Armed with a smartphone, the couple walked past the crumbling walls of the theater’s arcade and stepped into the main room before making their way to the stage. Once there, the Augustans began snapping pictures to submit to the Miller’s “Snapshots of Time” contest.
“I can’t wait to see it after they restore it,” Laci Maraggia said.
The contest, sponsored by Symphony Orchestra Augusta and the Morris Museum of Art, calls on participants to submit interior and exterior photographs of the theater that are shot with a smartphone. The photos will be placed in an exhibit at the museum beginning Oct. 1, and patrons can vote for the best submission Oct. 10.
Organizers say the contest is a way to get the community interested in the revitalization of the theater. Built in 1940, the theater met its demise in the early ’80s and has sat dormant ever since.
“It’s just a fun way for people to come in and experience the place for themselves and then get to own a piece of it by creating art,” said Mieko Di Sano, the symphony’s executive director.
Some photographed the vintage Coca-Cola signs above the remains of the snack bar or climbed the steps of the balcony to peek into the dusty projection room. Butch Fagan, of North Augusta, focused on the damaged walls with exposed chicken wire.
“Hopefully they’ll restore it back to its natural state, but it’s neat to document how it looks now,” he said. “It’s amazing to me to see how much work they have to do. I can’t imagine how much it will cost to fix it.”
Fagan’s son, Blake, stuck close to his father as they scanned the interior. Fagan said they wanted to see what the theater looked like before it was restored.
“Blake said he hopes they get it done so that he can come to see a show here,” he said. “He’s used to going to theaters, but this is such an awesome place to see.”
Di Sano said now is the best time to get photos of the theater’s deteriorated state.
“It’s not going to be looking like this much longer,” she said. “As you can see, it’s a gem, even the way it looks now.”
Kareen Riley, of Atlanta, worked in the box office while a student at North Augusta High School. She said walking the halls brings back memories.
“It makes me realize how old I am,” she said with a laugh. “(The theater) was just gorgeous back then. I just remember that they did the best to keep it up.”
Ann Hall, of Augusta, said she remembers watching the Saturday matinees at the Miller as a child.
“As bad as it looks, it still feels wonderful,” she said. “If you look past that and just think about your memories, everything is just the same. We were just saying that if we won the lottery we would give a fortune to get it back to what it was.”
Di Sano said the theater is expected to be fully reconditioned by October 2015.