The cinematic void in Jackson

Published: May. 3, 2013 at 3:55 PM CDT|Updated: May. 14, 2013 at 5:07 PM CDT
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Downtown Jackson in the 1950s Source: MDAH
Downtown Jackson in the 1950s Source: MDAH
Downtown Jackson in the 1930s Source: MDAH
Downtown Jackson in the 1930s Source: MDAH
Capri Theater
Capri Theater
Capri Theater - Inside
Capri Theater - Inside

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - The summer movie season is underway with the opening of Iron Man 3. Other movies like Star Trek into Darkness, Man of Steel, and The Lone Ranger will be hitting the big screen before the end of July. While the Jackson area has many movie screens, you won't find one in the city of Jackson.

At the turn of the century, the city of Jackson covered 105 square miles and had slightly more than 184,000 residents. Any of those residents who wanted to see a movie in a theater had to drive to one of the city's suburbs. No movie theaters have existed inside the city of Jackson since the late 1990s.

Delta State University history professor Jerry Dallas, a Jackson native, wrote a research paper on "Movie Theaters in Twentieth-Century Jackson, Mississippi." In this study he noted that 60 years earlier, when the city covered 28 square miles and had a population of less than 100,000, Jackson had more than a dozen movie houses. Many of the old movie houses were along Capitol Street.

In his study, Dallas noted that going to the movies in those days was as much about the theater building as the film presented in it. Old theaters like the Century, Paramount, Majestic, and Alamo, became downtown Jackson landmarks.

The Alamo Theater is still standing at 333 North Farish Street, it's third location. It was restored to it's Art Deco style, marquee and vertical sign. It hosts all forms of music, dance and theatre.

In the 1970s, multi screen theaters came to Jackson; most notably, the Meadowbrook 6 and the Metrocenter 4.

The Meadowbrook closed its doors in 1996, but reopened almost two years later under new ownership. It didn't last long, and disappeared, along with the Metrocenter theater, before the turn of the century. With more people watching movies at home, the big screens aren't missed as much.

The Metrocenter building is no longer standing, while the old Meadowbrook is now retail space. All of the current multi-screen theaters are located outside the city.

The Mayor's office has been working to attract a movie theater to the capital city. The Jackson Economic Development Office has been talking with a movie consultant about a new 14-18 screen theatre, but no locations have been discussed.

"The District at Eastover," a $150 million mixed-use development on the old Mississippi School for the Blind site, may have a movie theater, as wells as a hotel, several restaurants and residential and office space. However, that development will be built in phases, and the first building isn't expected until mid 2014. No tenants have been announced.

Jackson Attorney Jason Watkins plans to reopen the Pix/Capri Theater. That theater was built in 1939 and operated through most of the 1950s. It closed in 1957, but reopened in 1965 as the Capri Theatre.

However, competition from multi-screen theaters in the metro Jackson area forced it to rely on second run movies by the late 1970s. It became an adult theater by the early 1980s and closed in 1985.

Watkins announced plans in May 2012 to renovate the building and turn it into a 200-seat dinner theater. You could enjoy a meal as well as watch a movie. The plan also calls for two 60-seat screens to be built behind the building.

"It's just a whole dining movie experience, first run movies, but it's also a funky kind of deal for the arts crowd. We expect to have independent films, art films, things of that nature as well," said Watkins when the project was announced.

This $5-$10 million project is expected to break ground sometime this year, and take 9 months to complete.

For now, if you want the smell of popcorn, a tall drink and your movie on a big screen, you'll have to make a short drive to Ridgeland, Madison, Pearl or Clinton. Or you can wait for the DVD or Pay-Per-View, and watch it in your living room.

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