Tivoli Cinemas asks for donations to keep theater from going dark

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City's oldest operating independent movie theater may go dark by the end of the year if the much-needed funds are not raised.

Tivoli Cinemas must convert all three of its 35 mm projectors to digital before the end of the year.

The theater, located in Westport, has a unique blend of community cinema from independent first-run features, movie classics and foreign films, to film festivals, film classes, performing arts broadcasts and other special screenings. But because of the extra events the theater does, they do not apply for any industry loan programs.

Jerry Harrington owns the theater, and has been in the business for more than 30 years. He moved Tivoli across the street and into the former Manor Square building in 1992. He's been playing films on 35 millimeter film since then, feeding a hungry demographic of film lovers from all over the country.

"It's my life's work," Harrington said. "The movie business is crazy and I'm crazy, so it fits and I really like the customers."

Harrington remembered the biggest box office hit he's ever had. He said when they showed "The Blair Witch Project" in 1999, he was sold out for a week.

"We had a midnight show we scheduled at the last minute and we sold out on Thursday night and we sold out every show for a week," Harrington said.

Harrington told 41 Action News he has already invested nearly $100,000 including fees to replace one projector, but can't afford anymore. With a price tag of $70,000 per piece, replacing the three projectors is just something Harrington says he simply cannot afford.

"This isn't about the day-to-day operation of the theater. It's about this huge expense that I have to come up with now," Harrington said.

Harrington has faith the people who love theater and the arts will give this story a happy ending.

"I think they are willing to help," he said.

On Wednesday, Tivoli made a Kickstarter account. The goal is to raise at least $130,000 by midnight December 12. However, the way the fundraising website is structured, if you don't reach your goal, you lose all the money.

"In a perfect world, we would raise even more money and then we could do more upgrades with the equipment," Harrington said.

To donate to the theater's Kickstarter account, click here.

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