Sources: Cinemark Palace at the Plaza to close soon, future theater plans unclear

The Country Club Plaza: A mix of local and national tenants

The Country Club Plaza has gone through many changes over the years. Here's a look at its current lineup of stores and restaurants.
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The Country Club Plaza has gone through many changes over the years. Here's a look at its current lineup of stores and restaurants.

Two decades after opening on the Country Club Plaza, sources say Cinemark Palace at the Plaza will be closing.

“Cinemark told us the week of the festival this year that they were, in fact, closing,” said Veronica Elliott Loncar, executive director of the Kansas City FilmFest International, on Monday. The group has held its festival at Cinemark since 2013. “We are looking at other theaters in Kansas City so we will be somewhere. We are checking out all our options.”

Cinemark employees also are telling customers the theater will shut down on May 19.

Officials with Cinemark did not return phone calls or emails Monday.

Officials with the Plaza declined to comment. However, Plaza officials had previously said an upscale movie theater was on their wish list.

Nordstrom is taking over the west side of the Plaza, just across the street from Cinemark. It plans to open a new 122,000-square-foot store in 2021.

Nordstrom wants to remove several buildings, as well as five Cinemark screens, a mezzanine and a pedestrian walkway over Jefferson Street leading from the main theater complex.

Plans listed a remaining Plaza movie theater with 1,640 seats, down from Cinemark’s current 2,600 seats.

Neil Nakahodo

Texas-based Cinemark swept into Kansas City in the late 1990s, announcing plans for 52 screens on the Plaza, in Lee’s Summit and Merriam.

“This is AMC’s back yard. Don’t think that we’d walk in here if we didn’t know what we were doing,” the company said at the time.

The Merriam location opened at 5500 Antioch Drive. But Cinemark was in a “horse race” with another theater company for Lee’s Summit and lost out.

Cinemark Palace at the Plaza, at 526 Nichols Road, was part of a $30 million redevelopment of Seville on the Plaza that included a two-story restaurant on the east side, now home to Brio Tuscan Grille, and six-story parking garage west of Jefferson.

Cinemark opened on May 7, 1999, as a “plush film oasis hearkening back to the ornate movie havens of bygone days,” according to a Kansas City Star story.

The 14 auditoriums had seating capacities ranging from 82 to 377, plus a small 38-seat VIP Room offering extra amenities.

It boasted digital sound, stadium seating, lots of legroom, plush high-back-rocker chairs, inlaid stone and brass trim, and an art deco marquee over the street level entrance. The cutting-edge concept also was spread out over several levels.

Elise Carlson worked there for about three years, starting as a server and then manager of the VIP room, then marketing and promotion manager before leaving for film school in Toronto.

A film she worked on, “Eternal Harvest,” was shown at April’s Kansas City FilmFest.

“I used to clean up popcorn, now I’m watching my movie in this theater,” she said Monday. “I’m really sad that this theater is going away. It was innovative for its time. But I also I remember when it was the Seville theater, going there as a kid.”

Cinemark customers said they like the Plaza theater’s central location in the city and its ticket prices.

An evening showing of “Avengers: Endgame” this week was $7.25 for general admission and $5.25 for children, compared to $11.49 per adult and $8.49 for children at AMC Ward Parkway 14, which offers more upscale amenities.

The Cinemark closing will leave another empty space on that corner of the Plaza; Noodles & Co. closed there in November.

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Joyce Smith has covered restaurant and retail news for The Star since 1989 under the brand Cityscape. She appreciates news tips.