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      Nickelodeon Theater announces completion of phase one

      An aroma of popcorn and candy spread throughout the 1600 block of Main Street Wednesday morning as officials unveiled phase one of the new Nickelodeon Theater in Columbia.

      After spending 33 years about a mile away at the corner of Main and Pendleton Streets, the new facility is close to opening to the public.

      The first phase is complete and includes the downstairs theater, lobby, concession stand, and the ticket window. But theater Executive Director Andy Smith said that is not all.

      "We'll be launching out Helen Hill Media Education Center that will provide resources for filmmakers and students across the state from field trips to summer camps to workshops. We're going to move beyond simply exhibition into providing resources people need to create work on their own," said Smith. "We're thinking and aiming to be a leading southeastern cultural institution. The new equipment and additional space in the heart of Columbia's Main Street is going to allow us to fulfill that new mission."

      The new theater is among several projects aimed at bringing art back into the capital city.

      It's been a process in the making, but Mayor Steve Benjamin said the patience is paying off.

      "The conventional wisdom said that Main Street was a waste of time and money, the Nickelodeon had the vision to see downtown's potential and announce their plans to relocate to the old Fox Theater and restore this historical location," said Benjamin.

      The new Nickelodeon is one of the few places in the Midlands where people can catch foreign, domestic, classic, and indie movies as well as musicals. But there is still more work to be done.

      Phase two of the renovation will begin shortly. It includes a second theater and an upstairs office. The new space is expected to be complete by August.

      Residents like Jay Matheson are thrilled to see the city promoting the arts.

      I couldn't be happier. This is going to encourage creativity. Having an outlet for people's film work, music, anything else. We have an outlet.

      Fans do not have to wait until August to check out the theater. It will be open to the public to watch films during this years Indie Grits Festival April 19-29. Visit www.nickelodeon.org for more.