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Thursday, June 28, 2001

Survival harder for single-screen theaters

From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Thursday, June 28, 2001 -- Multi-screen theaters have become the dominant force in the movie business over the past two decades, leaving the old single screen movie houses in jeopardy.

Now, efforts have begun around the country to protect the remaining single screen theaters, many of which date back 50 years or more.

In Baltimore this week, the National Trust for Historic Preservation cited the 62-year-old Senator Theater when it put the nation's historic movie theaters on its annual list of America's Most Endangered Historic Places.

The Senator - already on the National Register of Historic Places - won't receive any specific assistance, financial or otherwise, from the trust.

But leaders of the nonprofit organization hope that by recognizing such theaters as endangered, they can foster a dialogue between independent theater owners and film distributors more likely to give first crack at their movies to the large corporations running multiplexes.

"The problem is the distribution system in the movie industry. The distribution is vertically integrated," Richard Moe, chairman of the trust, said Monday. "The multiplexes have a direct relationship with the distributors and often with the producers of these films."

Locally, the State Theater in Pecos was just reopened a year ago, after being closed for a decade after its former owner, United Artists Theaters, shut down all of its single screen movie houses in Texas. New owner Richard Creasy said the one thing everyone - athletes to movie distributors- need is a booking agent, which can determine success or failure in the business.

Creasy said his booking agency saves him time and money, making it easier for him to choose the movies that come to Pecos.

"The amount of money that I spend on their services saves me money that I would spend if I tried to book my own shows," Creasy said. "Going through a booking agent makes the difference."

Through his booking agent, Creasy receives summaries of the new releases with remarks on that particular movie. The booking agents will go and review the movies. They will then ask around and see what other people think.

"It is what they do for a living," Creasy said. "I don't want to spend my time being a booking agent."

Single screen theaters have been in sharp decline in recent years. Moe estimates there are 300 to 400 independent movie theaters left in the nation.

Even fewer of those are still showing first-run movies, said the trust's Kennedy Smith. That dwindling number includes the Grand Lake in Oakland, Calif., the Fox Theatre in Atlanta and the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Other remaining movie palaces, such as the Uptown in Washington, are owned by theater chains, ensuring a steady diet of first-run features but the Uptown itself has less than spectacular upkeep, Smith said.

Many others have not been as lucky, converting into discount houses or performing arts centers, or closing outright, Smith said.

Creasy said he has not had any problems getting big movies shown at the State, which was built just following World War II.

Within his first seven weeks of opening, Creasy said that he was able to get movies from Warner Brothers, Fox, Paramount and other distributors.

"Getting 10 percent of the Pecos population here is a good deal," Creasy said.

With Pecos being a small town Creasy also said that it is important to know what is going on with certain movies.

"Booking agents keep up with what goes on in the movies," Creasy said. "I am getting and playing movies that people here want to see."

Not only must he know about the movies he is bringing in but Creasy must also be aware of his audience.

"The majority of the people who come to the movies are students and teenagers," Creasy said. "The teenage market enjoys action and music. They liked Save the Last Dance because of the music and with the Mummy Returns they talked about the Rock."

Creasy also said that the movie business was not a quick rich business but rather a labor of love.

"I'm not a rancher, farmer or cantaloupe grower. I am an entertainer. It is what I know and that is the reason for the success of this business."

This weekend Creasy will be hosting Shrek with show times at 6:45 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.

The Senator's owner, Tom Kiefaber, has been able to keep the theater afloat largely because the distribution arms of two studios - Paramount and Dreamworks - have been willing to go over the heads of exhibition chains and place their movies there.

As a result, he was unable to book "Pearl Harbor" into his theater this spring, which went instead to a multiplex theater in nearby Towson, Md.

Kiefaber ended up with the computer-animated "Shrek," from Dreamworks, as his offering from mid-May through June. "Shrek" is a huge hit at the box office, but Kiefaber said his battle to show "Pearl Harbor" was about more than ticket sales.

"It was about the right to show `Pearl Harbor,"' Kiefaber said. "We were fighting because of the quintessential absurdity of the situation."

County files suit over fee dispute on RCDC project

Staff Writer
PECOS, Thursday, June 28, 2001 -- Reeves County has filed a lawsuit against the construction company that was in charge of the Reeves County Detention Center II project.

"The project came in late, we had to keep the architect for a longer period of time and we deserve credit for work that they should have done, but didn't and Reeves County did it," said Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

Attorney Bill Weinacht, who represents Reeves County in issues relating to the prison, filed the lawsuit against Banes General Contractors in 143rd District Court on behalf of the county. A firm out of Dallas, Ford, White and Nassen is assisting Weinacht.

The decision to follow through on the lawsuit came after a lengthy meeting held behind closed doors by the Reeves County Commissioners Court on Monday. Commissioners met in executive session to discuss the issue and decide which course of action to take.

Galindo said that the project was supposed to have been completed in September of last year, but instead was finished in December. "It was substantially completed three months later," said Galindo.

Reeves County is seeking compensation for having to keep the architect longer, credits and liquidated damages. The county is still holding the final $1.1 million payment owed to Banes under the contract, until the dispute is settled.

In their lawsuit, Reeves County claims that the contract between Reeves County and Banes contained a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) of $23,115,197.20.

During the course of completing work on the 1,000-bed expansion Banes and the county got into a dispute in which the company believes that it is entitled to an adjustment to the GMP. The request for an adjustment was reviewed by both the architect for the project (Lorraine Dailey) and Reeves County, and they determined that the adjustment is not supported or warranted.

Galindo cited several issues that Banes had defaulted on, including some cement that had been laid out at the facility. "Frank Spencer (county engineer) went out and inspected and found a deficiency and advised us to deduct $40,000, because they didn't do it right," said Galindo.

In the parking lot, there had been a change order, and Galindo said the work came in $50,000 under-budget. He said when they start to add things up Banes ends up owing the county money.

"There are some punch list items that still need to be taken care of out there," he said. "It makes operations at the facility very difficult without the work being complete."

"They haven't finished at the prison and they still haven't finished the racquetball courts," said Galindo, referring to the building next to the old Pecos High School gym, which is to be part of the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department. Work on the building was first begun in May 2000, but no work has been done at the site for the past several months.

Overall, there are three projects that Banes has not completed, according to Galindo. They haven't finished the RCDC II project punch list, the support services building and the racquetball court, said Galindo.

The lawsuit states that as a result of its denial of Banes request for an adjustment to the GMP, Banes filed a demand for arbitration on May 10 with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) claiming that it was entitled to have its dispute with Reeves County decided pursuant to the arbitration provision in the contract. On May 25, Reeves County responded to the AAA notification of Banes' demand through counsel, for the limited purpose of challenging the jurisdiction of the association to hear this dispute.

Banes has attempted to submit the dispute between it and Reeves County to the AAA for arbitration, in spite of the fact that arbitration has clearly been removed as an option under the terms of the contract, the county's suit states.

The suit goes on to say that the county's legal action arises directly from Banes' refusal to acknowledge that arbitration is not an option for resolving any claim or dispute under the contract. The arbitration provision was clearly removed from the contract and Banes should not now be allowed to argue that arbitration is available to resolve this dispute.

Reeves County is planning another 960-bed addition to the facility, RCDC III project, and has been in negotiations with a contracting firm out of Mississippi to do the project. On Monday, commissioners opted to table any action on professional services contract between the county and Carothers Construction and professional services contract between Reeves County and Spencer and Associates for the RCDC III project. The action came following the executive session.

Task force busts trio in Andrews coke sting

Staff Writer
PECOS, Thursday, June 28, 2001 -- The Trans-Pecos Drug Task Force concluded a two-month investigation with the arrest of three Amarillo residents last night in Andrews County.

The Task Force, in conjunction with the Andrews County Sheriff's Office and the Andrews Police Department, conducted a sting operation at 10:30 p.m., last night in the parking lot of a Town & Country Convenience store on U.S. 385 in Andrews.

Ezequiel Ortega Bandera, 42, Peggy Sanders Bolton, 66, and Robert Anthony Drexler, 49, all of Amarillo, were arrested and charged with possession of 2.2 pounds of cocaine.

Bolton was also charged with another count of possession of a controlled substance under one gram.

Assistant Commander of the Task Force Larry Arredondo said that the law enforcement agencies seized approximately $4,500 in U.S. currency as well as a 2000 model 400 four-wheel drive dirt bike and a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver in a case.

Arredondo said that the four-wheel dirt bike and .357 revolver were "part of the transaction."

He said that he was conducting an undercover investigation on Bandera.

"The deal started Amarillo and it ended in Andrews County," he said.

The three are being held in Andrews County on $15,000 bond each with an additional bond set at $10,000 for Bolton.

Most of top-ranked cowboys scheduled to appear at rodeo

Staff Writer
PECOS, Thursday, June 28, 2001 -- The Town of Pecos City continues to host some of the world's top cowboys during the West of the Pecos Rodeo.

Rodeo Committee President Brenda McKinney said that there are quite a few defending world's champion and current nationally ranked cowboys entered in this year's rodeo events, which begin next week at the Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena.

Among those entered are the reigning world champions Fred Whitfield (calf roping), Speed Williams (team roping-heading), Rich Skelton (team roping-heeling), Billy Etbauer (saddle bronc riding), Cody Hancock (bull riding) and Guy Allen (steer roping).

In addition the current top three money winners for the All Around Cowboy title on the national circuit, Jesse Bail, Trevor Brazile and Scott Johnston, are scheduled to participate in the West of the Pecos Rodeo. Bail is a saddle bronc and bull rider, Brazile is a roper and Johnston is among the current leaders in saddle bronc and bearback riding.

Also competing in this year's rodeo are two local women, Charlene Martinez and Lisa Fernandes, who are entered in barrel racing.

McKinney said that about 600 participants overall entered this year's rodeo in efforts to receive that sought out prize money and titles.

She said that the rodeo committee expected about the same number of participants as last year but unfortunately the number of entries dropped.

"We're probably down (in numbers) by little over 100," she said.

McKinney said that she believes the number of participants dropped because of the recent high cost in gas.

She said that many cowboys have to drive down to Pecos to compete and sometimes drive on to other rodeos before coming back to Pecos for finals.

"In think the price of gas is what hurt us," she said.

Even though the total number of cowboys and cowgirls participating in this year's rodeo is down, the West of the Pecos continues to draw those top cowboys.

McKinney said that those cowboys continue to come back to Pecos to compete because of the amount of prize money given each year.

For the 2000 season, the West of the Pecos Rodeo is ranked 18th of the top 50 highest paying PRCA rodeos behind such rodeos as the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas and rodeos in San Antonio and Fort Worth.

The West of the Pecos also ranks higher than rodeos in El Paso, Austin, Albuquerque, Waco and Odessa. Overall, it is ranked fourth among Texas rodeos, behind only Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio in terms of prize money, and is the largest outdoor rodeo annually in the state.

McKinney said that she and the rodeo committee are proud that Pecos is able to rank so high.

"That's quite an accomplishment," she said. "The town should be proud of that."

Community members should begin to see more cowboys in town this weekend, according to McKinney.

Steer roping slack begins at 7:30 a.m., on Monday morning with calf roping, steer wrestling and team roping scheduled for later that night.

McKinney said that she enjoys the fact that so many cowboys come back to the West of the Pecos each year and hopes to see them continue to do so in the future.

"It's very rewarding being on the committee, knowing that we put on such a good rodeo that the top cowboys want to come to," she said.

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