New Documentary Spotlights History of KC Cinema

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Posted by Bob Evans

Pandemic Challenges & Future of a Changing Industry

KCK.s Granada Theatre, photo courtesy of KCPBS

Kansas City, MO, November 1, 2021 – Kansas City PBS has announced a new half-hour documentary from John G. McGrath (Flatland’s Art House) that examines the past, present and future of the moviegoing experience in Kansas City. Premiering Thursday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. on Channel 19.1, Fade to Black examines the significance and influence of cinema on American culture and illustrates how local theaters adapted to the challenges of 2020.

“As theaters went dark in 2020, an industry that has been an integral part of the American experience since the early 1900s was suddenly silent,” Kliff Kuehl,

President and CEO of Kansas City PBS, said. “I’m excited that we can take audiences behind the curtain and show them how local theaters are adapting and have adapted throughout history.”

Photo courtesy of KCPBS

Fade to Black follows the Bagby and Bill families, owners of B&B Theatres, who have been in the movie business in Kansas and Missouri since the early 1920s. From the beginning of the legendary local cinema chain’s founding to its current renovation of downtown Kansas City’s historic Mainstreet Theater, Fade to Black traces how the Bagbys and other theater owners adapt to a shifting entertainment world.

“Creating Fade to Black was very exciting for me,” McGrath said. “Being a filmmaker myself and loving the thrill of going to a movie theater, making this documentary was one of the highlights of my 30-year career in television and film.”

Fade to Black also poses several crucial questions. Can small, single theaters survive alongside sprawling multiplexes showing the latest blockbusters? Will audiences still be willing to go to the movies when they can stream from the comfort of their couch? And, considering all of this, is there a future for the classic moviegoing experience that we all know and love?

Fade to Black features interviews with the Bagby family, Adam Roberts of Screenland

Armour Theatre, Jerry Harrington from the Tivoli at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Jaclyn Danger from the Stray Cat Film Center, Brian and Ben Mossman from the Glenwood Arts Theatre and Steph Shannon of the KC Film Office.

“I hope audiences haven’t forgotten the magic of going to the movies,” McGrath said. “There is nothing like it. Sitting in the theater with other people watching and reacting to the story up on the screen is a magical experience.”

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Located in the heart of Kansas City, MO, Kansas City PBS is a non-profit multimedia organization that has been serving the community since 1961. The PBS member station airs diverse content focused on civic affairs, science, food, drink, arts and culture on four television channels, including Channel 19.1, 19.2, 19.3 (Create) and 19.4, the 24-hour PBS kids channel. Channel 19.1 and 19.4 are also available to livestream online, with programming available on-demand in the PBS Video App and Kansas City PBS Passport, a member-benefit streaming service. Kansas City PBS serves students, caregivers and the local education community through free, online resources, workshops for parents and teachers, and annual conferences and events. It also owns and operates the local NPR music station, 90.9 The Bridge, providing nonprofit radio in a AAA format to listeners over the air and online streaming. Kansas City PBS’ nonprofit source for local journalism, Flatland (flatlandkc.org) produces multimedia reporting focused on civic affairs, arts and culture, food and drink, and education. For more information on Kansas City PBS or its wide variety of local and national content, visit kansascitypbs.org.




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