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Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation Entertainment Director Earl Murray, left, and Lead Projectionist Gregg Hooper sit in the newly renovated Fleet Theater at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation Entertainment Director Earl Murray, left, and Lead Projectionist Gregg Hooper sit in the newly renovated Fleet Theater at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. (Jim Schulz / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — It opened with free hot dogs and a showing of the movie “Johnny English.”

After a three-week facelift, Yokosuka’s Benny Decker Theater reopened Friday with new seats, new carpeting and a new screen. Soon, the theater also will have new curtains to block sound, and it may get a new sound system.

“We opened a day early,” said Gregg Hooper, lead projectionist. “They were lined up two hours before we opened.”

The new seats are the same size, but instead of sticky blue vinyl, they’re a comfy cloth. There’s also an extra inch of cushioning and built-in drink holders, said Earl Murray, entertainment director at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka.

The theater is used for movies, Navy training and other entertainment, like hypnotists and talent shows.

The renovation included a new 20-foot-by-40-foot screen. Eventually, MWR officials will update the sound system to take advantage of a new digital sound processor installed in April.

The theater, built in 1981, was last renovated in 1994. Several seats had split, and seams had come apart. The $100,000 project used non-appropriated funds raised by the base, Murray said.

The theater has the Navy’s second largest number of visitors. The base’s other theater, The Fleet Theater, is among the top ten busiest. Between the two, the base shows 15 movies a week, Murray said.

The new cloth seats not only are more comfortable but are designed to help hide stains, Hooper said: “We wanted something that, if you spill a drink on it, it’s not going to show up.”

The floor was coated with a washable epoxy. “It takes soda right off,” Hooper said.

Hooper and other theater employees also repainted the lobby.

The Fleet Theater will have the same renovations in the coming year. The two theaters are identical and have similar problems.

The base also will install large curtains over the walls of both theaters in the next year to create a better sound quality and movie theater atmosphere, Murray said.

“It will darken up the room quite a bit,” he added.


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