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Proposed theater promises showdown

A showdown over a proposed movie theater project is brewing for Tuesday’s Selma City Council meeting.

The first indications of this tug-of-war surfaced Thursday during a city council work session after employees of the Selma Community Development Department presented the issue. A discussion of the issue is on the agenda Tuesday when the city council meets again. The council meets Tuesday at noon to certify election results from last week’s run-off for council president and Ward 4 member. The regular council meeting will follow immediately.

Ward 1 Councilman Cecil Williamson called it a “real sweetheart deal.”

Here’s how the movie proposal works: Gaither Ventures of Atlanta will come in with two movies and an IMAX theater in the old Goody’s location in the Selma Mall. But the city would impose a $1 per ticket tax and enter into an agreement with Gaither to subsidize the venture each year for a yet undetermined number of years which would service all the debt on an estimated $1.5 million investment.

“How many other local businesses does the city subsidize at any amount?” Williamson asked.

Councilwoman Jean Martin said the move “came as a total surprise. It had not been mentioned.”

Martin said she didn’t know anything about the theater project other than a similar proposal in the $11,747,421 bond issue that failed last year.

Estimates from the city’s brochure on the bond issue saw a proposed movie theater coming in at $2 million.

At the time of the bond issue, council members Johnnie Leashore, Bennie Ruth Crenshaw and Jannie Venter supported the entire package that included the movie theater.

Martin raised some questions about how the financial project would work specifically, but received no answers.

“They were hesitant to give much information,” she said.