MURDO - Walking into the gloomy, hollow shell of the Magic City Theater, it is hard to imagine a big screen and rows of theater seats filled with movie fans contentedly munching popcorn.
"It's hard to visualize," said Carson Moore, 16, admitting that the transformation won't happen overnight.
Carson is a member of a group of local teens and adults for whom that vision is alive. Every time they roll up their shirt sleeves to tackle another project in the theater, they inch closer to their goal of restoring something the town lost when the theater closed decades ago.
"It will be a place for families to come," said Andrew Bork, 17.
Having a movie theater in town will give kids a gathering place that will keep them from "doing things they shouldn't," he said.
Bork was a member of the Jones County Turner Youth Foundation when the concept of renovating the theater was conceived three years ago.
Entertainment mogul and rancher Ted Turner funds the foundation, which pays for youth projects in counties where Turner owns property.
The local youth organizations are eligible for a $10,000 annual grant.
After funding several smaller community projects with grant dollars, the Jones County group decided to tackle something bigger, according to Kevin Moore. A community survey revealed the need for a theater, he said. The nearest movie theater is 50 miles away.
Moore is one of three adults on the foundation, along with six youths, including Carson. The structure gives the teens a majority voice in any foundation project.
The foundation started squirreling away its annual grants three years ago while it developed a business plan.
According to Moore, it will take about $86,000 to rejuvenate the theater and buy a projector.
Built in the 1940s, the theater closed in the late 1970s, according to Moore.
First Fidelity Bank owns the theater building. The bank has agreed to lease the building to the nonprofit group for $1 a month.
There is still a lot of work to do. The rough exterior of an office in the bank next door juts into the theater, creating a long, narrow hallway. The floor still slopes down into a large, barren room. At the far end, the stage that once held a movie screen is used for storage from the bank.
With seating for 70 to 80 people, the theater will not be as big as it once was, but it will have something it's never had before: a restroom.
Moore is optimistic that renovations to the building can be completed by fall.
The first movies shown could be DVDs until the foundation can afford a projector, he said.
"There have been a few nay-sayers," Moore said. "They think we're nuts."
But, most of the community supports the project, according to foundation member Jewell Bork.
"I just wish I could talk to Ted Turner about this project," Moore said.
"With his passion for old movies, I think he'd be happy to give us more help."