We have high hopes for Ritz

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It is exciting to hear that the nostalgia of a movie theater could be preserved in the form of a food court-style marketplace at the former Ritz. What’s equally exciting about it is the possibility of a new kind nightlife being brought to life in Natchez.

When the new Ritz owners Steve Campo and Mamie Henry spoke of restoring the Ritz marquee with LED bulbs, shining like a beacon in the night, the happy teenager inside of us stirred.

Many of us remember the days before COVID-19 filling an over-sized box with buttery popcorn and cup with Coca-Cola to watch the next big box office hit on a giant screen.

Imagine how cool the Ritz must have felt when it was new in the late 1930s, the place where people could go to cool off and experience the wonder of a motion picture.

Now imagine delicious smells floating into Commerce Street from the same place, beckoning to hungry passerby.

Henry and Campo said they would restore the Art Deco style façade of the building and keep original parts of the theater, such as the ticket booth and chairs, as museum pieces in the lobby. A big screen would constantly play movies or short films around tables with speakers in them while the rest of the space is used as a marketplace for area restaurants and craft makers, Henry said.

This would allow those who remember the glory days of the Ritz to reminisce as well as provide a new kind of business for the area. And if some of those businesses hosted at the Ritz stay open later, there will also be something else for families and tourists to enjoy at night.

While we know that restoring the Ritz is going to take time, we hope that in the next couple of years it will bring a new kind of nightlife in Natchez — one that teenagers or families can enjoy. One business staying open after dark could create a ripple of inspiration for other entrepreneurs to follow suit. It’s exciting to think about.