New Owners of Historic Ritz Theatre Announced: Two Malvern Residents Make Purchase Possible

Staff Writer

MALVERN, AR – Two Malvern residents have given $150,000 to College of the Ouachitas (COTO) Foundation for the restricted purpose of purchasing the Historic Ritz Theatre in Downtown Malvern, Arkansas.

Ritz Theatre owners, Marty and Marla Nix, announced the closing of the theatre in January as they began their new venture as managers of the Malvern Country Club. The two had 66 combined years at the Ritz Theatre.

In March, Malvern residents, Rodney Allen, owner of Diamond State Trucking, and Dennis Nix, owner of Nix Screw Machine, and co-owners of Malvern Country Club, presented $150,000 ($75,000 each) to College of the Ouachitas Foundation. The pair designated the funds to specifically be used to purchase the Historic Ritz Theatre.

“Dennis and I knew the College would be a good steward of the funds and they would preserve the history of the building,” Rodney Allen shared. “This will be something the town and the College can be proud of and benefit from.”

While Marty and Marla enjoyed their years at the Ritz Theatre, they both knew that the time had come to move on. Donors Allen and Nix both saw the concerns the community had expressed when the doors to the Ritz Theatre closed.

Dennis Nix added, “We saw an opportunity to help the community as well as the College and preserve a very important part of Malvern’s history as a way of thanking the community for the support they have given us.”

With the $150,000 donation in hand, College of the Ouachitas Foundation purchased the Ritz Theatre on March 26, 2019. Dr. Steve Rook, COTO President, stated, “The College has lots of good things on the horizon and the purchase of the theatre is one of the greatest. It is our hope that the restorations we plan to make to the property will be the catalyst that starts a revitalization of the downtown area.”

“We are so grateful for Rodney and Dennis’ donation and to College of the Ouachitas,” Marla Nix stated. “They all have a desire to keep a piece of history alive and to keep the neon burning for Malvern.”

Dr. Rook went on to share that several grant opportunities will be available once COTO gains control of the Ritz Theater. “The College’s current plan is to return the theater to its original footprint with one open theater with a stage at the front and an open functioning balcony,” Rook commented. “The Ritz will maintain the ability to show movies but will not run a schedule of first run movies.”

“The theater will become a community performing arts center, and the College will hold special events at the theater while also making it available to community organizations and individuals. A facility such as this has been discussed in the Hot Spring County Conversations meetings, and our plan is to make it a reality.”

“Malvern is the winner here,” Marty Nix added, “I think we made the best decision for the Ritz and Malvern. This allows the Ritz to carry on.”

While Marty and Marla’s decision to close the Ritz did not come lightly, Marla says there is one thing that is certain, “there is a bright future for the Historical Ritz Theatre!”

ABOUT COLLEGE OF THE OUACHITAS

Located in Malvern, Arkansas, College of the Ouachitas is a comprehensive, public, two-year institution of higher education that provides accessible, high-value associate degrees and certificates in a quality academic environment that is focused on both student success and the economic development needs of the communities it serves. The College offers more than 60 programs of study in academic, career and technical disciplines to approximately 3,500 credit, non-credit, adult education (three sites—Hot Spring, Clark and Grant Counties) and workforce students, while serving the culturally and economically diverse populations in the five-county service area of Hot Spring, Saline, Clark, Grant and Dallas Counties. The College also partners with high schools at Arkansas Christian Academy, Avilla Christian Academy, Benton, Bismarck, Glen Rose, Magnet Cove, Malvern, Poyen, Ouachita and Sheridan to offer concurrent core courses. The College recently announced its alignment with the Arkansas State University System. Pending Higher Learning Commission review, the change could take affect January 2020.

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