An old-fashioned, neighborhood movie theater reopens in East Austin

A local movie lover discovers an unused treasure: A well-equipped movie theater that shut down 12 years ago.

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s not an easy climb, a long, dimly lit stairway inside a building in East Austin. Those steps lead to a movie theater projection booth that has not been used since 2011.

When Austin movie lover Josh Frank climbed those stairs for the first time and saw that the projection equipment and sound system were in perfect shape, he had an idea – to reopen to the public the unused movie theater inside the Millennium Recreation Complex on Hargrave Street.

“I was blown away,” Frank said. “I couldn’t believe what condition it was in. Perfect screen and seats. We went up and the 35mm projector was in perfect condition.”

They used to show movies at the 100-seat Millennium, but the expense of new digital projectors that came on the scene around 2011 forced them to stop showing films since they couldn’t afford to upgrade their equipment.

But a few months ago, Josh offered to set up his own digital projection equipment and asked Millennium General Manager Kim Wright if he could reopen the theater to the public and keep it running. She said yes.

“It’s a gem and it’s a neighborhood treasure,” Wright said.

RELATED: ‘There’s something special here’ | Austin’s last single-screen theater restored, bringing spirit of ‘old Austin’ back to the city

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The Millennium is located not far from the old Harlem Theater, a movie house that mainly served a Black clientele. It burned down 40 years ago, leaving the east side without a movie venue. Frank says he’s proud to bring a neighbor movie theater back to the residents of East Austin.

“The fact that the old Millennium Theater is still here and that it could be brought back and that it could serve the community, I think it’s incredibly wonderful,” said Frank.

Frank is no stranger to the movie business. He operates the Blue Starlite Drive-in Theater. Lately, the Millennium has become his obsession.

“It’s my way of creating something special for people to experience in the city that I love so much.”

Now that the theater has officially reopened, you can check out their movie schedule online.

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