Enjoy the picture show at the Ritz Civic Center!

Friday, September 8, 2017

For the first time since the late 1970s, the Ritz Civic Center will be regularly showing movies. These showings started this past Thursday and will continue with a new movie every month.

A theatre has existed at the Ritz’s location since the early 1920s. In 1923 there was a major fire and it was rebuilt and reopened. It was eventually purchased by a private individual who owned several theatre’s at the time. In time it began to show movies and in the 1950s was remodeled and could seat around 1,200 people.

“It was the finest movie house between Memphis and St. Louis. Those were its glory days,” David Lyttle, Executive Director of the Arts Council of Mississippi County, said.

The theatre was closed in the late 1970s and the city decided to buy it and refurbish the theatre for live show productions. It was renamed the Ritz Civic Center and has been active since the early 1980s. The theatre has been doing almost exclusively live events since then.

“I’ve had some people come to me and ask ‘Is there any way the Ritz could show movies?’ and I’ve found us a source. All the movies available are faith based family friendly films,” Lyttle said.

Each and every month, the movies will be shown during a three-day period. Each month’s film will be different, but they will all be family friendly films. The films will be shown on different days of the week until it is decided which days the public supports the most. Tickets may be purchased for five dollars.

The Ritz also recently purchased a new blue ray capable projector to improve the image quality of movies shown.

The first film shown is titled “94 Feet” and is about a rural town that relies heavily on the mining industry. However, the mining company announces that they intend to cut back on their workforce.

“Some good character development is in it, not actors that you really know by name, but you may some day…I previewed it last night and it’s a good story,” Lyttle said.

Lyttle said that everything that happens at the Ritz is family friendly and will continue to be that way with these movies. The Ritz, being a city owned building that falls under the Parks and Recreation Department, must maintain the guidelines for public behavior that are set by the department.

Lyttle said that if private groups would like to schedule a private showing of a certain film that it could be possible, but said groups would need to pay for the licensing fees to have the film shown at the Ritz.

Next month’s film is entitled “The Accidental Missionary” and is a story of a husband and wife who are having a difficult relationship. The couple flies a private plane to try a getaway for themselves and an accident occurs on the way.

During the months of November and December, they will be showing two different Christmas themed films.

“We definitely want to keep our identity as a live performance venue, but we also know that there is a vacuum in Blytheville for people who just want to see a decent movie some time,” Lyttle said.

gwilliams@blythevillecourier.com