Published September 28th, 2021 at 11:30 AM2 minute read
(Updated Sept. 30: The B&B Mainstreet Theater will get an early debut, opening today with shows beginning at 4:30 p.m. Operator received earlier than expected approval from KC Health Department.)
By Kevin Collison
The newly rechristened B&B Mainstreet Theater expects to open, appropriately, in time to screen the new James Bond movie “No Time to Die” scheduled for release Oct. 8.
It was no time to die indeed for the 100 year-old theater at 14th and Main.
The Mainstreet has entertained audiences first as a vaudeville palace, then a movie theater under a couple flags and finally, after closing in 1985, falling apart to become a pathetic symbol of how far downtown had declined.
B&B Theatres, a family-owned chain based in Liberty with 494 screens in 13 states, is the theater’s third reincarnation since it reopened after a $25 million renovation as part of the Power & Light District development.
It originally was operated as the AMC Mainstreet in 2009. Alamo Draft House took over in 2012 and then closed it when the Covid pandemic hit in early 2020. The Texas theater chain announced last March it wouldn’t return.
Enter B&B, which while it had theaters in suburban Kansas City, longed to “plant its flag” in downtown. It signed a lease with the Cordish Co., the developer of Power & Light, last April to take over operations.
And while the firm has preserved the spacious lobby with its memorable movie quotes decorating the terrazzo floors, the theater interiors have been completely revamped.
B&B has returned the leather reclining seats that were part of the original AMC experience but later removed for conventional seating by Alamo. That shift by B&B has cut the total seating capacity in the six-screen complex from 700 to 357.
The new reclining seats also are heated. And in a nod to people sitting in the front row, there are “Max Relax” chaise lounge-style seats that recline almost to the point of lying down.
The largest auditorium, which seats 157, is called the Grand Screen and it features a floor to ceiling screen stretching from wall to wall. Its technology can accommodate the best Hollywood has to offer, a key attraction for studios releasing films.
B&B also has done away with the Alamo approach to ordering food and drinks from your seat. Instead, its expanded the concession stand to not only include standard movie fare but a variety of easy meals that are also available for non-patrons to order to go.
The former Chesterfield lounge area has been revamped to become Johnnie’s Jazz Bar & Grill. It’s inspired by Johnnie Bills, the grandmother of the former Bridget Bills. Johnnie played piano to accompany silent movies.
Bridget’s family operated theaters dating back to the 1920s and when she married Bob Bagby, who’s family also was in the movie business, the combined entity became B&B in 1980.
The new full-service bar will feature 80 different bourbons and whiskeys. Johnnie’s has a capacity of 120 people and live music and activities, including jazz and trivia, are planned. The new B&B Mainstreet plans to employ 35- to 40 people.
The new operator may even be able to reopen Mainstreet before 007 arrives, but it all depends on approval from ‘M,’ aka the Kansas City Health Department.