Our community loses something today, making the place we live a little less interesting, a little less rich.
I have no illusions that all that many people ever darkened the door of the Tivoli Cinemas in Westport. The multiplex is closer, it shows more popular films, and it holds no surprises.
But the Tivoli, like a good used book store, an adventurous restaurant or just your favorite funky shop, just made you feel better knowing it was there. It’s the kind of thing that can only find a niche in a bigger city, and I’ve never taken for granted that Kansas City had something here that others didn’t.
It’s been a place for movie lovers, and it’s been the place where I’ve seen countless movies that I doubt would have appeared elsewhere. I don’t mind moviemakers taking chances and pushing beyond the predictable. I don’t mind subtitles. I don’t mind sitting through a dud once in awhile – because the good stuff is exquisite.
I know all kinds of movies are out there, on my phone, on my tablet, on my TV. Sometimes that works, but a lot of times it’s an inferior experience. Many movies are meant for full sound on the big screen in a dark room with no distractions.
For that matter, Netflix is a shallow pool. I think of the Tivoli, and my most vivid memory is that these are the folks who brought us “Departures,” a stunning foreign film that won the Oscar a few years ago with subtle storytelling and soaring music. It’s not on Netflix, not within a mile of Netflix.
But a business has to make money. A crowd of 40 for a Sunday matinee amounted to a blockbuster at the Tivoli, and the movie-showing business is increasingly difficult.
I have made it a point for the last few years to spend more of my money not just locally but at places that I want to be around for a long time. So I’d pop for a $7.50 ticket – that’s less than AMC, by the way – and add a coffee and a cookie and then go enjoy my movie. That doesn’t exactly make me a patron of the arts, but you do what you can.
On Wednesday, the Tivoli’s next-to-last day, there was a good crowd for the afternoon showing of “The Mustang.” Solid movie – better than I expected. A prison inmate gets a chance at redemption by breaking and training a wild horse. OK, there’s a good deal more going on, but you get the idea. It’s violent and harrowing. Not necessarily a happy ending. No superheroes, no special effects.
But a couple moments here and there are exquisite. I’ll take that.
There are hundreds of movie screens in Kansas City. Ten years ago, maybe 20 could loosely have been called “art house” screens, as squishy as that definition might be. Now, by my reckoning, it’s fewer than 10. None quite like the Tivoli.
Your thing might be ballet. Or books. Or baseball. Or all of those. It takes a certain critical mass to support them. It says something about our community that the Tivoli can’t make a go of it.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.