I spent many happy hours during my formative years, sitting in the Ritz Theater in downtown West Point, Mississippi, slurping a soft drink and licking a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Sometimes we even watched the movie, but they were all of the “B” variety. We mostly just cut up until the usher would come down and shine his flashlight in our faces and threaten to throw us out!
My old gang and I would walk downtown and get to the theatre about 12:30 each Saturday afternoon. We wouldn’t budge until dark thirty. Our quarter investment would buy us a double feature, a cartoon, the news and a serial feature where the hero would end each episode about to be mowed down by a freight train or sawed in half by a villan. Somehow he always managed to escape and the next week he would find a whole new adventure and cliff hanging conclusion.
Now that very same old Ritz theatre is about to reopen as The Ritz Theatre and Conference Center and I can’t wait to see it again. About a year ago several of my friends and I walked by and pressed our noses against the familiar front door through which movie goers passed for at least 75 years. We could still the decades-old popcorn on the floor outside the ticket box. I’m not sure when it ceased to be a movie theater, but is was opened in the 30s as the first theatre in northeast Mississippi featuring “talking pictures.”
Work is wrapping up on the Ritz Theater and Conference Center. The first event scheduled at the venue is the Oak Hill prom on April 25, followed by a private party on May 2 featuring my high school dance band – The Torquays (I think they may have changed their name.)
The Ritz is a privately funded venture. Ritz Theatre and Conference Center LLC is a subsidiary of Southern Ionics, which is owned by Milton Sundbeck. The project to transform the dilapidated former theater into a conference center and banquet hall has been underway for about a year. The structure will also contain a restaurant operated by the owners of The Zeke Marie which will relocate on April 30.
I can’t wait to see the Ritz! Mack’s class reunion’s Saturday night party will be there on May 23, and we are looking forward to seeing the renovation and visiting with friends.
I am so excited that they are reviving the “Ritz”. Like you I have very fond memories of going to the movies there with friends. Do you remember the Royal Theater on Main Street? Of course, that became
a store many years ago. I enjoy the Deluded Diva so much, and especially enjoy it when you bring in the “hometown news.”
Of course. The Royal – hard to believe we had TWO theatres. For some reason I don’t remember going there so much. Wonder why? Maybe they didn’t carry the serial?
Thanks for getting the word out about the Ritz coming back to life. I have many good memories going to the Ritz on Saturday watching cartoons, westerns, Rocket Man (my favorite), and previews of coming attractions. Our admission for getting in was canned foods. The canned foods would help feed the needy in our area. The new restaurant next door will be called Cafe Ritz and it is the old F.W. Woolworth building. I can remember going to the F.W. Woolworth after the movie on Saturday and buying candy (malted milk balls my favorite) by the pound which was displayed in glass candy counters. When I went to the Ritz I was between 8 and 10 years old. Little did I know approximately 50 years later that I would have a part in bringing the Ritz Theatre and the F.W. Woolworth back to life. I feel honored to have a part in and be able watch these old buildings become beautiful landmarks again in our great little town West Point, Mississippi. When you enter these two buildings you will still have the old feel it had back in its prime. I can’t wait for everyone to see them both.
How are you involved in the restoration? I can’t wait to see it. I’d forgotten about Woolworth’s – remember those candy bins, looking at them longingly and thinking “when I grow up I’m gonna buy all the candy I want.”
I remember for a quarter you could get a large, fresh Butterfinger and a Coke at the Ritz. Probably got a nickel back, too. Some of my friends bought the huge dill pickles, but I always went for the chocolate.
One of the reasons I did not go to the Royal as aften as the Ritz was that my mother said I should stay on Commerce St. I never questioned why, and now it is too late.
We have been very fortunate to apply all of the painting in both buildings. We did the trim work in the new Ritz Cafe, installed the tin ceiling, installed the hardwood, and in the process of staining and finishing. We installed the hardwood on the stage and will also finish it. It really has been a pleasure to be involved in a project that holds such great memories. I was talking with Mike Smith (Grubby) today and he reminded me that F.W. Woolworth also sold little live green turtles. I am sure as time passes we will remember other little things that we have forgotten. Keep spreading the news of the Ritz coming back to life.
Oak Hill Academy had their Junior/Senior prom, (the first event), in the Ritz Theatre And Conference Center this past Saturday night April 25th. Everyone seemed to have had a great time, listening to the live band and dancing on the new dance floor. The seniors enjoyed their meal in the dining area of the soon to open Cafe Ritz, a subsidiary of Southern Ionics. The chef will be Matt Molina. If you could have only seen Commerce street Saturday night. It was lined with cars from main street all the way down to Broad street on both sides. Downtown West Point on Commerce street has not seen this much excitement, if ever, since the Ritz Theatre was showing movies on Friday and Saturday nights. Keep spreading the news of the Ritz Theatre And Conference Center and Cafe Ritz opening soon.
I can’t wait to see it! I’m coming to the Class of 64 reunion in May – think they are having a function there.
I will take lots of pictures to go on the Diva. Surely the local paper is doing something – I will check. If not, I will be glad to go a story.
Update on The Ritz Theatre And Conference Center. There has been a wedding reception, surprise birthday party, and the first Rotary Club meeting in the Ritz. The Cafe Ritz (subsidiary of Southern Ionics), has a tentative opening date the last week of May or the first week of June. The Ritz Theatre And Confernce Center is the new meeting place for the Rotary Club every Thursday. This coming Thursday at the Rotary meeting the program will cover a little history about the two buidings with old pictures of the Ritz and the old FW Woolworth building before and after. Also, demonstrating state of the art satelite, internet, sound, and video capabilities. West Point, MS is a great little town to live in and call home.
Lonnie,I would love to see those old photos. Do you know who has them? Has the West Point paper done something on the Ritz? If not, I can do something this weekend since I’m attending a class reunion there. Can’t wait to see it – I tried to get in one day when they were decorating for the Rainey wedding, but it was locked.
The Ritz is just unbelievable! It is really great. We loved seeing it and remembering old times while listening to “Elvis” and Patsy Cline. Our night there was just delightful,as we all told of our Ritz memories. WP should really be proud of this project and it should help to make downtown rock. Our 45th WPHS Reunion will hold a special place for us because of the Ritz!
So glad you enjoyed our reunion!
We had more fun than all of the others put together.
Don’t know what we will do for the 50th, it will have to be something big!
Dr. Braddock and Ms. Martha never miss our reunions, so I guess we are doing something right.
I was told the Florabama club was distroyed in the storm??
Barbara Gregg Taylor told me about your site, it is really great.
Hey – Florabama was probably damaged by storm, but they slapped it back up and it reopened the next day, I’m told. Everything around it was wiped out, but it was spared for some strange reason! Good to hear from you!