Pat Boone Family Theater replaces NASCAR cafe in Myrtle Beach

jspring@thesunnews.comDecember 31, 2010 

A new theater named for a famous singer could open in Myrtle Beach as early as March, a representative of the entertainment company behind the theater said Thursday.

The Pat Boone Family Theater will open this spring in the former NASCAR Cafe at the corner of U.S. 17 and 21st Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, said Glenn W. Milligan, president and chief executive of Liquid Metal Holdings.

The theater will open May 1 at the latest for the start of the peak tourist season, Milligan said. The location was chosen because of the high volume of traffic through the intersection, he said.

Boone, who rose to fame in the 1950s and '60s and continues to record pop and Christian music, will help book acts for the theater and will also perform several shows each year, Milligan said.

Illinois-based Liquid Metal is in the process of applying for permits to renovate the building. Turning the cafe into a 600-seat theater should take two to three months once they begin, Milligan said. The exterior of the building will remain mostly unchanged, except for different signs, he said.

The venue will join the tribute artist show Legends in Concert in opening this spring in the Broadway at the Beach area. Jay Lodge, CEO of the nearby Palace Theatre, said he welcomes the competition.

"The town is big enough and we bring enough tourists to the town that it's great to give them something else to do," Lodge said. "Our philosophy is it's clearly not going to go away, so if we can't beat it let's join it."

Milligan had first announced the Pat Boone Family Theater would open in spring 2010, before it had a location, but the project was delayed by the weak economy and contract issues, he said. Milligan declined to give further details, but said, "We've resolved what we needed to resolve."

A representative of Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc., which owns the building where the theater will be located, declined to elaborate, saying the company does not comment on pending contractual matters.

The theater will be able to offer a more intimate setting than older, larger theaters in Myrtle Beach, Milligan said.

"We believe that our 600-seat theater is the prototypical theater of the future," he said.

There will be up to 1,400 performance slots at the theater, 500 of which will be filled by resident illusionist Morgan Strebler, Milligan said. Strebler was given the 2011 Merlin Award, one of magic's top awards with past winners including David Copperfield and Siegfried & Roy.

For his Myrtle Beach show, called "Inside Your Mind," Strebler says he will read minds, bend metal with his thoughts and perform large stage illusions.

"My big show is usually 2,500 seats. This is something smaller," he said. "I can do my magic, and there's not a bad seat in the house."

The venue will also be available for local gospel groups and regional singers to use, Milligan said. The theater plans to operate year-round and will hire 30 to 40 staff members, he said.

Milligan said the theater will offer better prices than competitors, a claim Lodge said he doubts is possible. With only 600 seats, the Pat Boone Family Theater would be hard-pressed to offer lower ticket prices and still put on a good show compared to The Palace Theatre, which has 2,500 seats, Lodge said.

A new theater will push others to produce better shows and give Myrtle Beach theater a better reputation in general, he said.

"It will keep everybody on their toes," Lodge said.

Contact JAKE SPRING at 626-0310.

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