Three days after the Glenwood Arts showed its final movie at Metcalf South Shopping Center, the Screenland Crown Center announced it would close Feb. 26.
The movie theater announced Wednesday that it was making way for a professional live theater — Musical Theater Heritage — that is taking over Crown Center’s operation of the space.
Musical Theater Heritage will now operate the adjacent 243-seat Off Center Theatre and rename it Musical Theater Heritage at Crown Center. Musical Theater Heritage has presented all of its live theater and music performances there since 2008, renting the space from Crown Center as needed. Musical Theater Heritage will make the stage available to other theater groups as well and plans to rent out the two movie screens to businesses for meetings, video presentations and the like.
“It was a great run at Crown Center,” Screenland Theatres owner Butch Rigby said Wednesday. “We’re the small theater market, ever changing. … I’ve had 11 screens, I’ve had three screens. It just depends on what’s going on.”
Rigby said he expects some of the Crown Center audiences will be absorbed at the new location of his Screenland Crossroads to the north, at 1701 McGee St. The old Crossroads was forced to move when it lost its lease at 1656 Washington in 2013. Rigby said he expects the new theater, with an extensive bar menu and tables and chairs for about 75 moviegoers, to have its grand opening Valentine’s Day weekend. It will be operated by the managers of his third Screenland theater, the Armour in North Kansas City.
The space on the third level of Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd., has continually evolved in recent years. In 2007, the six-screen Crown Center Cinemas closed after more than 20 years, to be replaced by the live theater. But two of the movie auditoriums sat vacant. In 2009, the Screenland moved into that remaining space and shared the box office and lobby with the live theater.
The Screenland Crown Center was known for its mix of art-house and commercial films and screenings of locally made films, complete with discussions and receptions with the filmmakers. But manager Shane Rowse said he was especially proud of the open-captioned screenings for the hearing impaired.
“That was an audience we really connected with,” Rowse said. “I was making an effort to show every film that we got that had open captioning at least once.”
George Harter, Musical Theater Heritage’s executive director, said the theater was planning a few changes, in addition to its regular run of musicals (next up: “Guys and Dolls” opening April 2). It will add a series of musical programs called “A Night on the Town With …” Vocalist Molly Hammer will perform the first Feb. 12-14. And Musical Theater Heritage will move its offices from 1800 Central into Crown Center. Eventually, Harter said, he might broadcast his KANU-FM radio show, “A Night on the Town,” from the theater.
He said Musical Theater Heritage wouldn’t be against renting the movie theater space to Screenland sometime in the future.
As for the Screenland’s Rigby? “I think that we might have to make some phone calls, and you never know. I love having the name Screenland at Crown Center. I think we can co-exist at Crossroads with two different kinds of programming.”
The ever changing downtown movie scene is echoed in Overland Park. The Glenwood Arts, owned by the Fine Arts Theatre Group, left the closed Metcalf South mall on Sunday. It brought its art-house programming and its name to the former Leawood Theatre in Ranch Mart South shopping center.