THE MILLER THEATER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Will the Miller be a multi-use performance hall?
A. Yes. The proposed design of Miller will accommodate both amplified and non-amplified music, drama and dance.
Q. Who will Miller primarily serve?
A. First and foremost, the Miller will serve the people of Augusta and the surrounding areas. In terms of performing groups to utilize the theater, the Miller will not only be home to Augusta’s symphony, but also a venue for other commercial and non-profit organizations. The Miller will welcome local arts groups to its stage as well as many top-ranked national or regional performers.
Q. What renovated changes will be necessary for the Miller Theater to be a multi-use performing hall?
A. The Miller Theater was constructed primarily as a movie and vaudeville house. The theater has a traditional proscenium stage, but the stage itself is too shallow for many contemporary performances. The stage will need to be enlarged – making it wider and deeper, in order to accommodate a variety of artistic presentations. In order to maintain sightlines from the upper seats, a portion of the existing balcony will also need to be removed.
Q. Is the Miller structure in good shape?
A. Yes. The Miller property was designed by theater architect Roy Benjamin in 1938. The structure consists primarily of concrete and heavy gauge steel reinforcements. Some of the supporting beams in the theater were the largest ever shipped by rail in the state of Georgia. The building has remained unoccupied for thirty years and shows some natural signs of aging, but most all are cosmetic not structural.
Q. What is the Music Institute?
A. The Miller project will provide a place to perform, present and teach. The Miller Theater and an adjoining building (formerly Cullum’s) together will create a center that combines these three objectives. The SOA currently operates a successful educational and community engagement program and the Miller properties will enable the organization to expand and better fulfill its mission of bringing the community together with music. The Institute will offer music instruction, master classes and seminars, and SOA hopes that all forms of art will find a point of integration there.
Q. Is the Miller worth the price of renovation?
A. The costs of renovating the Miller Theater will be a fraction of the cost of a comparable new facility and there’s great value in reanimating a historical building in Augusta’s downtown.
The economic impact of an active entertainment district can be substantial for a city — improving surrounding property values, adding new traffic for merchants and restaurants, and helping to rebuild a vital residential area. One of the best examples of such potential is in the nearby city of Newberry, SC. The historic 426 seat Newberry Opera House hosts nearly 200 performances per year and draws visitors from a 120 mile radius.
Q. Why is the Miller important historically?
A. In 1938, responding to what was a strong demand for entertainment in Augusta, theater executive Frank J. Miller commissioned the design and construction of a 1600 seat theater in the heart of the city’s downtown. The Miller, as it was called, was designed by famed Chicago architect Roy Benjamin and was the largest of the five theaters that Mr. Miller and his business partners operated in downtown Augusta. The Art Moderne style of the theater adds to the diversity of the city’s architecture. First time visitors to the theater quickly realize that there’s nothing else like it in Augusta.
Q. What is the difference between renovation and restoration? Will the Miller be restored or renovated?
A. Historical restoration aims to “restore” a building to its original design. Renovation, on the other hand, assumes some degree of change or modification made within the original design of the building. Typically renovations are made for practical purposes. In the case of the Miller Theater, the stage and balcony must be modified to accommodate contemporary artistic performances. However, every effort will be made to restore the other original design elements within the building.
Q. What are the parking options for the Miller?
A. In addition to parking along Broad Street and the middle parking wells on Broad, there is a new parking deck on the corner of Reynolds and 9th Streets, across from the new TEECenter. The parking deck at the former FortDiscovery is public parking and so is the Board of Education parking decking behind the Miller Theater on Ellis Street. The Miller and SOA organizations are also exploring shuttling patrons to and from some of the common parking points. Additionally, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau is currently involved in a project to provide identification signs on all available public parking in downtown Augusta.
Q. What effect will the reopening of the Miller have on other Augusta performing halls?
A. Augusta currently has three primary performing venues: The Imperial – which seats 800, the Bell – which seats 2800, and the James Brown Arena – which seats 7800. The reopening of the Miller would give Augusta a mid-sized venue with superb acoustics for an intimate, high quality experience. With an anticipated 1325 seat count, the Miller will be the ideal size for a symphony home and many other types of artistic performances and entertainment.
Q. Over the years there have been several proposals put forth for the construction of a large (2,500 seat) multi-purpose performing arts hall on the river. Will the Miller still be useful and sustainable if this hall were to be built?
A. Many U.S. cities similar in size to Augusta support multiple performing venues to satisfy the variety of artistic interests within their communities. A city’s larger performing hall may be hosting a three week engagement of the Broadway hit “Mama Mia,” while other performing venues are presenting the ballet, a pop artist or the local symphony. We believe that the Miller, the Imperial and a new larger performance venue will all be integral parts of Augusta’s downtown theater/entertainment district.
Q. Who will operate the Miller Theater?
A. The Miller Theater, LLC is a newly formed wholly owned subsidiary of the Symphony Orchestra Augusta created to oversee operations of the theater. The Miller Theater LLC will employ an independent staff of technicians and theater management personnel. The LLC will have its own board of directors and will market the theater for rent by other performing groups desiring to perform in the Miller. In addition, a new presenting arm of Symphony Orchestra Augusta, SOA Presents, will undertake to present a wide variety of entertainment at the Miller to ensure that the theater stays active and hosts many arts and entertainment opportunities for the community.
Q. Will the new Miller be a sustainable enterprise?
A. Symphony Orchestra Augusta engaged Webb Management Services, Inc. to guide the development of a business plan. The plan draws on a combination of earned, philanthropic and investment income sources for revenue and ensures upkeep and able management of the building and all of the productions and programs held there.
Q. What will be the impact of this project on Symphony Orchestra Augusta?
A. The Symphony Board is excited about how the plans for the Miller affirms and deepens the mission “to share the joy of great musical performance with our audience,” and our tagline “Together, we are music.” The Board has been thorough and thoughtful throughout the process of decision-making and believes that to do nothing different in the future than what we have done in the past would jeopardize the mission. Realization of the plans for the Miller is likely to position Symphony Orchestra Augusta for a strong and vibrant future.
Q. When will the Miller be open?
A. The current plans project an opening date in the Fall of 2017