Camden Crowds Stream to ‘Movies on the River' (Quality of Life | Honorable Mention, Between 5,000-20,000)
Posted 12/9/2013 12:00 am
Like any good film, there’s more to Camden’s “Movies on the River” project than what people see on the screen. Going behind the scenes of what’s brought people in Camden together shows a city that has endured hardships and continues to provide its residents with a high quality of life for a town of its size.
It hasn’t earned any Oscars, but Camden has been recognized as a 2013 Arkansas Business City of Distinction in the Quality of Life category for its “Movies on the River” series.
When International Paper closed its Camden plant in 2000, economic disaster seemed to be in reach. With leadership from Mayor Chris Claybaker’s office along with partnerships and funding from numerous federal and state agencies, a proposal was made to clean up Adams Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Camden, and redevelop the city’s riverfront with a new park and amphitheater. Voters passed an economic development tax that funded those efforts with the new Ouachita Business Center. With companies such as Lockheed Martin bringing on more employees and the timber industry staying put, the financial crunch that hit other towns of its size missed Camden.
The idea of using a river amphitheater to show movies isn’t new. Little Rock has been showing movies at its amphitheater along the Arkansas River for years. But with the nearest movie theater 32 miles away in El Dorado, the concept seemed like the best way of bringing the Camden community together for something fun at its new riverwalk.
A few novel approaches the city took with its “Movies on the River” project made the concept Camden’s own. First, the movies shown would be first-run films, summer blockbusters not yet available on cable or DVD. Another unique feature would be that boaters on the river would be able to drop anchor and watch the movie as well. One thing that wouldn’t change from other similar projects: admission for the public would be free.
The majority of the funding for “Movies on the River” comes from the city’s Advertising and Promotion (A&P) tax. Local media Radio Works and Camden News have donated the advertising.
An average of 200 people have attended each movie shown. “Movies on the River” has become an annual tradition in Camden with tentative plans for fall movies and possibly even films shown during the Christmas season.