Pell City still hoping to get movie theater
by David Atchison
PELL CITY — Mayor Joe Funderburg said he is reaching out to bring a movie theater to the city.

“We’re going to do everything we can to put a theater here,” Funderburg said.

He said one day this week he spent 3 hours contacting various corporations that build movie theaters.

“We’re trying to make things happen, what people are asking for,” Funderburg said.

He said one of the things Pell City residents are asking about is entertainment, particularly a new movie theater.

Funderburg said he contacted six to seven companies about the possibility of a movie theater coming to Pell City.

“The general consensus, they need a population of 100,000,” he said.

Funderburg said there are enough people in St. Clair County and the surrounding areas to support a modern-day movie theater.

He said there are about 82,000 people in St. Clair County alone and a movie theater would pull people from neighboring cities and counties.

“This is virgin territory for someone,” Funderburg said. “We have to do a better job selling Pell City.”

The city came close to getting a movie theater, but a sudden downturn in the economic climate derailed the business for the city.

“We’re on hold right now until something shakes loose,” said Marty L. Felts, CEO for NAOS Entertainment of Greenville. “We’re not able to fund it at this point.”

Felts said he has not been contacted recently by the city about the possibility of a movie theater.

“It’s possible he’s (Funderburg) talking to different people,” Felts said. “I will reach out to them (the city).”

He said NAOS Entertainment still owns the property on Vaughan Road in the Bankhead Marketplace commercial development, across from Home Depot.

An agreement was struck between NAOS and the city in 2007, with the Pell City Commercial Development Authority buying the proposed movie theater site for $632,996 plus closing costs.

NAOS paid the Pell City Commercial Development Authority its 36-month capital lease in full, or the amount the CDA paid for the property. At the end of the 36-month capital lease, NAOS has the option to purchase the property from the CDA for $100.

In 2010, former city attorney Kyle Barrentine said NAOS had until Aug. 13, 2010, to open the proposed movie theater, or the company could be forced to reimburse the city for the site work completed on the commercial property.

“The city would be entitled to seek reimbursement,” Barrentine said at the time. “The amount of the site work is substantial.”

He said more than $100,000 was spent on preparing the site for a movie theater.

Felts said NAOS had close to $1 million invested in the property, and were not just going to walk away.

Plans were to build a $7.5 million theater with eight screens. The theater was proposed to have digital sound, 3-D technology and stadium seating with 12-inch risers.

Each theater was expected to seat 160-250 people, according to plans presented to the city in 2007.

“Most communities the size of Pell City have some sort of entertainment like this. Hey, I like to go to a movie every now and then,” Funderburg said. “I don’t want to get everyone’s hopes up about a new theater, but we’re going to do everything we can (to bring a movie theater to Pell City).”

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© 2013