Movies and more at Kearney’s World Theatre

Pure Nebraska
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:24 AM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KOLN) - It started out as a vaudeville house in 1927. Today, it’s a non-profit theater that features motion pictures and live events.

We caught up with World Theatre Executive Director Mark Treadway to talk about it. “This theater is a big part of Kearney,” Treadway said. “Originally it was a vaudeville theater with lots of live events. When movies became the big thing, it operated as a movie theater until about 1983. When it closed, a wall was put in the middle to make it a dual theater. It was then called the World Twin. That closed in about 2008, and then Jon Bokenkamp and others came together to develop the World Theatre Foundation. The World Theatre was refurbished and re-opened based upon the blueprints of what it originally looked like.”

The World Theatre is used in many ways today. “We do mostly movies on the weekends,” Treadway said. “We show a mix of newer movies, some older stuff, maybe a kids’ movie, and then we try to bring in something more artistic that other theaters might not show. Crane River Theater Company does many of their performances here. We have live music. Every second Monday of the month we’ll have live jazz.”

Treadway says the theater is important to the community. “It gives people something to do with their spare time,” Treadway said. “If they want to be entertained or educated, this is the place. If they want to have an event somewhere, a birthday party or a graduation party, that can be done here.” The theater is available for rentals.

Located on The Bricks in downtown Kearney, the World Theatre seems to fit in well with the downtown scene. “Downtown is the hub,” Treadway said. “You also have the Museum of Nebraska Art right across the street, and the Merryman Performing Arts Center across 2nd Avenue. It’s all kind of tied in with The Bricks. We’ve done some other renovations in the last couple of years. We did our balcony seats, which are new and comfortable. We’ve opened up the Sweet Shop, which was a candy store back in 1927 originally. We’ve tried to give that store a vintage feel. We also have the World Theatre lounge where people can gather before and after movies to talk about the different films. People have book club gatherings in there, and some people even have senior pictures done there.”