Butch Rigby goes back to his entrepreneurial roots and passion for preservation.

Story by Kimberly Stern   |  Photos by Aaron Lindberg

Just as I pull my car up to the valet of Hotel Phillips at 12th and Baltimore in downtown Kansas City one recent Friday, online the rain stops and the sun peeks from behind ominous clouds. It occurs to me as I hand the doorman my umbrella and keys that this is the perfect place to meet my Out to Lunch date—KC preservationist and Screenland Theatres owner Butch Rigby.

Pausing to gaze up at the gilded 11-foot likeness of the Greek goddess of dawn keeping vigil over the beautiful gleaming marble of the restored Art Deco space, I make my way down the winding staircase to join KC Magazine Executive Editor Katie Van Luchene and Rigby in 12 Baltimore, the hotel’s cozy street-level restaurant known for its ambience, buy live music, cocktails, Boulevard beer and executive chef Frank Lalumia’s innovative cuisine.

© Aaron Lindberg Photography www.aaronlindberg.com
Butch Rigby, Owner, Screenland Theatres and Film Row Company

After ordering up dishes to enjoy family style—with a few surprises courtesy of chef Lalumia—Rigby, looking friendly, studious in his glasses and casually hip, stuff settles in with a Pale Ale and chilled glass.

“A delightful way to spend a lunch,” he comments, looking out on the street where rain gently falls again. “And what a lovely room.”

First question for Rigby: Who has been your biggest influence?

“My late mother, Pat,” he says. “She died in 2014, in the same house she lived in for 52 years in Liberty—the house I grew up in with my three siblings.”

12 B Burger with Fries

Patricia Rigby was widowed at age 38 when her husband, Vince, passed away. In debt from hospital bills that accumulated as a result of Vince’s illness, she managed to keep the house, took over the family’s small real estate sales business and provided for her four children.

“She sold houses to sometimes three generations in Liberty and taught all of us kids to be self sufficient, hardworking and honest,” Rigby says. “I learned from her the importance of the quality of truth.”

Boneless BBQ chicken wings

At age 15, one of Rigby’s first ventures was printing a newspaper he dubbed “The Wilshire Whirl,” after the Liberty neighborhood he lived in; it sold for 3 cents and the income it earned helped buy groceries for the family. He also emptied people’s trash and during college, worked construction to pay for tuition.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Another Rigby mentor was University of Missouri-Kansas City professor of media history, Gaylord Marr. Rigby still has dinner with Marr’s widow, Olga, every Sunday night—a tradition since 1978.

“The faces around the table have changed,” says Rigby, whose fiancée, Christy Cubbage, accompanies him each week.

Screenland Theatres epitomizes Rigby’s love of the past, attention to detail and creative ingenuity. He surrounds himself with talented people driven to preserve landmarks like the Granada Theatre in Kansas City, Kansas that he transformed in 2006 and the Screenland Theatres on Armour and in the Crossroads—“craft movie theatres” is how Rigby bills his cinematic babies.

Chef Frank Lalumia

Kansas City’s next Big Thing, according to Rigby, is the often-maligned Troost corridor. Rigby is pursuing a makeover just east of 31st and Troost in a building that has ties to one of his heroes, Walt Disney. As chairman of Thank You Walt Disney, Inc., Rigby is spearheading an effort to revive Laugh-O-Gram Studio, which played a role in the days of early animation. “We want to help make that neighborhood something for people to be proud of,” he says. “Troost is ideal for retail and to make a comeback.”

Rigby takes one last swig of his beer before digging into a triple-layered mousse confection with one of the three forks chef Lalumia sets in the middle of the table.

“I like to envision things and then to collaborate,” he says before picking up his umbrella and leaving for a 2 p.m. hearing, disappearing in the crowd on the downtown sidewalk.

Triple-layer chocolate mousse cake

Main Course Q&A with Butch Rigby of Screenland Theatres

If you could invite one person in Kansas City to dinner, who would it be and where would you go? 

“Real estate innovator JC Nichols at the Hotel Baltimore, built in downtown KC in 1899 and razed in 1939.”

What’s one of your favorite KC traditions? 

“The Plaza Art Fair—a kickoff party at my house on Friday night, people watching on Saturday and buying art on Sunday.”

Most treasured compliment?

“From Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane: ‘More than anyone, you remind me of my father.’”

What hashtag best defines your life? 



Filed in Press Releases


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