Smell of popcorn again fills Miller for loft tour

Smell of popcorn again fills Miller

The old Miller Theatre on Broad Street once again had a line to see a movie and was filled with the aroma of popcorn Saturday. The theater was one of the 11 stops on Historic Augusta's Downtown Loft Tour.

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People walk on stage at the Miller Theatre. Symphony Orchestra Augusta wants the theater to again be an entertainment venue.  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
People walk on stage at the Miller Theatre. Symphony Orchestra Augusta wants the theater to again be an entertainment venue.

Visitors to the Miller were treated to popcorn as they watched a documentary about the theater. Afterward, they filed down the long, grand hallway, craning their necks to better see long-forgotten mirrors flanked by rose-colored walls and the vaulted ceiling.

"I grew up here, and I came here all the time," Jenny Wood said. "I loved it. It was a magnificent theater. It was so beautiful, it was awe-inspiring with its curtains."

When it was built in 1939, the Miller was the second-largest theater in Georgia. One million bricks, 200 tons of reinforced steel and 200 tons of concrete were used to construct the Art Moderne theater, which seated 1,660 people.

According to tour guide Michael Deas, of Augusta Amusements, the theater boasts an elevating stage that drops down as an orchestra pit. The theater hosted some of Augusta's premier entertainment acts until the 1970s, when housing and retail businesses moved to the suburbs. The theater closed in 1984, and apparently was left unattended.

A leaking roof allowed the elements to take their toll on the building, the condition of which saddened and shocked visitors Saturday.

In 2005, Peter Knox IV purchased the building, replaced the roof and removed the moldy, musty carpet. Interestingly, Knox paid the same amount -- $500,000 -- as Frank Miller spent when he built the theater.

The famous Hammond organ, which visitors reminisced about as much as they did the hallway, is still on the second floor.

"But, it's been rained on for so many years that it's beyond repair," Deas said, disappointing his audience.

Now in its seventh year, the Lost Tour showcases preservation projects in downtown Augusta. Knox continues to repair and maintain the Miller Theatre, while Symphony Orchestra Augusta moves ahead with plans to return the theater to prominence as an entertainment venue.

"I'd love to see it brought back as an operating theater of some kind," Wood said. "Being here today brought back so many memories. I'd like to see it magnificent once again."

This year's tour featured not only the theater, it also included nine loft apartments on Broad, Greene, Ellis and 10th streets and James Brown Boulevard, and the Henry-Cohen House on Greene Street.

"I like the tour because you get to see things you don't normally get to see. It gives you ideas. It juices your creativity," said Lisa Daitch.

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floridasun 05/14/11 - 08:01 pm
The Miller Theatre is a

The Miller Theatre is a treasure. I hope it can be restored!

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