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Tivoli Cinemas in Westport to close its doors this week

Posted at 3:37 PM, Apr 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 23:17:14-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After nearly four decades in business, the Tivoli Cinemas theater in Westport will close its doors this week.

The city's oldest independent movie theater, located at 4050 Pennsylvania Ave., will close after the last showing on Thursday.

"I could say we've been struggling for 36 years, because it's a labor of love, and that means you never make real money," owner Jerry Harrington said.

In 2013, Tivoli Cinemas was in danger of closing as it tried to make the move from film to digital. The theater launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised enough money to remain open.

"Through the years, the Tivoli has managed to adapt to the changes that have happened in the film industry," Harrington said in a letter to supporters. "Today, however, that is no longer the case."

In the letter, Harrington cited his health, the age of the facility and "radical shifts" in the film industry as reasons for the closure.

"The people of Kansas City have been generous beyond anything I could have imagined," Harrington said. "But, the Tivoli can no longer survive on ticket sales alone and the costs of maintaining operations are insurmountable."

The theater, which opened in 1983 at a different location on Westport Road, shows American independent films, foreign films, documentaries and cinematic classics.

"These are the places where you go to see movies that aren't filled with people in tights and capes," said Mitch Brian, an associate teaching professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Brian described the Tivoli as a "huge part of film culture in Kansas City." The theater has partnered with UMKC for the past 20 years.

"People hear about our film studies program, and one of the things they always hear about are classes at the Tivoli, so it's going to be really sad to not have that anymore," Brian said.

The news came as a surprise to him and to the patrons who came to the theater on Monday.

Nina Anders of Independence frequents the Tivoli through an informal film club with her friends.

"Netflix just isn't the same as seeing them on the screen," Anders said.

The rise of streaming services is one of the reasons Harrington cited for the closure. He hopes the Tivoli will be remembered as a place where there was always one star of the show.

"It's always the movies. That's all that matters," he said.