Tivoli Cinemas in Westport set to say ‘el fin’ with final showing Thursday

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tivoli Cinemas, an art house theater that's called Westport home for 36 years, will roll credits for the final time Thursday.

"My greatest thanks goes to all my loyal customers over the years. Many of you I have gotten to know personally, and will miss you all the most. My deepest heartfelt thanks and appreciation for allowing me to provide you with some of the best films any theatre could have ever shown," Tivoli's original owner Jerry Harrington said in a statement Monday announcing the theater's pending closure.

For the 66-year-old, it came down to changing times and his own age.

"When I was a freshman in high school, they showed me a movie called La Strada, which is an Italian film. I didn't understand it, but I was in love," Harrington said.

Fifteen years later, Harrington was opening Tivoli Cinemas in Westport in 1983. He would expand to three screens in 1992 at the current Pennsylvania Avenue location.

Comparing himself to a museum curator, Harrington enjoyed picking out movies Kansas City likely wouldn't get a chance to see otherwise.

"Stuff that you might not find at a bigger place that's playing the summer blockbusters," theater-goer Will Hart said.

Hart said the theater was full of charm, but Harrington admitted it didn't necessarily have all the same amenities you might find in today's modern theaters.

"You hand your ticket to the stub collector, and as you go up the steps, there's the red neon lights on the ceiling I always thought that was really cool," Hart said.

After the glory days of 35-millimeter films and dining with the likes of Paul Newman and Ang Li at their Tivoli premiers, the movie landscape started to shift.

"There's streaming services. There's a lot of movie theaters playing the same kind of movies that we play when it used to be that you were exclusive to Kansas City. But those days are gone," Harrington said.

What Harrington calls a 36-year labor of love finally became too much of a financial burden the past few months. Plus, at 66 years old, he said he's ready for retirement.

One of the final movies that will play Thursday at Tivoli, a Keira Knightly film, "The Aftermath." As for what's to come after he rolls credits and turns off the projector for the final time?

"Who knows? Maybe there's a savior somewhere, and they can have the headache," he said. "I can't."

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