Plans in the works to reopen the Englewood Theatre by fall
Alan Austin has heard the words “thank you” frequently in the past week.
Austin, who owns Austin Five & Dime with his wife, Linda, said residents have stopped inside the business and thanked them for reopening the Englewood Theatre.
Austin retired from Home Depot in February, so he’s been devoting eight-hour days the past two weeks in preparing the theater for its reopening. With a planned reopening date in late September, Austin will serve as the theater’s manager.
The theater, which closed sometime in 2007, is located in Independence’s historic Englewood district at 10917 E. Winner Road.
“This has been here for many, many years, and it’s like when Ben Franklin went out,” Austin said. “When they went out, it just upset the whole community – the same way with the theater.”
The theater will open with first-run feature films. Building and theater owner Wade Williams said he intends to add one or two screens for diverse entertainment.
Future renovation plans include relocating the five-and-dime store to the east and adding a 1920s-style soda fountain shop in the existing five-and-dime.
An additional movie screen would be located 30 feet back from the front of the existing five-and-dime, Williams said. A 1940s-style coffee shop would be located between the soda fountain and the Englewood Theatre. Both period shops would include time-authentic decor that Williams has already purchased, he said.
No significant renovations had to take place to reopen the theater, Williams said, because it has been refurbished twice since 1993 when Williams purchased it. However, the theater has experienced problems with its heating and air conditioning units through the years, which caused the reoccurring closings, Williams said.
“We think it will help the Englewood district a lot and be a magnet,” he said. “We had planned to reopen it, but we had never really planned a time or date.”
The theater has had its fair share of opening and closing in recent years, with closings taking place in January 2002 and August 2005. The 455-seat Art Deco-style theater boasts a 50-foot screen.
Plans are under way with the Independence Council for Economic Development in establishing Englewood as an official arts district. Williams said he helped spearhead the concept for Englewood.
“I think the Englewood Theatre is absolutely 100 percent necessary to bring that district into what we actually want,” Williams said. “The theater has won many awards. It’s a landmark, and I think it should be open and operating. I think it will be a catalyst to the area.”
The Englewood Theatre is part of the Fine Arts Group independent movie exhibitors that include The Rio, 80th Street and Metcalf Avenue; the Glenwood Arts, 95th Street and Metcalf Avenue; the Leawood, 95th Street and Mission Road; Glenwood at Red Bridge; and the Fine Arts Theatre at Neiman and Johnson.
Page 2 of 2 - “I’m anxious to get the theater reopened,” Williams said. “Of all the theaters I’m involved with, this one is my personal favorite because of the size and the design of the theater.”
Like many lifelong Independence residents his age, Austin, 66, remembers an Englewood district that included a bakery, movie theater, post office and several grocery stores.
“This was a very busy place at one time,” Austin said of Englewood. He and Linda started Austin Five & Dime two-and-a-half years ago after the business had operated as a Ben Franklin Store for 60 years. “The theater has always been a drawing card for people all over the area. We’re all just as excited in reopening the theater. We’re going to have a lot of fun with it, and it’s going to be very enjoyable for the whole community.”