When I first heard that Bookhouse Cinema, a micro theater, was opening in Joplin, I was excited that we’d have a venue in town where we’d be able to see independent, artsy movies – the kind of films that we’d normally have to drive to Kansas City for if we wanted to see them on a big screen.
I’ve now seen several films at Bookhouse since Holly and Brad Crane opened the theater in April 2018. Each time I go, I discover some new aspect about this place. In addition to the theater itself, there’s a kitchen, a pub, and a community space.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Bookhouse isn’t just a spot where you can watch cool movies; it’s a gathering place.
An East Town Gem
To give you an idea of what a visit to Bookhouse is like, let me tell you about a Sunday afternoon that I spent here with my friend Carrie. Bookhouse occupies several historic buildings on Broadway Street, which was once the iconic Route 66, right in the heart of Joplin’s East Town. Parking is available along the street, or in lots on the west and east ends of the property. I parked in the west lot, across from the captivating East Town mural, Belonging to All the Hands Who Build, which depicts the history and culture of this Joplin neighborhood. The west parking lot is adjacent to an ornately fenced-in green space, which the Cranes plan to develop into a usable outdoor space for the Bookhouse complex in the near future.
I’d purchased our movie tickets online a few days earlier, so Carrie and I checked in at the box office, got our paper tickets, then made our way to the concession area. This area is anchored by a show-stopping counter that runs along the back wall.
This counter, which once resided on Main Street at Criterion Bar over a century ago, now brings a hefty dose of charm to the concession area at Bookhouse. That’s something you don’t see at your everyday multiplex. Afterward, we emerged from the dark theater into the cozy community space.
We planned on eating lunch after the movie, so we skipped the snacks and just got some water. Had I been in the mood for a more grown-up drink, I would have been welcome to enjoy it during the movie. Bookhouse is the only place in Joplin that allows patrons to bring drinks like beer, wine, and cocktails into the theater with them. Carrie and I found some seats in the comfy 45-seat theater and settled in. The movie showing that day was Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about Fred Rogers, whose groundbreaking children’s show we both had grown up watching. I totally wasn’t prepared for the emotional ending. I’m glad Carrie brought tissues…
Bookhouse offers traditional snacks like candy and popcorn, although the topping choices for the popcorn are anything but traditional. With its warm wooden ceiling beams, textured walls, and rustic brick floors, it looks like an Old-World pub, and with groups of people talking, eating, and drinking, it feels like an Old-World pub, too. Again, a gathering place.
At first, Carrie and I were quiet, each of us processing the final scenes of the Mr. Rogers’ movie. But it only took a few minutes looking at the goodies at the food counter to bring us back to reality. Food has a wonderful grounding quality to it, doesn’t it?The sweets caught our attention first. That afternoon, they were featuring brownie batter cheesecake bars, blueberry pie fudge, apple butter snickerdoodles, vegan cookies, and an electric green Grinch cake (a timely choice for the Christmas holiday). I ordered a piece of this festive, checkered cake to take home for my family to feast on.
Then we focused on ordering lunch. The menu at Bookhouse offers a variety of shareable plates, salads, tacos, and sandwiches. Plus, there are options for vegetarians, vegans, and even for those following a keto diet. Nothing here is ever frozen; everything is made from scratch by Chef Matt Richardson.We placed our orders, then walked around to look at the work of Bookhouse’s current featured artist hanging on the walls. (To see whose art is on display right now, click here).
I love that the Cranes offer space at their business for local artists to gain exposure, and I love being surrounded by such creativity while I eat.It’s a win-win.Our food arrived, and we started out with the crunchy beer-battered cauliflower, one of the shareable plates on the menu. Then I moved on to my tender lamb sliders, which I’d ordered with a side of crunchy beet chips. Carrie, a vegan, opted for the veggie sliders with a side of pasta salad.
The sliders consisted of a zucchini falafel topped with greens, tomatoes, and feta, and it came with tzatziki sauce. To make this vegetarian dish vegan, Carrie omitted the feta and asked for a vegan substitute for the sauce.We’d ordered the drink specials to go with our lunch. I tried a glass of mead from Leaky Roof Meadery, located in Buffalo, Missouri. Made with wildflower honey, it tasted light and refreshing; a perfect accompaniment to my hearty lamb sliders.
Carrie ordered a cup of vegan hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, a great way to warm up on a cold winter’s afternoon.Check out that steam! To find out when the kitchen at Bookhouse is open, click here. But by eating at home, you’d be missing out on an essential component of the Bookhouse experience: community. There’s a palpable energy here, with people coming in for many different purposes: to watch a movie, eat a meal, grab drinks with a friend, or meet with a special group, like Joplin Board Games Meetup, or The Bookhouse Book Club.
Or, like me, to find a comfortable spot to write. To create. To be.
The reasons that people are drawn to Bookhouse may be diverse, but the outcome is always the same: connection. Kudos to the Cranes for creating an inviting space – a gathering place – for the Joplin community.
Bookhouse Cinema is located at 715 East Broadway Street. To view its website, click here, and to follow it on Facebook, click here.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.