( Staff photo by Lecia Forester)
The AMC Kennett One, formerly known as the Palace Theater and the Kennett Theater is indeed closing, in the midst of rumors which have circulated over the past few weeks. The closing date will be at the close of business on Sunday, Nov. 28. The last movie that will play on the big screen is the one that is playing now, "Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, part one.
Justin Scott, director of Public Relations, for AMC Theaters based out of Kansas City, Mo., says, "AMC continually upgrades the quality of our theater circuit by adding new screens and by disposing of older screens through closures and sales. We do, however, look at our theaters on an individual basis, Unfortunately, the AMC Kennett One has be identified as a theater that no longer competes effectively in the marketplace and will close at the end of business on Nov. 28."
It will be hard to imagine a Kennett without a movie theater, as the Palace, as it once was called, has been a familiar landmark located on First Street in Kennett since the early days of the 1900's.
According to reports, from the Web site, http://www.americantowns.com/mo/kennett/..., it has even served as a meeting place for the First Baptist Church when that church was destroyed by fire November 16, 1916. Services were held in the Palace Theater as well as the Dunklin County Courthouse until March of 1917.
According to Jack Astrachan, long-time resident and former owner of James Kahn's Department Store, when he got out of the Army in 1946 and came back to Kennett, the Palace was owned by the Vandiver family. At that time, as in nearly every small town, there was a movie theater. Kennett even had another one known as the Ritz.
Others in the area included the following:
* Senath-The Richmond;
* Hayti-The Joy;
* Caruthersville-The Gem and the Rogers;
* Portageville-The Shannon;
* Rector, Ark.-The Ford;
* Piggott, Ark.-The Carolyn;
* Malden-The Liberty;
Also, included in the line-up were two drive-in theaters, Tommie's Drive-in which could accommodate 300 cars and the Holcomb Drive-In on Highway 25 that could accommodate 200 cars.
Now, with the changing times, all of those movie theaters are now gone and the last remaining one will close its doors Thanksgiving weekend.
According to Astrachan, the Vandiver family retained ownership of the theater until the early 1980's and somewhere around 1982 or 1983, it was sold to Kerasotes Theaters. At that time the theater was re-named the Kennett Theater and was remodeled and updated. It boasted of Dolby sound, assistive listening devices and was handicapped enabled.
Although it was only a single screen, the capacity inside the theater was 576 people.
At this time under Kerasotes, the theater seemed to be doing very well, according to a letter in 1994 from former Kennett Mayor, Charles B. Brown. In part, according to the letter, it says, that Kerasotes was pleased with the operation in Kennett and was even considering plans for expansion.
Whatever the reasons were, the Kennett Theater was then sold to AMC Theaters , according to Manager Sheila Durk, sometime in April of this year and the day to day operation was taken over in May.
Residents of Kennett will now have to travel to some of the surrounding areas to see a movie. The nearest towns that still have a movie theater are Paragould, Sikeston, Dexter and Blytheville.
No further information concerning the closing was available at press time.