Wade Williams: A Salute to Cinetopia & “Movie Eat ‘Em Ups’

Vess_Bottlecap-e1350954209892In the late 1940’s Kansas City and the surrounding suburb towns counted over 80 stand alone movie theaters…

Belton even had one, the Dixie with 300 seats. And they all served food – popcorn and Vess Grape Soda was considered food, back in the day. Show your intelligence, please.

Early theaters served popcorn and drinks from vending machines in the lobby. Some theaters would not allow food to be brought inside.  Theatres like the Granada in KCK and the Waldo had a small confectionary shop next door. You could buy popcorn and drinks there thru a small window in the outer lobby.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s when theater owners discovered that there was real money to be made selling concessions – everything from dill pickles to popcorn. Drive-In theaters main profit was from food and many of them had a large concession building that also housed the projectors. There were tacos, hamburgers, pizza, ice cream, candy and hot dogs, popcorn and dill pickles to be purchased and wolfed down in your car while watching the movie.

It was a Carnacopia, you might say.

polls_212256508_de071cd595_1816_378684_answer_1_xlargeIn the panic to cash in on the building of Plexes, three major theater chains led by AMC, DURWOOD. DICKINSON and COMMONWEALTH overbuilt shopping mall cinemas with four screens, eight screens, 16 screens, and on and on.

Thousands of available theater seats became available nightly,but there were not enough customers and not enough good movies. Some seats would never be sat in. Many theaters folded as malls failed, but newer and bigger theater complexes were built. With more seats and a theater on every corner, most could not break even let alone pay the rent.

Mall owners in many places paid to keep the complexes open. But something was needed to attract new movie customers.

Then a light came on. If a Live Dinner Theater in Overland Park would constantly sell out, why not a Movie Dinner Theater?


donknotts2There were several other successful ones operating in other cities. The problem; Don Knotts was not in every movie.

As usual, the race was on. Forks in the Air, food and films at several theaters, then more, and more, with the latest being Cinetopia, in Overland Park’s new Prairie Fire addition on 135th street.

Kansas Citians now have a bunch of Movie Eat Em Ups to choose from.

So now the question is, do you look at the Menu or the Movie?

What’s next, McDonalds at the Movies? Maybe, after all we do have Red Box.

Fellow movie owner Butch Rigby was ahead of the curve. He started serving booze at his small, independent theaters which did not require a kitchen. Big profit. Follow the money. It was a Butch Boozacopia, a brilliant idea. And it doesn’t matter now if the film’s still in focus towards the end.

Camille_filmGreat idea Butch, but selling booze in theaters started over a hundred years ago in movie theaters during intermissionDid you ever see Camille?

Best wishes to all the brave new and used theaters that are lining up to go that extra mile to entertain, and bring in a new dining and drinking movie going experience.

Because there are more imaginative things to do in Kansas City than guzzle beer at Arrowhead Stadium.

Really, there are. So come out to the movie “eat-em-ups,” stuff yourself, get smashed, forget your troubles, get happy and call a cab.

After all, there’s No Business Like Show Business.

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6 Responses to Wade Williams: A Salute to Cinetopia & “Movie Eat ‘Em Ups’

  1. hot harley says:

    wade…what are you doing with all your movies? they’re priceless!

  2. the dude says:

    That is the ultimate problem all these theaters face; not enough Don Knots to go around. We are doomed.

    • admin says:

      I think the Don Knotts reference was to the early over building of multiplexes, not the present.

      Although if there weren’t enough Don Knotts movies to go around in the 1970s, there sure as hell aren’t enough today!

  3. StillAtMyMoms says:

    That pickle looks like a giant turd.

  4. Mark says:

    No, Don Knotts was a reference back to the success of dinner theater in Overland Park. Knotts was a main attraction there for many years, as are the many TV names they cast in shows (and play to mostly sellout audiences ). Very savvy and successful.

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