World Theatre grand re-opening

Workers prepare Kearney’s historic downtown World Theatre for its grand re-opening in June 2012. The theater closed in 2008 after Minnesota-based Cinema Entertainment Corp., which owned the theater at the time, instead decided to operate Hilltop 4 Theatres at Hilltop Mall.

KEARNEY — The World Theatre is celebrating seven years with a weekend of free films.

Kearney’s volunteer-run movie house began life as a vaudeville theater. Built in 1927, The World Theatre featured musical acts, concerts and film in its early days, seating an audience of more than 900 people.

The theater continued in business until it closed about 80 years later. In 2012, The World Theatre reopened, restored to its early 20th century splendor.

Jon Bokenkamp, founder/creative director at The World Theatre and creator of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” spearheaded the efforts to renovate the theater.

“When we first launched, our idea was to simply dust the place off, vacuum the seats and show some unique films,” he said in a previous Hub interview. “But once we saw the scope of the community support, we realized we had an opportunity to do something really special.”

In 2013, board member Bill Sinnard said of the theater: “The World Theatre is here for everybody. That’s what we want it to be. It’s a first-class place, a place where you can see movies again. There’s a whole generation of young kids coming to see these movies and getting so excited about them. And that makes us excited about this project, when we open the eyes and hearts of people to see a new type of art and film.”

To celebrate the theater’s seventh anniversary, the volunteers at the theater will show three free films:

- 7:30 p.m. Friday — “Big Fish,” PG-13, 125 minutes, 2003, presented in conjunction with Kearney Community Theatre. Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Daniel Wallace, Albert Finney and Billy Crudup — A son, frustrated with life, tries to tell the story of his dying father, separating fact from fiction.

- 7:30 p.m. Saturday – “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” R, 93 minutes, 1983, directed by Harold Ramis and starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Imogene Coca — The Griswold family heads out to a Walley World theme park with the idea that, “Getting there is half the fun.”

- 2 p.m. Sunday – “They Shall Not Grow Old,” R, 99 minutes, 2018, directed by Peter Jackson — Originally shot during WWI, the director and his team of technicians colorized the images and added voices to the silent films to give viewers an idea of life on the Western Front.

The World Theatre continues its mission of bringing entertainment to downtown Kearney. The organization also continues to upgrade the theater with a campaign to raise $500,000 to add luxury seating and VIP booths in the balcony. For more information about the theater, call 308-234-8046 or visit

Additional events:

July 5-7 – “The Biggest Little Farm,” PG, 91 minutes, 2018 — a documentary by John Chester detailing a couple living on a farm outside of Los Angeles, $5 admission.

July 11 — Joseph Hall’s Elvis Rock ‘n’ Remember Tribute, a live concert featuring the music of Elvis by NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” finalist Joseph Hall, part of Central Nebraska Auto Club’s Cruise Nite 2019, $20 admission.

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