only do we want you to not go to the movies and the Plaza," Cleaver says. "You can’t stay out past 9 p.m. and we’re not going to give you any interesting alternatives. It’s not right."
To that end, KC-based AMC or somebody building a state-of-the-art theater in the urban core is a must.
"Oh yeah, we’ve got to have it," Cleaver says. "We’ve got to have it."
KC Confidential movie man Jack Poessiger remembers basketball star Magic Johnson championing the building of urban movie plexes in the mid 1990s.
"There was talk about doing that in Kansas City," Poessiger says. "This was a plan by some local people who were going to follow that plan. I don’t know what happened – if there were money problems or what – but there was some very serious talk about it."
Poessiger agrees it’s not right to tell kids in the urban core they can only attend early shows on Friday and Saturday nights when they have no school the next day. But that it’s OK to go to late movies on school nights.
"I agree, but what’s the answer?" Poessiger says. "And I see the other side of it, too. You can’t have those kinds of things (fights, shootings) happening on the Plaza."
As for convincing somebody to develope an inner city plex, "It’s free enterprise," Poessiger says. "And if a private developer wants to build a theater at 135th and Metcalf instead of 18th and Vine, that’s their right.