Picayune’s only ‘picture show’ closes

Published 1:52 am Friday, November 27, 2009

Picayune’s only movie theater, River Ridge on Cooper Road, closed last week.

Picayune at one time sported two theaters, the Ritz and the Pic, and a drive-in movie at Pine Hill, but the economy and changing times have left the city without a movie house.

Local land developer Carle Cooper, who owns the building and equipment, said Steve Moss of Slidell was leasing the property but his inability to get first-run movies hurt his operation.

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Cooper said the facility is ready to go and said he is looking for someone to lease the property.

The nearest movie theaters now are in Gulfport-Biloxi, Bogalusa, La., and Slidell, La. Most people here who want to “go to the movies” travel to the large theaters in Slidell, about 20 miles south of Picayune.

“Somebody could go in there and start it up immediately because the equipment is still operational,” said Cooper.

Moss has other theaters in Florida and Louisiana.

Cooper said the closure had nothing to do with the new road being put in nearby to the proposed new Highland Community Hospital. “That will not affect us,” he said.

Cooper said if anybody wants to lease the property, they can do so my calling him at 798-5542.

River Ridge is the second major business to close here in the past three months. Earlier, Shony’s abruptly closed.

The economy here has, like the rest of the nation, been hit by the recession, said to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Unemployment nationwide is reported to be between 10 and 11 percent, and some experts say the real rate is about 17 percent, if you count the workers who have slipped off the unemployment rolls and still cannot find work. The state’s most recent jobless report put the state unemployment rate at 9.5 percent.

All government entities in the county here have reported a dip in tax collections, forcing the county, Picayune, Poplarville and all three school systems in the county to trim budgets and tighten up on expenses.

All three school systems took budget cuts of around a half-million-dollars each when the state trimmed its budget an across-the-board five percent to all agencies based on an order from Gov. Haley Barbour.

Poplarville school officials at a recent board meeting said that state education officials told them to expect more cuts in state funding in the next quarter.

Picayune city clerk Priscilla Daniel reported to the city council that sales tax reimbursements from the state had fallen. The State Tax Commission collects retail sales taxes throughout the state and reimburses a portion of the collections back to local cities.

During budget hearings held last August and September, Picayune city officials said they were counting on city sales taxes reimbursements to hover around $370,000 a month, but the latest reports show that the state sales tax reimbursement has fallen back to around $340,000 a month, thus placing added strain on budgets already hit hard by revenue reductions.

Pearl River County supervisors fought a tough budget battle putting together its 2010 budget during August and September, making big cuts in the library and SPCA budgets and, after tough negotiations, with the sheriff concerning his administrative and prison budget.

Supervisors later restored cuts to the library and SPCA’s animal shelter operations under pressure from supporters.

Local industries have also seen hard times but some are expecting the economy to pick up.

Last week, Scott Dubroc, operations manager with St. Tammany Box in the Picayune Industrial Park, said that his company had experienced a slow-down but that he was expecting orders to pick up next quarter.

The company employees 20 people and manufactures packaging for retail and industrial customers.