WAVELAND -- The quaint movie theater in Waveland got major renovations in 2015, a decade after Hurricane Katrina flooded the building and destroyed the screens. Its owners hope locals will help them bring digital screens and new releases to Hancock County.
Beacon Theater owner Charlie Watzke said he bought the building about a year and a half ago and, with help from his son, nephew and other family members, cleared it out and began to remake it into a movie theater.
"There was still mud and mold and everything in it from Katrina," Watzke said. "We gutted it and redone the whole thing."
The old seats were still in each of the four screening rooms. The carpet had to be torn up. Watzke said there was still food on shelves.
Watzke spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the theater open again.
It now has a counter-top embellished with thousands of pennies. Watzke and his family made the woodwork, chandelier and wall art, including a large lighthouse near the restrooms.
A staircase leads to the "Captain's Quarters," manager Chris Dulworth said. The loft is an office now, but Dulworth said plans call for a lounge upstairs where people can relax and watch sporting events on flat-screen TVs.
The theater sells popcorn, soft drinks, hot dogs, nachos and beer. Dulworth said the beer is a draw for some adults, who take in a film for a date night.
The screening rooms, each of which has a theme, have high-back seats from Florida and acoustics on the walls, Dulworth said.
"I've only opened two screens, but I'm hoping to open the other two within three to six months," Watzke said.
He said the two 35mm screens are equipped with Dolby Surround Sound.
He wants the other two screens to have digital projectors so Beacon Theaters can offer new releases. Now, only certain films can be shown at the theater.
"We've got good movies coming, but we're limited as to what we can get on 35mm film," Watzke said.
"Every Friday, we normally get a new movie," Dulworth said. "Sometimes we can't get things as fast as others."
Watzke said if they had digital screens, they could have shown "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" when it was released in December.
Dulworth said the theater has regular customers who come at least once a week, but Watzke said more patrons will mean being able to afford better screens and have better offerings.
"It's been slow. A lot of people are saying they didn't know we were open," he said.
Residents who have paid to see a movie at Beacon say they've had positive experiences.
Leanna Garcia of Bay St. Louis said she and her husband, Joshua Garcia, have left their babies with a sitter and had date night at the theater twice since it opened.
"The owners and workers were all very friendly," she said. "The inside has beautiful woodwork and a very nice concession stand. It was so nice not to have to drive to Gulfport or Slidell to go see a movie."
She said she and her husband rarely went to the movies because of the drive. She said they bought gift cards to the theater as Christmas gifts.
"Putting our money back into our local community will have a great impact on our area," she said. "There aren't many family-friendly places to go to for entertainment."
Beacon Theater shows start at 4 and 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. On Fridays, there is also a showing at 9 p.m. On Saturdays, shows start at 1, 4, 7 and 9 p.m. Sunday shows start at 1, 4, and 7 p.m.