Schwarz explores Majestic fire, historic building restoration in new documentary
In a sold-out screening, the Malco Theatre was filled on Tuesday night for the highly anticipated premiere of "Forever Majestic," a documentary on the historic Majestic Hotel, which sat in downtown Hot Springs and partially burned in 2014 before being completely demolished in 2016. The film, directed by Abandoned Arkansas's Michael Schwarz, premiered during the ongoing 30th Annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
The film was a unique experience for local viewers to have such an intimate connection with a film's subject, but it was also a unique experience for the filmmakers during their 7-year journey in creating the documentary.
When discovering the abandoned Majestic in 2011, five years after it had closed its doors in 2006, Schwarz fell in love with it. He began documenting the building's remains, and following a group dedicated to its revitilization and restoration. Schwarz was recognizing the Majestic as a vital and important subject matter three years prior to its infamous fire on Feb. 27, 2014, which then gained the building statewide attention. This preexisting following of the structure allowed Schwarz the rare opportunity to closely follow the historic event of the fire that still lives fresh in the memory of locals, in real time.
The film brought nostalgia with old videos of families spending precious moments in the Majestic when it was still alive. It brought back to life the shock everyone felt on the night the yellow brick portion of the abandoned structure burned. And it brought heartbreak on the day the red brick of the historic Majestic was demolished by the city despite efforts made by some locals wanting to save it.
But most importantly, the film brought to light the importance of restoring and revitalizing historic building, specifically in downtown Hot Springs where so many abandoned and boarded up historic structures stand today.
"Forever Majestic" is an eyeopening documentary on one of the most historic fires in Hot Springs' recent history, and the issue the city faces if lack of restoration persists. (To name one: the old Army Navy Hospital, which the film refers to as "The Majestic Two.")
This is a can't-miss film, so if you missed it don't fret because there is another chance to catch it, and more than one way to do so. An encore screening will be shown at 11 a.m. Friday in the Malco Theatre. Purchase tickets here. Or, watch it virtually anytime from 10 a.m. Oct. 16 to 10 a.m. Oct. 18.
According to the festival's website, here's the official rundown of the film:
For a town like Hot Springs, Arkansas, The Majestic was more than just a hotel — it held an important place in the collective memory of the citizenry. Despite multiple owners and frequent promises to renovate, the building would sit empty and eventually catch on fire in 2014. Complicated and deeply personal, "Forever Majestic" considers the financial opportunity born of that fateful fire and questions who is best served by its demolition.