SEARCY, Ark. (KTHV) — City leaders in Searcy signed off on taking over management of the landmark Rialto Theater just off the city's downtown square.
“This movie theater was built in 1924,” Mayor David Morris, who called the special meeting Friday morning before the city council went away for Christmas, said. “It's been in continuing operation since that date.”
Searcy has owned the Rialto for several years, but they have had a family business manage it. But that family is moving on, so after requesting bids, the city figured it could run the theater the same way they run public parks and swimming pools.
Turns out they had they had the needed staff already on hand.
“We're going to replace them with a higher quality speaker,” Steven Gifford, who by day is the city's I.T. manager, but has been moonlighting at movie theaters his whole life, said.
He has big plans now that he's overseeing the renovations inside the 300-seat theater.
“They've got a beautiful old style gold tracing, so we'll make that look more to the era.”
There will be some modern conveniences, but a watchful eye kept on the past.
“We're trying to keep as much historically correct as we can in the theater,” Gifford said as he surveyed the walls and ceilings. “The roof and the molding around the outside are actually the old pressed tin.”
That attention to the vintage style is how the city plans to turn the movie theater into a money-maker. It will also be a “second-run” theater, meaning they don't have to worry about high dollar movies fresh out of Hollywood. They can bring movies around months after their opening, but before they hit cable or Redbox.
“The good thing about this is it's budget-priced, family oriented, family-type movies and we're going to continue that,” Mayor Morris said. “You can have a good evening, a good entertainment at a reasonable price.”
The biggest expense is expected to be the new digital projection and sound system.
The Mayor hopes to have the first film on the screen by mid-January.
And Gifford plans to lean on outgoing theater manager Victor Weber, who had been working at the Rialto since 1994.