By STEVE REEVES, Fort Jackson LeaderNovember 19, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Fort Jackson Theater opened last weekend to rave reviews.
Rene Muniz was one of the hundreds of people who stood in line Saturday to get a sneak preview of the renovated theater, as well as a free screening of the film, "The Blind Side."
Muniz, chief of Fort Jackson's Information Assurance Division, gave the theater two thumbs up.
"I had been waiting a long time for that theater to open back up, and I wasn't disappointed," Muniz said. "Everything was nice and new and very attractive. And the movie was excellent, also."
Muniz said it's a big plus for the Fort Jackson community now that the theater has reopened.
"I'll definitely be a frequent visitor," he said.
The theater holds 750 people, and it was a packed house Saturday. Many of the attendees were no doubt lured by the free movie, but everyone was treated to a sparkling new theater interior.
"Opening the theater is a double bonus for the Fort Jackson community," said Col. Lillian Dixon, Fort Jackson garrison commander. "It has always been a key venue to our training mission. It also enhances the quality of life for our Soldiers, families and retirees. It will be a great outlet for our graduating Soldiers and their families during Family Day."
Dixon made reopening the theater a priority when she arrived at Fort Jackson in 2007 and said she is pleased with the result.
"You can't help but smile when you walk inside the facility," she said. "I invite everyone to support the theater. The price is right and the company is even better."
The renovated theater features new seats, curtains and carpet, fresh paint, upgraded projection equipment and concessions, and a new Dolby Digital sound system.
Matt Gibbs, project manager for Fort Jackson's Directorate of Public Works, said approximately $600,000 in garrison funds went toward the renovation of the theater, which had been closed since 2007 because the facility had deteriorated so badly.
The renovation project began in April, Gibbs said, and was completed just before the theater's grand opening last weekend.
Matt Shealy, chief of engineering for DPW, said the theater's ceiling had been badly damaged by water leakage and maintenance of the interior had not been kept up in recent years.
"It was just a tired, old space," Shealy said.
Aside from being a major source of entertainment on post, the theater was a multi-use facility because of its large capacity.
"The theater is as important for training as it is for movies," Shealy said. "We just don't have that many spaces on post that can hold 750 people. We really needed the theater to open back up."
But being a source of entertainment is a large part of the theater's significance to Fort Jackson, Shealy said.
"We need a theater on post because that's important for the families," he said.