Published 1:10 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The newly-renovated Clark Theatres got rave reviews in its red-carpet rollout Tuesday night.

“It feels like you’re in a big city,” said Sue Franklin Taylor. “It was very much needed and appreciated.”

Mrs. Taylor visited the open house with her husband, Ward. The couple dated at the theater after meeting in college.

The O’Neal family, who owned the theater building on the square for decades, donated it to the city in early 2016. In turn, the city completely remodeled it, and has a long-term lease in effect with Clarke Theatres. On hand for the ribbon cutting and open house were city and Chamber officials, along with Clark Theatres owner Mack Clark, and theater personnel.

The building was completely gutted, and the facility now has three theaters with recliners and stadium seating, a brand-new snack bar, and new restroom facilities. It also has state-of-the-art equipment.

Brothers Alan and Eddie Williamson, who grew up spending Saturdays in the downtown theater, pause to talk about their memories while visiting the new facility Tuesday.

With the changes, the facility is a far cry from the theater where brothers Alan and Eddie Williamson often spent their Saturday afternoons.

“Mr. Cassidy would walk up and down the aisles and make you put your feet down,” Alan recalled.

Eddie said, “He would come over the speaker, and you’d hear static, and he’d say, ‘Boys and girls, I’ve been begging and pleading with you to quieten down.’ ”

Alan said his favorite movie from “back in the day” was Jaws. Eddie said he loved all of the cowboy movies, but his favorite movie was Smokey and the Bandit. Alan saw American Graffiti there on his first date.

Greg Henderson, who grew up in Opp, said he’s been seeing movies on the downtown Square since he was 10.

“I had a friend whose older brother would bring us to Pizza Hut, then we’d come to the movie,” he said. His most memorable movie? Also Jaws.

Dawn Thompson recalled when she and her husband, John, saw Batman with Michael Keaton there.

“After it was over, everybody said John looked just like Batman,” she said.

It wasn’t just those who are nostalgic about the theater who were excited about its opening. Local students say they also are looking forward to the opening.

“Absolutely, we’ll be here,” AHS senior Allen Butler said. “It’s a great facility.”

Lillian Andrews also is excited about the opening.

Newlyweds Adam and Anna Copeland were among those enjoying a sneak preview last night.

“Definitely, we’d rather go to the movie in Andalusia, rather than drive to Greenville or Crestview,” she said.

They also are looking forward to a new menu item, a sweet potato waffle fry with caramel sauce.

“We are added several items to the menu, but we’ll go slowly with food,” Clark said. “We are working with a chef with Cisco Services to consider some new products.”

The food equipment is still being installed, and the menu items will be rolled out slowly, he said. For the open house, patrons enjoyed buttered popcorn, M&Ms, Raisinettes, and soft drinks.

Clark Theatres owner Mack Clark, left, samples the popcorn during Tuesday’s open house.

The theater will officially open with a matinee this Fri., April 14, when area students will be out of school for Good Friday. This week’s movies are The Fate of the Furious (PG-13) and Boss Baby (PG).

Maggie Ruth, Mollie Jae and Pitt Wiggins were excited to enjoy refreshments at the theatre.