Joe Paul Student Theater set to open Fall 2018

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The Joe Paul Student Theater is set to open for business in the fall of 2018.

Located on the second floor of the Thad Cochran Center, the multipurpose theater has been under construction for quite some time.

“I think the new theater was a smart investment for Southern Miss. A lot of people are looking for safe and clean fun on the weekends, and I think Southern Miss will be surprised at how much interest they get,” junior biology major Grace Eden said.

The decision to create the theater was made during the 1990s when plans for building the Thad Cochran Center were underway. When the Thad Cochran Center was completed in 2006, the Joe Paul Student Theater had been deemed as a different phase of construction.

Funding for the student theater came from the $35 Capital Improvement Fee students pay every term, according to Amber D. Sumrall, Sales and Marketing Manager for the Event and Conference Services at Southern Miss.

The Southern Miss Activities Council will be in charge of what will be happening in the theater once it opens. Student organizations, departments and other groups will be competing to reserve the space at competitive rental rates.

“[The theater] is equipped to show movies, with a seating capacity of 324, state of the art digital cinema projector technology, a 31-foot screen, and Dolby Surround Sound, but will also be available for keynote presentations, panels, and small entertainment acts and performers, such as comedians and magicians,” Sumrall said. “The theater will have the capability to live stream video and audio of events to other rooms in the facility for overflow, as well as the ability to live stream content on the internet.”

“I think the theater is pretty cool, because sometimes I don’t feel like paying $40 to watch a movie and get popcorn, so having a theater on campus will be really nice,” freshman graphic design major Emilee Hoang said.

Although attendees will be required to pay a nominal fee for entry and concessions, Sumrall said this is because of high movie licensing fees.

The theater is named after former Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joe Paul. Paul retired from his position as Vice President of Student Affairs in June 2015 but returned to campus to strengthen relationships and raise funds for the betterment of the Southern Miss community.

“At an event to honor Dr. Paul’s career and retirement, University President Rodney D. Bennett announced that the student theater would be named in his honor. Now, a fundraising initiative through the USM Foundation seeks to establish a scholarship endowment to honor Dr. Paul and meet his challenge to ‘Leave Southern Miss better than you found it,’ Sumrall said.

Sumrall said the endowment will assist those who are “significantly engaged” in leadership roles at Southern Miss.

Alumni who were student leaders during their time at Southern Miss also have a chance to be recognized in the Joe Paul Theater.

“Contributions in the amount of $1,000 provide the opportunity to have your name, class year and affiliation listing of your choice displayed on the back of one of the 324 chairs in the Joe Paul Student Theater,” Sumrall said. “A gift of $5,000 provides the opportunity to have your name, class year and accomplishments prominently displayed on a ‘Wall of Fame’ outside the Joe Paul Student Theater.”

For more information on how to contribute to the endowment, contact the USM Foundation.