University of Southern Mississippi faculty and students know history
professor Andy Wiest's fondness for a good joke.
in the late 1970s were not amused, however, when Wiest, then an
undergraduate student at Southern Miss working part-time at Hattiesburg's
old Avanti Theater, would, for kicks, crank up the volume during
key moments in showings of the thriller "Jaws" pushing
an already edgy audience to the brink of insanity.
that movie a long time, and we eventually got bored with it, so
to have a bit more fun when the most suspenseful scenes in the movie
came on, the music got soft and then went away, then it came back
on really loud," Wiest said. "Folks would literally jump
out of their seats."
The Hardy Street
movie house, run by Southern Miss students in recent years featuring
second-run movies for a $1, will feature its final movie April 28
at 7 and 9:30 p.m. when the University Activities Council will present
located across the street from the university, is scheduled to be
demolished in the near future for construction of a roadway designed
for easier access to the campus' main entrance.
a shame it has to be torn down," said Southern Miss student
Jerron Mannery of Jackson, president of the UAC. "It was a
and former manager Benny Sanford took a final tour of the theater,
a trip down memory lane as the building faces its own curtain call.
a film student at Southern Miss while managing the Avanti, was often
in on many of the pranks that were common practice at the theater.
take the marquee pole (used to arrange letters to advertise movies
on the building), stick it through the projection window and tap
people sitting below in the audience on the shoulder during the
movie," he said. "It's amazing we didn't give someone
a heart attack."
has improved the movie theater experience, including the use of
digital equipment. At the Avanti, the 35-millimeter projector required
changing film rolls five to seven times every 20 minutes, Sanford
the projector operator wouldn't be paying attention (to make the
reel change), or had fallen asleep, and the screen would go blank,"
has gone through a variety of name changes. Originally, it was known
as the Dome Theater, considered by many to be a reference to the
popular nickname for the university's domed administration building.
Later it became the Avanti, and after its closing and subsequent
use by Southern Miss students was called Reel to Reel theater and
now Seymour's Cinema.
Miss student and Hattiesburg resident Patty Talbot worked at the
Dome while in high school and also remembers going to movies there
while a student at the university in the early 1960s. In high school,
Talbot worked in the theater's concession stand, popping popcorn
and making milk shakes. She remembers the Dome's owner, George Edwards,
supervising the theater while smoking his trademark cigar.
the hardest whenever band camp was held in the summer on campus,
and all of the campers would come over to see movies," she
Talbot said she said she and her sister Ann Aldridge of Hattiesburg
would go watch a movie at the Dome nearly every weekend. The film
"Geronimo" stands out most vividly in her memory.
remember being really scared after seeing it," she laughed.
the Avanti closed in part because of the introduction of multiplex
movie theaters. But he would return for another tour of duty at
the Avanti while in graduate school at Southern Miss, lured back
by some of his buddies who reopened the facility. "Some enterprising
friends of mine arranged to rent the theatre and run it as a college-type,
second-run movie theatre," he said. "We showed movies
the second time around for a dollar a pop, and we also ran midnight
movies aimed at the college crowd, before nightspots in Hattiesburg
stayed open after midnight so we had the market to ourselves.
thought this would be a moneymaker but had no idea how to run those
old projectors. They had heard that I had worked there and brought
me on board. The first night we were showing the "Elephant
Man," and things indeed started to go haywire, and the projectors
just flat out turned off. I did not know what to do - my memory
of how to work those things were not as clear as I had hoped, but
it just so happens that in the audience that night was Benny, who
came dashing upstairs, just like the old days when I messed up and
he was the boss, and fixed them for us.
movies there for just over a year, including concert movies, cult
movies - you name it. In the end I think we broke even and called
it a day, and the Avanti closed down again."