Shaquille O'Neal was in the house Friday for the grand opening of on Springfield Avenue in Newark.
"My vision was to build a world-class theater," said O'Neal, a native Newarker whose real estate firm, the O'Neal Group, owns and operates the theater with Boraie Development.
Formerly the Newark Screens 6, the theater underwent this year about $7 million in major renovations, including the addition of four 3-D capable screens, 2,400 seat capacity and the premier screen, the Shaq-DX, named after the basketball legend. That auditorium, adorned with a lighted silhouette of O'Neal slam dunking, has 300 oversized leather seats, a nearly 50-foot-wide screen and state-of-the-art Dolby Digital 7.1 sound.
"...When you have something like this around the corner, it makes you feel good," O'Neal told reporters. "I go to some theaters in Orlando that aren't as nice as this."
The theater, which , has , Newark Black Film Festival and Paul Robeson Awards, "Sparkle," starring Whitney Houston, and has hosted more than 15,000 children for its free kids' film festival this summer.
A couple blocks away from the theater Friday was the . And, across town in the city's Lincoln Park section, family and friends during an attempted robbery.
O'Neal, who mentioned several times how proud he was to be a product of Newark, said community places, like the new movie theater, provide a safe haven for idle kids.
"The youth, when they don't have anything to do, that's when they start to venture toward the dark side. It's our responsibility to tell children that there is another side," said O'Neal.
"I was raised by the whole community," he added.