Community needs a safe movie theater

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The city's decision to close the Malco Trio Cinema over a laundry list of code violations is generating some heated opposition. The shutdown caught most of us off-guard, though it really should come as no great surprise.

During a recent public hearing concerning a tax proposal to fund improvements at the Malco, a representative of the company acknowledged openly that the Malco was a "dump" in need of substantial repair.

Those words are now coming back to haunt the movie theater.

But at the same time, the Malco firm may have a valid argument that the city used massive overkill to address problems that were solvable.

The Malco points out that the city took drastic actions when additional dialogue between the firm and the city could well have resolved the issue. And the Malco questions whether other buildings in Sikeston are being held to the same code standard.

The Malco is perfectly right in asking the questions. And the city is perfectly right in demanding health and safety issues be addressed immediately.

Though both sides in this issue can claim the "right" position, the true losers in this brouhaha are the citizens of Sikeston who want, need and clearly deserve a movie theater in this community.

There are few if any residents in Sikeston who are old enough to remember when Sikeston did not have a movie theater. This entertainment outlet has been an important piece of this community's fabric for as long as anyone can remember.

Here's the core of the problem. The Malco is first and foremost a business. It needs revenues and profits to continue to open its doors.

Over the years, our city has changed. Population has declined. Movie attendance has also declined. And a company - any company - is hard-pressed to put substantial revenues into a business that is in decline.

At the same time, the movie entertainment business in Cape Girardeau is booming. The lure of a modern, clean, up-to-date facility in Cape has attracted countless Sikeston residents. That adds to the Malco decline.

So the Malco joined with the shopping center owners to propose an additional sales tax for that shopping area to help fund improvements, notably improvements to the Malco facility.

But public opposition to the proposed tax was substantial and the idea was shelved. That set the stage for the closure.

It's our understanding that the Malco is currently addressing the code issues highlighted by the city. But I suspect that will not be the end of the Malco saga.

There's talk of another theater chain coming to Sikeston but, at this point, it's merely talk. And the Malco holds all of the cards because if they make the improvements, they will remain here and no other chain will knock on our door.

Regardless of how this shakes out, Sikeston must have a theater that is safe and that provides a pleasant entertainment experience for our residents and those who visit our community.

If it takes increased cooperation on the part of the city and the Malco, then by all means, let's work together and let's do it soon.

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