by Robert Bell
Susan Altrui, board chair of the the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, announced this morning that the organization has sold the historic Malco Theater on Central Avenue to Rick Williams of Summit Properties.
In an email announcing the sale, Altrui said the transaction "removes all debt owed on the theater and its related property by HSDFI and places it in the hands of an individual committed to renovating the building and making it available for future public use."
No price for the sale was disclosed. I have a call in with Altrui to find out more about the deal, including how much debt the HSDFI owed prior to the sale. According to the Garland County Assessor's Office, Williams bought the property on May 14 for $385,000.
This year's Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (Oct. 11-20) will still take place at the Arlington Hotel, but organizers hope to schedule some screenings at the Malco, which was home to the festival for many years.
UPDATE: Board chair Susan Altrui tells the Times that the sale of the Malco will retire all of the debt the HSDFI owed to Arvest Bank and the Central Business Improvement District, the bulk of which — two mortgages totalling $365,000 — was owed to Arvest.
"It's tremendous for us," she said of the sale. "It releases us from a huge burden."
The organization still owes an as-yet undetermined amount to various vendors who had not been paid in full from the 2010 and 2011 documentary festivals, and it is working to ensure those vendors are made whole.
Altrui said that while they'd like to have some screenings at the Malco for this year's festival, it will depend on whether the historic building is ready for use. She added that the HSDFI will remain at the Arlington for the foreseeable future. "We like the Arlington as a venue and do not intend to move," she said. Rather, the festival will most likely take place at both venues in the near future, and will possibly expand to other locations up and down Central Avenue.
An earlier version of this story misstated the years for which some vendors had not been paid in full.