Ear to the Ground

Regal v. Movies on the Square?

It would be hard to scotch the goodwill behind the long-awaited opening of the downtown movie theater. Downtown supporters have been working toward, advocating and begging for a modern movie theater since the first modern-day proposal for one, nearly a decade ago. To achieve that end, most are willing to overlook the building's disappointing architecture, which has a suburban-style temporariness to it.

In the last couple of weeks, word has gotten around that somebody at Regal doesn't like the fact that every fall, the public library shows movies, for free, on Market Square, around the corner from the new cineplex. Old movies, that is, six nights a year. For people who brought their own chairs. Regal reportedly wanted them to quit it.

Free outdoor movies might have seemed a risky proposition, but the idea that there would be jealous objections to it from another major attraction was hard to fathom. Showing old movies outdoors has been an international phenomenon, and Knoxville seems to be riding in the front of the wave. This past Sunday's New York Times described how the publicly sponsored outdoor movie was catching on in New York, Chicago, Paris, and London. Some cities offer rental chairs or concessions, but the movies themselves are typically free.

However, Regal didn't like it here, and the major Knoxville-based cinema chain's influence is such that downtown merchants were hearing that there might not be a Movies on the Square this year andâ"if there were, that it wouldn't happen next year.

The suggestion that Regal would scuttle Movies on the Square was such that some of the cineplex's most passionate supporters were discussing a boycott. It particularly festered, considering that the multi-million-dollar public investment in the new cinema was justified as a way to boost Market Square.

As of Tuesday, however, we're happy to report that the city, the library, and Regal have ironed things out. Movies on the Square will proceed, as usual, sometime in the first half of Septemberâ"though the precise date had yet to be determined at press time. The public will soon vote, via the library's website, knoxcounty.org/library , on what movies will be shown.

Orrggg Website!

There is a new community forum in the works prompted by scandals in county government. Brad Hill and others are launching the TakeBackKnox.org website which will have a community forum to discuss the current political situation.

Hill had a column in the News Sentinel on Saturday recruiting candidates to run for county office and urging reforms on spending and trips and the appointment of a â“Knox County fraud and waste czar.â”

The site also encourages more women to run for county offices.

At the Share Your Opinion page you can vote on people you think should run for office.

Religion Does What?

If you are going after the un-Churched, it takes a different kind of message. Evidently that's the theory behind Knoxville Life, a group that will be meeting in the new Regal Riviera movie theater downtown beginning in October.

The group's website touts offers of free Starbucks coffee, dress any way you want, and childcare. The group also notes they have to be out by 11 a.m. on Sundays in order for the movies to startâ"so they guarantee services won't last too long.

The website sympathizes with those who find regular church boring and promises an exciting service without traditional deacons, elders and church hierarchy. The website notes â“Religion sucks. Empty church rituals suck. People are hungry and searching for Godâbut not in church.â”

The group says it wants to change that. The website is Knoxlife.org .

Spending Spin

The audit of county government has been expanded to include all departments after several issues were revealed about the County Mayor's office. The mayor's office has lost three staffers in the wake of a credit card audit. We've checked around and from what we understand you shouldn't expect much when it comes to other departments. Unlike the mayor's office, most county departments have had long-time office holders and employees and pretty strict controls in place to prevent abuse.

The sheriff's office has tight clamps on credit card purchases. Former Sheriff Tim Hutchison , who often battled with local media, had tight controls on expenses. He had enough criticism from his spending on helicopters, and using drug confiscation funds to build a shooting range and jail pods.

New Sheriff Jimmy â“JJâ” Jones went so far as to get County Commission budget approval for a trip to Washington by members of the department for a service honoring fallen law enforcement officers like Keith Lyons , an assistant chief deputy killed in a car crash.

Yuppy Cuppy

Two new coffee drive-thrus are open in Knoxville, established through franchises of the Cuppy Coffee chain of Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The outlet at 4702 Western Ave., west of I-640, had its grand opening last week and is offering a free cup of coffee with every Starbucks' (or any other competitor's) receipt through the month of August, according to the corporate PR people. Owned by Phil and Vanessa Ivens , the store appeals to lovers of specialty coffees, natural fruit smoothies, pastries and other gourmet treats. The second location, on the east side of Chapman Highway, just south of the Baptist Hospital complex, had its soft opening Aug. 3 and expects its Grand Opening on Labor Day, Sept. 3. It's owned by Karen Nickell and Andrew Wentzel and is anticipating a large Boomsday crowd and a future freebie promotion to be announced later. The distinctive yellow structures with double drive-thrus serve Caffe D'Arte products, roasted in an Italian process in Seattle, where the company boasts of winning several blind taste tests in that discriminating Pacific Northwest Market. It's opened almost 200 stores in the past year across the country, according to its publicity hounds.

Hats in the Ring?

Steve Hill , a former three-term member of the Knox County school board, is considering a run for County Trustee. Hill, who works for St. Mary's, has been recruited by good government groups looking for alternatives to the musical chairs in county offices prompted by term limits.

Hill said he is giving it serious consideration because â“things are out of hand.â”

Fred Sisk , who was deputy trustee under Mike Lowe , was appointed to the position by County Commission. Criticized for hiring his former boss, Fisk is also running in the Republican primary. Robert Bratton , a current school board member who is trying to fend off the effects of a sexual harassment complaint brought against him by a school system maintenance employee, has been touring Democratic Party clubs discussing plans to run for trustee as well.

Bug in Our Ear

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