B&B Theatres stands for Bills and Bagby, two families who both launched movie theaters and joined forces—for business and love—in 1980.
The history of B&B stretches back to 1924 when Elmer Bills, Sr., bought the Lyric Theatre in Salisbury, MO, and founded Bills Theatres. It was there that he met his future wife, Johnnie, while she played the piano along with the silent movies. Years later, their son Elmer Bills, Jr., was born into the business.
In 1936, the elder Elmer hired 10-year-old Sterling Bagby as a concession clerk. Sterling grew up, fought in World War II and came home to marry his Higbee, MO, ticket seller, Pauline. Together, they started the Bagby Traveling Picture Show and roamed rural Missouri with their films, projection equipment, seats and snack bar. The Traveling Picture Show screened movies in barns, schools and parks. Eventually, Sterling and Pauline's company evolved into a Kansas circuit of drive-in theaters and "hardtops," their nickname for indoor theaters.
Meanwhile, young Elmer Bills, Jr. had met his wife-to-be Amy when both were 13 (he lovingly refers to her as "the best popcorn girl I ever hired") and gone on to graduate from the University of Missouri in 1959. Elmer and Amy joined his parents Elmer Sr. and Johnnie and continued the expansion of Bills Theatres, Inc.
On January 1, 1980, the Bills and Bagby families cemented decades of friendship by formally joining their two theater companies into B&B Theatres. At the same time, Sterling and Pauline's son Bob, married Elmer and Amy's daughter Bridget, truly wedding their families together. After taking the B&B into the 21st century, Sterling Bagby passed away in October of 2000. Today, Pauline, Bob, Bridget, Elmer and Amy run one of the Midwest's fastest-growing theater circuits. And Bob and Bridget's children Bobbie, Brittanie and Brock (yes, they are all Bs—what else could they be named?) are the fourth generation to work for their family's chain. B&B Theatres was recognized in 1999 by the National Association of Theatre Owners as one of the oldest family-owned circuits in the Midwest.
Through the years, B&B has seen the coming of sound, color, widescreen, digital, 3D and countless small advances in stereo sound and projection. Our newest complexes offer the latest in sound and comfort, including DOLBY 7.1 Surround Sound and digital sound in all auditoriums, stadium seating, wide screens, high-back rocker chairs with cup holders and digital projectors with 3D capabilities. Our extended family now consists of over 900 employees. Today, B&B operates theaters in towns of all sizes, and we've even opened multiplex theaters in many of the same places that once were home to our old-time single-screen and twin theaters. And Elmer Bills, Jr., continues to maintain an office in Salisbury, MO, where the Lyric—the theater where his parents met—stands proudly as a town landmark.