A local cinema owner wants to bring bit-city amenities to Cabot, but many people there say the change would not be good for their town.
The Silver Screen Cinemas 8 is in the beginning stages of applying for a private club license to allow it to serve beer and wine.
Matt Smith, who owns the theater, said Tuesday that he is reacting to demand from his customers, many of whom frequently drive from Cabot to the Riverdale 10 VIP Cinema—which he also owns—because they prefer the experience there. “People have been asking for a long time,” Smith said, “because we’ve been serving alcohol in—well, beer and wine—in the Little Rock location for over 10 years.”
Smith, who also owns a theater in Hot Springs that serves alcohol and one in Searcy that does not, said selling beer and wine is part of a much larger upgrade to the Silver Screen 8. The project began with a renovation around four years ago, and included an expanded food menu and electronic, reclining, stadium seats. The last of the theater improvements was completed in time for this year’s summer blockbuster season.
Approval to sell up to two glasses of beer and wine to movie-goers would complete the process.
“All I’ve heard is positive responses,” Smith said. “If someone has something else to say about it, it would certainly be easy to call or send us an email. And no one has done that.”
But they are talking online. John Chism wrote a critical post Monday night on Facebook, calling the application, “ignorance.” His remark led to dozens of comments, both for and against allowing beer and wine at the theater. One critic said, “I don’t go there now especially since they went to reserve seating I definitely won’t go if they start selling alcohol it’s just that is not the place for it.”
Another woman responded that the idea is ridiculous. “We drop our kids off there to watch a movie,” she wrote. “Im against alcohol and kids mixed! Guranteed many others are to [sic]. Will hurt business I would think.”
“Honestly, I did not know there was any controversy at all,’ Smith said. “I still don’t believe there’s any controversy! It’s like I said, no one has said anything to us about it.”
Smith claimed that there has never been a problem because of alcohol sales at his theaters in Little Rock or Hot Springs. He does not expect any problems would arise in Cabot, either. “It’s not a bar,” he stated. “It’s not a live music venue. It’s not a festival. It’s a movie theater.
“No one goes to a movie cinema specifically to drink. I mean, that’s not what they do. The beverage is an accompaniment to the movie experience.”
Smith said his ten years of positive experience in Little Rock and Hot Springs should be enough to convince people in Cabot that he will ensure the safety and fun of anyone who wants to visit the Silver Screen 8.
“And we’ve been in business in Cabot for 21 years,” he added. “I mean, we’re good corporate citizens of the community. We opened in 1997. We’ve had the same manager there for 15 years.”
The Cabot City Council will debate the license request at its next meeting on Monday, June 18. The Arkansas Alcohol and Beverage Control Board must give the final approval. Because of that, Smith could not say when the theater might be able to start serving.