Hugh Jackman to unveil new film at restored Iowa movie palace


Film star Hugh Jackman will be in Iowa Falls, Iowa, Saturday for a special premiere of his new film "Prisoners," reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Jackman promised to appear at the premiere after he learned his longtime agent and Iowa City native Patrick Whitesell, along with Whitesell's father, John, were restoring the movie palace in their hometown.

John Whitesell, a retired attorney who has lived in Iowa Falls with his wife since 1952, told THR that the everything from the air conditioner, emergency doors, electrical wiring and ice machine has been replaced in the 114-year-old structure, and new lighting and digital projectors have been installed. The Whitesells also had the "updated" interiors installed by previous owners removed and the original features of the movie house restored.

In all, the father-son team -- which bought the bankrupted property for a reported $65,000 -- spent $500,000 on the restoration and upgrades.

Patrick Whitesell tells THR that it was Jackman who originally came up with the idea to host the premiere when the two were in London for the premiere of "The Wolverine" last summer.

"It's not your typical place for a premiere, but the story behind the theater was just so compelling, I had to be there," Jackman told THR.

In addition to "Prisoners," Jackman will introduce a screening of "The Wolverine," which will be playing on the Met's second screen.

According to The Associated Press, the building was constructed in 1899 and was first known as the Metropolitan Opera House. The Met was converted into a movie theater around the 1950s, and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Patrick Whitesell tells THR that he was 6 years old in 1971 his father took him see "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" at the theater. In the years to come, the future Hollywood agent took in such movies as "Jaws" and "Star Wars" at the Met.

Tickets were immediately snapped up for the screening of "Prisoners" in the 180-seat theater at the Met for $100 each, while $25 tickets were raffled off for the 102-seat theater screening of "The Wolverine." The premiere will benefit Ellsworth Municipal Hospital in Iowa Falls, which is about 75 miles north of Des Moines.

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