Kearney World Theatre announces renovations

KEARNEY, NE (Omaha World-Herald News Source) – The World Theatre has launched a fundraising campaign for an upcoming balcony renovation project along with other behind-the-scenes upgrades.

After reopening in 2012, the nonprofit, volunteer-run theater has become a favorite art-house movie theater in central Nebraska, curating independent, classic and family feature films. The World also hosts live musical performances, stand-up comedy and an eclectic array of visiting actors and filmmakers.

Jon Bokenkamp, founder/creative director at The World Theatre and creator of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” spearheaded the original efforts to renovate the theater.

“When we first launched, our idea was to simply dust the place off, vacuum the seats and show some unique films,” he said. “But once we saw the scope of the community support, we realized we had an opportunity to do something really special.”

The result was a $1 million renovation, and a new, thriving, volunteer-run business in the heart of downtown Kearney.

Bokenkamp said, “After six years of exceptional attendance and support, it’s time to take The World to the next level.”

In addition to the luxury balcony seating and VIP booths, The World plans to update its heating and cooling system, refinish the stage, upgrade its dressing rooms, install new and improved theatrical lighting and add a world-class preparation kitchen to support weddings and events.

Board President Mark Orr acknowledged that the original work of restoring The World skipped several areas that needed attention.

“During our first renovation, we spent money on high-quality finishes and equipment, doing things the right way,” he said. “That meant leaving a few areas, like the balcony and dressing rooms, to be refurbished later. We’re excited to now embrace this second phase.”

The campaign, which aims to raise approximately $500,000, already has support from the Peter Kiewit Foundation, the Ron and Carol Cope Foundation, the Theodore G. Baldwin Foundation, the Kearney Area Visitors Bureau, the Union Pacific Foundation, Ace Irrigation and Mfg. Co, as well as the City of Kearney through a Kearney Community Redevelopment Authority grant. Additionally, select private lead grants have been secured.

“We’ve had tremendous support in the planning phase of this project, but we still have a long way to go,” Orr said.

Every dollar raised that exceeds the theatre’s construction costs will go toward establishing The World Theatre Endowment.

“We plan to be around for a long time,” said Bokenkamp. “We’re building for the future. It’s about darn time we finish what we started.”

To learn more or to donate to The World Theatre Foundation’s renovation projects, text WORLD to 44321 or visit