Rio Theatre in Overland Park remains closed — Will it reopen?

Rio Theatre Overland Park

Rio Theatre, a one-screen indie house in downtown Overland Park, has been closed since March 2020. Photo credit Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga.

Nestled in downtown Overland Park sits the Rio Theatre, a quaint, retro-style cinema known for its single-screen showing of indie films.

The movie theater’s iconic pink and teal neon lights used to beckon along West 80th Street, but the theater has been closed since March 2020 and, according to its owners, its future could depend on business over the next few months.

The backstory: The Rio is owned by brothers Ben and Brian Mossman, who also own the Glenwood Arts, another theater at the Ranch Mart shopping center in Overland Park.

  • Rio first opened its doors in 2000, but like many movie theaters, it was shuttered by the pandemic.
  • Ben Mossman calls Rio a “neighborhood” theater. It’s small — it only has one screen — but it has a big personality.

Key quote: “It’s got artifacts from the [historic] Isis Theater here on 31st and Troost [in KCMO]. It’s got stuff from other theaters like the trim around the doors and some of the bathrooms, signage that goes in it,” he said. “It’s got a little bit of a flavor to it. It’s not just your cookie-cutter theater.”

Rio Theatre Overland Park
The Rio’s owners also own Glenwood Arts, a five-screen theater that reopened in September 2021. Photo credit Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga.

Why Rio is still closed: Rio has one screen to Glenwood Arts’s five, which is why Glenwood reopened first last September, the Mossmans say.

  • Ben Mossman says Rio still being closed comes down to two reasons: not enough workers and business still not being great.
  • He says after COVID-19, it’s been hard to staff Glenwood Arts, let alone for the Rio, too.
  • And the pandemic and at-home streaming services have changed the way people watch movies.
  • COVID-19 shut down Hollywood productions in 2020 and a lot of films released during the pandemic went straight to streaming services instead of theaters.

What’s next: Mossman says nothing is set in stone for Rio yet.

  • He says they are waiting for their busiest season — during the fall and winter holidays — to see how good business is at Glenwood to determine whether or not they can re-open Rio.

What they’re saying: The Mossman brothers have been in the movie theater business for 40 years. Ben Mossman says they have seen a lot of difficult times, from video rental stores, to streaming services, to the pandemic. But they plan to keep their business alive.

  • “I don’t see us stopping unless something major were to happen. But the pandemic has been a real curve that’s been thrown towards theaters,” says Mossman.

Rio Theatre owner’s final say

Mossman says what Glenwood, Rio and other movie theaters in Johnson County and the wider KC metro need right now is more customers.

  • “If they can support the Glenwood Arts and push us up this little hill to get us to where we can open the Rio, then that’s what that’s gonna take,” he said.
Rio Theatre
Photo credit Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga.