Coming soon to a theater near you

Published 10:11 pm Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Residents in Selma and the surrounding area won’t have to travel as far later this year to see a movie.

The Selma City Council has approved a resolution that would pay Gaiter Ventures of Atlanta 75 cents for every $1 tax added onto the cost of the price of a ticket. All council members voted in favor of the project except Councilwoman Susan Keith, who abstained.

Keith and her husband, Alston, once ran a movie theater in Selma. It has since closed.

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Caesar Gaiter, who is behind the venture, said the 75 cents is an incentive. He said he would not use the ticket tax money to build the four plex at the former Goody’s location in the Selma Mall.

“It’s all my funding; not public money,” Gaiter said, adding the project would cost about $1.5 million.

Alabama state law allows local governments to use taxes, such as the $1 ticket tax, to generate incentives for economic development, said Jimmy Nunn, the city’s attorney.

The incentive would work like this: Every person going into the theater would pay $1 tax on top of the ticket price. The tax cents would go into a special account for the city and used for a designated purpose. At a recent work session, council members discussed using the money for the recreation department.

Each quarter, Gaiter’s company would submit an invoice to the city for 75 cents on every ticket sold at the theater. The city would pay this 75 cents out of its general fund, based on the number of tickets sold.

“Cities have stepped up to get companies to development economically,” he said. “It wouldn’t be good business for me to go into this without a partnership. I’m asking the city to partner with me.”

Nancy Smith, a resident of Selma, spoke in favor of the incentive pay. “It is done all over the country. People find a way to help businesses come to their cities, and I think we need to do this as well.”

Gaiter Ventures began as a retail sales company. Gaiter said he was a builder of homes and commercial services. Now Gaiter Ventures owns three hair salons and a hair care supply business that generates about $3.5 million. “We’re doing quite well,” he said.

This is Gaiter’s first attempt at a movie theater. He said he was contacted by a city employee, who said Selma wanted a movie theater. Gaiter said he came to Selma and met with various interested people and the ball began rolling.

Gaiter said he expects to complete the theater by the time the May blockbusters come rolling into theaters. He promises first-runs movies at the theater. He also plans to have matinees for elementary- and middle-school-aged children as well.