Toby Keith / AmStar 14

Will Toby Keith Fans Mix With Multiplex Mexicans?

Toby Keith / AmStar 14
Future location of Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill and the AmStar 14 (Photo: Robert Wilonsky for Unfair Park)

The multiplex formerly known as AMC’s The Grand 24 will be born again as a movie theater, according to Robert Wilonsky at Unfair Park. AMC Theatres did not renew their lease on the property, which expired about a year ago. Approximately half the property will become a new location for the franchise operation known as Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, which promises “Live Music, Whiskey Girls, Beer in Mason Jars.” And the other half is being transformed into the AmStar 14, a multiplex theater that will be operated by a subsidiary of New Orleans-based Southern Theatres.

As it happens, a number of multiplexes owned by Southern Theatres are named “The Grand,” or variations thereof. Southern Theatres operates theaters in 19 locations with 278 screens in nine states. If the new AmStar 14 falls in line with the others, it will be all first-run and will offer “21 Plus” screenings and a customer loyalty program. The company does not offer refunds or exchanges. Their conduct policy prohibits “phone calls, texting, or emailing during the film.” (We’ll see how that’s enforced, if at all.)

AMC's The Grand 24
AMC's The Grand 24

At the time of its closure, AMC’s The Grand 24 was the closest theater to where I lived, and so I visited regularly over a period of three to four years. As I wrote at the time: “Patronage really picks up mid- to late-evening on the weekends, as dating couples, families, and groups of friends flock to the concession stand, dropping substantial bucks, and filling the auditoriums.” Considering that the patrons were 90% Latino, from my observation, “Nearby families will lose the convenience of close proximity and have to travel a few miles further, to Cinemark 17 or 10 miles further, to North Park, where they can be assimilated into the Caucasian Borg. And we lose a decent place to watch movies.” So, the prospect of a reconstructed multiplex, featuring state-of-the-art facilities, is very good news for the neighborhood.

And it should provide another marvelous opportunity for two diverse cultural groups to mix and mingle in the parking lot. Toby Keith is proud of his patriotism, and so are his fans, and I’m sure they will enjoy seeing a tidal wave of Mexicans, and Central and South Americans pouring in to enjoy the latest that Hollywood has to offer at the multiplex.

Likewise, the neighborhood teens, who liked to dress up and flirt in the hallways at the old Grand 24, will no doubt enjoy seeing the equally well-dressed country music fans sashay into a bar & grill. Perhaps the over-21 movie crowd will stop in for some “cheese freedom fries” and listen to Toby Keith sing “American Ride” or his new single, “Made in America.”

This should be interesting.

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