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.