After more than 30 years of being in the dark, the Miller Theater’s marquee was relit Friday night to cheers of a crowd gathered during Arts in the Heart of Augusta.
“It’s so awesome to see the people. I couldn’t think of a better backdrop,” said Marty Elliott, the Miller Theater’s general manager.
Crowds gathered and cheered as the digital marquee was revealed and flashed dates for additional shows at the historic theater, which is scheduled to open in January .
The theater first opened in February 1940. It was a vibrant part of downtown Augusta until 1984 when it closed. After years of neglect, philanthropist Peter Knox IV purchased the building in 2005 in an effort to save it. He donated it to Symphony Orchestra Augusta. The symphony will hold many events at the theater, but the venue will also be available for other types of programs.
Knox was one of those in the crowd for the lighting.
“This is very moving,” said Knox.
Seeing the theater restored to its original purpose as an entertainment venue was the ultimate goal, and he’s glad it’s been able to happen, he added.
Although he never saw a movie at the Miller, Trey Keenan said it was a big day for him and his family. His great-great-uncle was Frank Miller, for whom the theater is named. Miller was known as one of the country’s top entertainment promoters.
“We always said that if we won the lotto, we’d redo the Miller. Today is like winning the lottery,” he said.
Anne Catherine Murray, executive director of Symphony Orchestra Augusta, took video of the event with her camera and stood back with the crowd to watch the flashing lights and scrolling dates.
“This is the first time I’m seeing it,” she said. “I’m just thrilled.”
The big event for the Miller will be the sold-out gala with Sutton Foster on Jan. 6, but other non-symphony shows include jazz singer and pianist, Diana Krall, on Feb. 16, and comedian, Kathleen Madigan, on April 12.
The Miller marquee will be on downtown on weeknights until 11 p.m. and on weekends until 2 a.m.