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New owner reveals strategy to upgrade Vicksburg’s only movie house

By JACK WEATHERLY

Vicksburg reminds Brock Bagby of another river city – Hannibal, Mo.

Bagby is director of programming and business development for Kansas City-based B&B Theatres.

The sense of history pervades both towns, said Bagby.

“It felt similar to us and has similar demographics,” he said of Vicksburg.

B&B built a theater near the banks of the Mississippi at Hannibal, boyhood home of Mark Twain.

Now it owns Vicksburg’s only commercial movie house, formerly the Wilcox Cinema 6, which closed Sept. 10.

(Vicksburg, of course, was the citadel that fell to U.S. Grant on July 4, 1863, along with the simultaneous defeat of Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, Pa., signaling an eventual end to the War Between the States.)

B&B bought it in October 2015 and will continue to operate it till mid- to late March and then reopen April 29 after an extensive remodeling unveiled on Monday, Bagby said.

The star of the makeover of the Vicksburg Mall 6 will be reclining leather seats, Bagby said.

The seats can be electrically adjusted to the angle the customer prefers, he said.

Another luxury point is a bar offering beer and cocktails for guests 21 and older, he said.

Maybe those amenities – along with new carpeting, restroom upgrades and a self-service softdrink station – will enhance the chances of success for B&B.

The city of about 24,000 has had a tough time keeping a theater open in recent years. The theater that Wilcox Theatres had run since 2008 had been dark for two years before that, according to The Vicksburg Post.

Wilcox was founded in 2007 and had two theaters, one in Bastrop, La., the other in LaPlace, La. The Wilcox website is disabled.

B&B, with 50 theaters and 406 screens, is the ninth-largest movie chain in the country.

It has a long history.

It is a story of two families. According to the B&B website:

In 1924, Elmer Bills bought the Lyric Theater in Salisbury, Mo. and married the woman who played the piano for silent films.

Sterling Bagby went to work for Bills as a concessions clerk at age 10 in 1936.

After serving in World War II, Bagby returned to Missouri and married a ticket seller, with whom he started the Bagby Traveling Picture Show, a portable movie theater with seats, snack bar, film and projectors, showing movies in parks, barns and schools.

Their company evolved into a Kansas City-based circuit of drive-ins and indoor theaters.

The two companies merged in 1980. In 2014, B&B bought Dickinson Theatres of Kansas City, adding 15 movie houses.

The revamped theater “is going to be a whole new experience for Vicksburg and the surrounding area,” said Michael Carlisle, general manager of the Vicksburg Mall.

B&B’s Bagby says he wants the movie house to be running smoothly in anticipation of the summer blockbusters.

And one of those hot-weather flicks has a title that might sound familiar in Vicksburg.

It’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

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