The World Theatre has been a cornerstone of Kearney’s downtown landscape since opening in 1927. Its design allows for both stage performances and film showings. The Theatre’s character is reminiscent of the days of vaudeville stage performances and early talking movies. Generations of people have been entertained by a variety of performances and movies at the World over the years. During the 1980s the theatre became “twinned” with a wall splitting the single-screen auditorium into two separate auditoriums. Consequently its name was changed to the World Twin Theatre. The World closed its doors in June 2008.
The World Theatre Foundation, led by Jon Bokenkamp, is now set to turn the World Theatre into Kearney’s nonprofit movie house. The Foundation has envisioned The World Theatre as Kearney’s “revival house.” Instead of showing first-run films and competing with large movie chains, the World Theatre will offer a variety of independent films, documentaries, foreign language, and classic films.
The City of Kearney and the downtown community are determined to make the downtown more economically successful and retain historically significant properties. It was this determination and the passion of the Foundation’s chairman that drove the force behind this project. The City of Kearney encouraged the World Theatre Foundation to apply for a Tourism Development grant for the renovation project. In August 2010, Kearney received a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to carry out the renovation. This grant was added to the private donations and grants received from other private foundations. The City of Kearney and the Kearney Community Redevelopment Authority have also contributed financially.
Residents of Kearney and the region will benefit from the programming planned for the World Theatre space, which is expected to draw tourists from a large area, in addition to complementing the city’s existing entertainment and educational options. The World has tremendous support of community individuals as well as private and public organizations through donations of money, skills and time.