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Geek or bimbo?

We haven’t decided if Arkansas should be insulted or not by the latest reality show casting call announced for Arkansas.

CW Network’s “Beauty and the Geek” show — matching “academically impaired women” with “brilliant but socially challenged men” — will have an open casting call from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at Sticky Fingerz in the River Market neighborhood.

Jason Cornwell, casting director for the show, is a Russellville native and Hendrix College grad, so thank him for thinking Arkansas is a ripe spot to find Daisy Mae types with IQs that barely match their bust size and lots of pocket-protected nerds.

Dreamland

Lovers of music and Arkansas history may have something to dance about this fall. Kerry McCoy, owner of Arkansas Flag and Banner, said that she is in the preliminary stages of renovating and reopening the historic Dreamland Ballroom, once on the top floor of her building at 800 W. 9th St. One of the anchors of Little Rock’s once-vibrant black business district, the Dreamland Ballroom, on the top floor of the circa 1916 Taborian Hall, hosted virtually every famous black musician from the 1930s to the 1950s, including Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. After long decades of disrepair — including a fire which collapsed part of the roof — the building was purchased by McCoy in 1992 and the lower floors were renovated for her business.

McCoy has long hoped to renovate the ballroom, adding that recent downtown development helped her resolve to get it done. “Our city is shorthanded for places to do events because of all the new additional tourism,” McCoy said. “So I thought, if I’m ever going to do it, the time is now.”

McCoy plans a renovation, not a more expensive restoration, of the 5,500-square-foot room. Still, the project could cost between $800,000 and $1 million. Construction should begin this fall, with completion sometime in 2008. McCoy hopes to publish a book with photos and history to coincide with the reopening.

Sunset on movie lures

Movie makers have complained for years that Arkansas is passed over for film production because it isn’t competitive with tax breaks offered in other states.

The situation isn’t going to get better soon. On June 30, the existing film incentive program sunsets and the legislature can’t reauthorize it or expand it until 2009, absent a special session.

Currently, film production companies spending more than $500,000 in the state within six months or more than $1 million within 12 months are eligible to receive a refund of the state sales and use taxes spent on their project. By contrast, Louisiana’s tax incentive program offers tax credits to film investors, a sales and use tax exemption, an employment tax credit, a 20 percent tax credit on film expenditures between $300,000 and $999,000, and a 20 percent tax credit on film expenditures of $1 million or more.

Joe Holmes with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission said that the state’s film office hasn’t been a strong focus for years, in part because the state hasn’t had much to offer. With a new governor in charge, Holmes said the entire AEDC is undergoing a re-evaluation process, including the film office and the film incentives program.

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