Independent's Day

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Two stories in the news focusing on the continued strength of the more than 400 independent theater owners as a force in the industry.

Friday, the Springdale Morning News in Arkansas profiled the new Blackhawk Theatre in Pea Ridge, a small but burgeoning town in the extreme northwest corner of the state.

Pea Ridge Mayor Jackie Crabtree thinks that’s a wonderful idea.

“I think it is a great opportunity he is taking. He has done a lot of work on that building,” Crabtree said.

Crabtree said Pea Ridge is a bedroom community that is growing like others in Benton County. Numerous businesses are opening up there, including several banks and fast-food outlets.

“We’re about to hit the big time. We’re about to get a McDonald’s,” Crabtree said with a laugh.

Today, the Knoxville News Sentinel takes a look at the growing number of independent theaters in East Tennessee. In addition to profiling five area independents, the story also checks in with a former independent theater owner who made it big. Really big. Mike Campbell.

Campbell started Regal Cinemas with a 50-year-old theater in Claiborne County in 1982.

“There still is a niche for independents,” Campbell said.

Regal does not have to compete with independents in too many markets, but when they do, independents can prove to be “significant competition,” Campbell said.

Movies on the Parkways’ Todd Holt believes it’s the independent owners’ connection to the local community that is their greatest strength.

Movies on the Parkway, like the rest of East Tennessee’s independent theaters, all work to create a family-friendly atmosphere. Part of that means dealing with what Holt and his staff refer to as the “Middle School Mafia,” groups of unruly patrons who often send text messages to each other during the movies or create other distractions.

Holt believes the independent theater is more capable of catering to the local crowds than the large theater chains. Instead of someone sitting in a corporate office far away, he and his staff make the decisions and rules based on community personality.

“The staff is what makes me. Without them, I would be nothing.” Holt said.