Screenland Armour's operators prepare for their first Arts & Crafts Festival and the next Crossroads theater 

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"It's the same four walls, the same robot, but a little different," Roberts says. "It's exciting to completely design and build something up the way that we want."

Last October, they booked a string of horror movies to appeal to a younger crowd. They also did free showings of The Walking Dead on the big screen.

"Every weekend having The Walking Dead was huge," Roberts says. "And we did Doctor Who, and that was really big."

They've also recalibrated what retro means at Screenland: less Casablanca and more The 'Burbs.

"We've changed it from old, meaning '50s-style theater, to '80s-style theater," Roberts says. "It's kind of retro but not old-timey. It's re-creating the experience of seeing something like Labyrinth at that time or Willow, our biggest movie ever."

Roberts is serious.

"Willow, to this day, is our biggest movie ever."

They started doing Sunday movie brunches. Some (The 'Burbs) worked. Some (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) bombed. There have been directors' series. Some (Kevin Smith) worked. Others (Wes Anderson) didn't. They started a Girls' Night Out. They threw an Oscar party for an overflowing crowd. They brought in 30 Rock's Judah Friedlander in February and the Whitest Kids U'Know in April.

"They both went over awesome," Roberts says.

Still, Roberts can't help a nagging thought: Would their new venture have been an all-out bonanza if the Alamo Drafthouse hadn't come to Kansas City just as he and Miller made their investment.

"Screenland, as Butch has always done it, has been, 'Let's take the risks, let's be the weird ones, let's have those failures so we can be Kansas City's Alamo Drafthouse,' " Roberts says. "Now they're kind of the corporate guys. They're amazing guys, but they're not as weird as they are in Austin. We're still weird here.

"The idea behind Screenland was kind of the Alamo style, but it was never executed the way it is now," he continues. "We're still pretty different from Alamo, but the same crowd likes it."

For now, Roberts is convinced that the Armour is finally reaching a 21-to-40 crowd, one that wants to watch the same horror movies and R-rated comedies that he likes.

"Those are the ones that are going to come here and bring people with them and drink and stay after and play video games," he says. "Hopefully, we grow to be most people's theater of choice.


It has been a bumpy year for the Screenland brand. In February, Roberts put up a Kickstarter drive with this plea: "Help Armour go digital before we go dark!"

Rigby and Friedlander were among those who helped pitch donors. Armour needed enough for a down payment on a digital projection system, upgrading from film.

When Screenland Armour opened in May 2008, it was state-of-the-art. Within a year, the theater was outdated.

"It was built to top-notch specs in '08," Roberts says. "Unfortunately, by early '09, digital started taking off very quickly. And by 2010, it's, 'OK, digital is happening.' "

He adds: "If we didn't get digital in here, I don't know if we'd be here right now," Roberts says. "We'd probably be a second-run theater, I'd bet."

"Probably down to a dollar theater," Miller says.

"Yeah, probably down to a dollar, two-dollar theater," Roberts says.

When Roberts and Miller took over, getting 35 mm prints of new films was already tough, as it can be for operations not centered on a bustling array of screens.

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