It’s not easy being “the little guy” in the movie theater biz…
Not only do they have to get by showing movies that a very small percentage of the movie going public care to see and hear or know much if anything about, they also have to deal with the same sort of overhead as the big boys, sans the economies of scale.
For example the Tivoli in Westport has only three screens, the Rio in Overland Park with but one and the Glenwood Arts in Metcalf South only three.
On top of that, those small cinemas have had to deal with the same six-figure struggle to pay to convert their projectors from film to digital that the big movie chains have had to deal with.
That said, Kansas City has long been known for supporting its independent movie exhibitors and for the most part – with the exception of the original Screenland downtown – they’ve thrived. In no small part because AMC and Dickinson have mostly opted out of competing for art house product.
In recent years Cinemark and AMC have dabbled in a number of those films. You know, the ones that Robert Butler always reviewed at length in the Kansas City Star that almost nobody ever went to.
Unfortunately those largely competition-free days may be coming to an end.
For example the ongoing war between Overland Park’s new Cinetopia and AMC’s Town Center in Leawood has resulted in an artificial shortage of blockbuster and mainstream movies for those theaters. Resulting in both screening an increasing number of independent and art house movie product that in a perfect world would have gone more-or-less exclusively to the Tivoli and/or Fine Arts Group theaters.
“The effect is being felt by the local art houses,” says one movie industry insider. “Because both of those complexes – Town Center and Cinetopia – are showing more art product than ever before because they need to fill screens since they’re only getting half the product. And now that those two theaters are fighting for product, they’re cutting into the Fine Arts Group’s product.”