From the December 20 Chattanooga Times Free Press:

    Northwest Georgia leaders are asking the public to help identify potential sites for movies and hope to have a rough catalog of sites by the end of the year.

    In August, Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, announced that Ringgold City Councilman Randall Franks would head up effort to inventory buildings, land and other locations where Hollywood film crews could aim their lenses to bring money and fame to the area.

    “We think that could be a niche we could use,” said Sen. Mullis.

    He called movie shoots “great economic opportunities” because when crews come into an area, they eat, sleep, shoot and leave, spending money without using many services.

Senator Mullis, always on the lookout for suggestions that appear to help the economy, is now suggesting we compile a list of ideal settings for hollywood movies. Theoretically a movie production will bring in film crews with hundreds of people who all stay in local hotels, eat local food, and then promote the area through a completed film. This nicely complements Civil War Tourism, Mullis’ only other plan for reviving the region’s economy; unfortunately neither has much (or any) impact on the finances of people living and working in Northwest Georgia.

In the last decade a small number of films (mostly videos and made-for-TV movies) have been shot in the area, mostly at the Summerville train station. None of them were very big or very notable, and the average citizen of Walker or Chattooga county couldn’t name a single one if pressed to do so. The most famous bit of “film” ever produced in Northwest Georgia isn’t a film at all, but the forgettable music video for R.E.M.’s hit 1983 song “Radio Free Europe” shot at Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens in Trion.

Every film or video shot in the area has, at best, brought in dozens of crew members, not the hundreds suggested by Mullis – and even a film with a hundred-member crew would only stay in the area for a few days. Measurable economic impact would require three or four major films produced in the region each year, an impossible goal.

Instead of looking for a place to shoot movies, Mullis should be looking for a place to frigging watch some – something Walker County lacks entirely.

The economic benefits of film production pale in comparison to the economic and social benefits of having a place where people from LaFayette, Chickamauga, Trion, and Summerville could sit down and actually watch a movie filmed somewhere else. A single theater job would add more to the area’s economy in a year than a twenty-member film crew staying in the county for a single weekend, and a typical theater would need five or six employees at minimum. A theater would also give locals another place to congregate besides church, school, and Walmart.

A well-placed theater would be an economic boost in itself, but would also help surrounding businesses like restaurants and gas stations being patronized by people heading to and from the theater. Typical theater goers spend money in other businesses around the theater and tend to be younger with higher disposable income, especially compared to Civil War Tourists who tend to be older and less inclined to eat out when they tire of reading historical markers. (A theater would also be more successful to draw people in than any efforts taken by the City of LaFayette, whose efforts so far mostly consist of a $29,000 tacky Christmas lights display.)

Right now filmgoers in Walker and Chattooga must venture to Fort Oglethorpe, Chattanooga, Dalton, Calhoun, Rome, or even Dade County to catch a film, but every trip they take to another community represents a lost opportunity to help the economy at home. A theater located closer to LaFayette would make those outings more convenient and keep here money now being spent elsewhere.

At various times in the past LaFayette managed to support at least four separate movie houses, including Palace Theater on the square, Blue Sky Drive-In located across from the current post office, a segregated black theater on Chattanooga St., and a small theater that once stood in the fenced-off space between today’s Bi-Lo and Dollar General. Theater consolidation and competition from television closed those businesses one-by-one, but a single modern movie house could survive in the area if it was built in the right place and competently managed.

LaFayette’s FiSDOP’s would surely oppose a movie theater opening in town, as such a facility would surely invite teenagers who might do inappropriate things in the dark (instead of doing them in the woods behind the city pool) or might show inappropriate films now available only on small screens located inside the home. But the addition of a properly supervised movie theater might do much to reduce instances of juvenile delinquency that so annoy the city’s older residents.

We aren’t suggesting a government owned facility and desire nothing of the sort, and don’t necessarily want to encourage the development of a generic Carmike theater box. An ideal situation would be the creation of a locally operated and locally (majority at least) owned theater located outside LaFayette city limits (to avoid any conflicts with the anti-business city council) towards the south to attract theater-deprived residents of Trion and Summerville. LaFayette has several families or individuals with the resources to make such an investment, but they are notoriously tight with their money and would need to be convinced of the idea’s merit. Senator Mullis has enough influence and respect to make that argument and get the ball rolling.

Senator Mullis, who often forgets he represents areas outside the Chickamauga city limits, could better spend his time working to attract potential theater owners, operators, or investors to the area instead of wasting his time compiling lists of movie locations or taking tax-funded trips to Germany in a failed attempt to bring in Volkswagen suppliers.

If Civil War Tourism and movie production sites are the best Jeff Mullis can do to help the shrinking local economy, local voters should begin considering someone else to represent their interests in the state senate next year – and should definitely be concerned about the $240,000 four local counties dumped into Mullis’ Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority last year.

(Don’t forget to send in your vote for the Worst of Walker 2009.)

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17 comments so far

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  1. If I were the Economic Development Director, I would jump all over this theater bandwagon. OOOPs…..I forgot who the current Economic Development director is. Its just all a lost cause. If we still had a Greyhound bus stop, I’d be on the next bus out of town. I’m not sure if we even have a taxi service anymore. and now they have blocked 337 on the south side of town. wonder if they are trying to hold us prisoner here?

  2. Most of the people left are ones who have no need to leave because they’re Financially Secure (Mayor Florence, the Gilberts, etc.) or the ones who don’t have resources to move. Some middle class residents who commute to work in other places remain, but the middle class is definitely dwindling… Just wait until Roper shuts down due to the city’s refusal to work with them on utility costs.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  3. I would encourage everyone who can leave now, to leave as soon as possible. There is nothing left in town, and there will be even less in another year, and there are other areas of the country that have more opportunities than here in Northwest Georgia. I realize that not everyone has the financial means to leave, but even if you have to scrape together enough for a bus ticket from Dalton or Chattanooga and only take your suitcase you will probably be better off. Once Roper closes due to the city’s persistence on being ridiculous, there will be no middle class left in town…maybe that is how they want it to be. The upper class on one side of town, no middle class to contend with and they already ignore the lower class on the other side of the tracks. They wouldn’t have to worry about answering for their loss of profits from the dumb golf course and they wouldn’t have to bother with the pesky kids that want to use the pools or the recreation centers!

  4. If everyone jumps ship how is the town going to be any better? How about everyone who has the resources to leave, considers those who do not and decides to stay and fight for them? Oh wait, I forgot, only the strong will survive huh? How is that any better than what the “well-off” citizens of this town do? You know everyone here complaining has a voice too! Go say something about it instead of sitting on your computer complaining! I hope and believe that is the point of this site, not so everyone can get together to gripe about how crappy and doomed this town is, but to rally together to do something about it!

  5. Michelle, I believe this is to get people talking, to bring to attention and have people get involved. If you look on their facebook site, it says something about having to expose the problem before fixing it…like the doctor has to diagnose an illness before providing the cure for it, and right now there is just a lot of discussion, diagnostic work and testing that needs to be done before we can start fixing the problems. I hope that people from the city, and by name, start to get involved in the site, the discussion and either refute what is here, or start talking about what they are going to do to fix the problems presented.

    I also suggest that we start a petition for our city council that if they do not make the golf course profitable by the second half of the year, they close it and stop using it for their playground while the rest of the city falls in around them. If they are are going to pretend they are running a business, they need to do it well and make a profit, or close it down because they don’t really have any business running a business, especially a failing one, but are supposed to be improving the city. Currently the golf course loses money every year that we as tax payers have to make up for in our own utilities or with pot-holed filed roads, run down parks, cut backs in the Rec Dept., etc. I think it is time for the City council to man up and stop living like a bunch of spoiled WASPs.

  6. Michelle:
    The purpose of this site is to begin peeling back the layers of untruth and “political correctness” that keep the people of the town from seeing how bad things truly are. Once we’ve started to see what the problems are, we can rally together and begin to change things. We’re much stronger as a united group than we are all apart, and this site is a way to begin uniting to correct some of the problems we see. Most great movements begin with information, and that’s our goal – to get out information that hasn’t gotten out before.

    You said yourself in an earlier comment that “I believe it is possible, more than paossible really, that the reason these jokers keep getting re-elected is because all of this “dirt”, if you will, is unknown to most voters. I know I didn’t know any of this stuff!” Now you know. Now you have a reason to get off your computer and do something, where before you didn’t. What we’re doing here is replacing the void left by the death of journalism in this community – shining light into some dark corners where it hasn’t been shined in a long long time.

    – The LaFayette Underground

  7. In a committee meeting Friday Mullis asked the group responsible for bringing movies to GA if Hollywood needed more tax breaks. Look at http://www.peachpundit.com/2010/02/26/mullis-wants-to-mask-fee-increases/

    and more at http://www.dadeinfo.com/state-politics-and-news-f5.html

  8. That’s spectacular.
    First of all this is just another sop for the Chickamauga crowd, because any movies filmed in the area are likely to be filmed there – at least in the minds of people who live there who see their park and city as the ideal historical attraction. And it’d likely be true since most material promoting the county is 90% Chickamauga focused anyway. Mullis represents more than just Chickamauga, and more than just Walker County. Maybe it’s time to remind him of that.

    Secondly, Senator Mullis should also be asking who else needs a tax break. Small businesses need one. So do big businesses in the area, at least the manufacturers who might leave without one (Roper, Shaw, Mt. Vernon being the best examples). Nonprofits would benefit from a tax break (many pay sales tax) and could better perform their services with the financial burden lifted. And when all that is done, individuals might appreciate a cut in their taxes as well. He could cut the gas tax, since the state barely does any road work here. The state income tax could go down a percentage or two, and so could the state sales tax. The reduction in revenue would be replaced by an increase in economic activity which would lead back to… More revenue. Looking over your links it would appear Mullis plans to do the opposite, raise “fees” citizens pay to increase revenue while cutting taxes for movie productions. What a slap in the face.

    Giving movie productions tax breaks hasn’t worked for any state that’s done it so far, except for the ones that already had significant production facilities in place. NY did it and they kept some TV shows from skipping to the West Coast, Los Angeles did it and kept some productions from heading to Vancouver – but MA and PA did the same thing and didn’t get much (if any) benefit from the reductions that cost a lot of money.

    — The LaFayette Underground

  9. The answer to the cities and county problems are very simple,stop the good ol boy system of electing our officials and actually vote for what is best for our community.It is very sad that we have all these empty buildings setting around and more on the way,but for some reason no one in our goverment or “social club” seems to be able to do any thing about it.Maybe just maybe its time for a change.At least thats what I think

  10. If and when Roper shuts down, it will have an even worse economic change than when Barwick shut down. Except back then, those people had a few choices as far as finding another job. The city, if at all concerned with the local economy and the impact of an impending Roper shut down, should work with them on the utility issue. But we all know too well that the city leadership doesn’t seem to possess even an ounce of common sense. As far as the whole movie thing, I agree that less should be focused on finding movie sites for Hollywood and more should be focused on finding sites for a theater itself. Maybe the old K-Mart building….or the old Food Lion store? With all the empty buildings plaguing the city, there isn’t a shortfall of potential sites to either covert into a theater or tear down and build one. My personal opinion, and keep in mind it’s just MY opinion, is that the local churches (of which most if not all of the city leadership are members of) prevent a lot of these types of changes to take place based mainly on their argument of morals and standards. I have heard some even say a rated “R” movie in a local theater would have a snowball effect on the morals in the county. I find that laughable…..

  11. I chose not to see R movies, unless they are movies like Schindler’s List (with historical and significant meaning), because I don’t appreciate the crap in them. However, I am pretty sure that you can find just as much R rated material in the mouths and minds of many of the members children in many of the youth groups in town. Not to mention the way people live in many parts of town. I would not object to a theater that would not show rated R movies, but I would object to theater that played all PG-13/R teenage sex and thrasher movies. Alcohol and rated R movies in town are not going to bring the town to its knees in degenerate filth. We already do that ourselves, and if we cannot control our children any better than making sure they aren’t seen rated R movies, they are probably already living rated R lives.

  12. I want a theater is La Fayette that plays only violent, sadistic, and openly murderous films. Also, I would like the same theater to play Jesus flicks like the Kirk Cameron films. Just think about it! Left Behind/Natural Born Killers Double Feature! What a blockbuster! Damn KTB, you’re just as bad as the chumps in office right now. Welcome to the real world where rated R films are good and enjoyable, kids have sex in public and smoke meth, old city officials are corrupt and powerful, and people like you are lost in the biblical sauce. If anything is to be built, it has to be for EVERYONE, not just for a select few like KTB. After all KTB, isn’t that the exact thing that you’re fighting? The rich here in La Fayette want the city all for themselves as do you want a theater all for yourself (and people like you). Geez, must I point of the hypocrisy in your ways anymore?

  13. Always complained there was nothing to do in LaFayette, even when I was a teen/young adult. Would love to see Regal or some other venue come to LaFayette, I know if they have reasonable prices, people would go. “If they build it, they will come”

  14. I really, truly think that a theater in town would do well. As DJ said, the old K-Mart building is perfect. A small, 4-5 screen, first-run theater would be profitable. That location is in the middle between Chickamauga/Rock Spring and Trion/South LaFayette. Plus, as a small theater could run smoothly with 2-3 employees and a manager per shift. Have shows at around 3:00, 6:00, and 8:00 through the week (just one shift) and add a noon show on the weekends (two shifts). That’s 6-8 employees, tops. And really, a second-run theater would probably do great also, if not better. If someone built a theater up there, the former Burger King building would get bought in a heartbeat, too. It’s a win-win to me. I’d go every week!

  15. There have been some businesses interested in moving into the old K-Mart but they found that vandals have cleaned out every bit of plumbing and wiring inside. Because of the inferior law enforcement in this town a facility that might have a business inside it today sits empty and likely will for decades.

    Regal or Carmike probably won’t come here because we don’t have enough population to support an 8 or 12 screen cineplex, and that’s the only way their business model can work. We’d have to have someone local build a non-chain theater, like the Wilderness Drive-In over in Dade county or a 1/2 screen theater.. Down south of LaFayette towards Trion would draw in business from that direction, while those on the North side of town and northern Walker County would probably keep going to Fort O. and Chattanooga no matter what. If I had the time and the money…

    — The Real LU

  16. Well…. obviously you have the time :)

  17. No I really don’t… Right now I don’t even have time to do the LU site justice, we have a backlog of probably 12-15 different articles that may or may not ever be finished. And this isn’t all my life consists of. I’m stretched to the max, barely time to see a movie much less build and run a theater.

    — LU