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Hugh Jackman draws crowds to restored Iowa Falls theater

Hugh Jackman draws crowds to restored Iowa Falls theater

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Hugh Jackman draws crowds to restored Iowa Falls theater

Hugh Jackman takes a picture with a costumed fan Saturday outside the Metropolitan Theater in Iowa Falls. He was invited to the reopening of the 114-year-old theater by its owner, retired lawyer John Whitesell.

IOWA FALLS, Iowa — Actor Hugh Jackman didn't just show up for Saturday night's reopening of the historic Metropolitan Theater in Iowa Falls. He and his family spent much of the day in the small community.

Jackman, his wife and his children arrived in Iowa Falls on Saturday afternoon and went fishing at a city park before moving onto festivities at the 114-year-old refurbished movie theater.

“I've never had my family with me on one of these. But it felt right here,” Jackman said.

Later, Jackman greeted hundreds of people outside the theater, which was showing two of his movies. He even sang briefly at a city park.

Inside the theater, about 300 people were split between two screens. Tickets sold for $100 or through a raffle that raised money for a local hospital.

Jackman's visit came at the invitation of John Whitesell, a retired attorney from Iowa Falls who bought and restored the theater. Whitesell's son is Jackman's agent.

The Australian actor's visit comes amid a promotional tour for his film, “Prisoners.”

Jackman said he was intrigued by the story of Whitesell's decision to rescue the theater from bankruptcy, and then spend roughly $500,000 to renovate the building and install two digital projectors.

“It was my idea,” Jackman said. “I just love the story.”

The theater was originally an opera house and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it had deteriorated before Whitesell bought it.

Whitesell said he had memories of the theater back to his childhood and he couldn't let it close.

“When a town loses its theater, that's a blow,” Whitesell said.

Now, Jackman said, it's up to area residents to support the theater.

“Come to Iowa Falls to the theater at least once a week,” the actor said.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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