NATCHEZ - The Ridgeland-based church that recently leased the auditorium from the City of Natchez has made $70,000 worth of improvements to the building, and more repairs are on the way.

The Rev. David Hale of Christ Life Church said the auditorium has been cleaned and painted. The church has also replaced several ceiling tiles and has also installed a state-of-the-art projection system, with two large projector screens hanging on each side of the stage.

Church staff put in approximately 200 hours installing the system and completing other updates to the auditorium, Hale said.

Lighting, carpet and other items have been replaced, Hale said. The church has also added a set to the stage area.

The auditorium, Hale said, now also has a fully functional kitchen.

"What kind of event can you have if you don't have the necessary places for people?" Hale said.

The church aims to keep the auditorium a community events venue.

"This is not our building," he said. "We feel fortunate to be here, but also part of our mission is to be able to serve the community."

The church's role so far, Hale said, has been to give new life to the historic city auditorium.

"If you have anything that doesn't have breath, it's not going to live," he said. "This place has breath in it again."

The auditorium will be the location of a casting call Saturday for the James Brown biopic "Get On Up" set to start filming in Natchez and Jackson in early November.

Hale said the production crew has also expressed interest in possibly filming scenes at the auditorium.

Christ Life took over management of the auditorium a couple of months ago and uses it for Sunday night services. Hale said 250 people attended the launch service on Sept. 8.

"That's good for the launch service," he said. "We hope to grow that number. We love Natchez, and we're happy to be here."

As part of its lease with the city, the church will pay $1,500 monthly to the city.

The money will be placed in an account that will be used only for repairs and maintenance of the auditorium, Mayor Butch Brown has said.