Hundreds swarmed the lobby of the Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 on Friday afternoon to see homegrown star Elijah Kelley at his third LaGrange movie premiere.
Previously hosting premiere events for his roles in movies “Red Tails” and “Hairspray,” Kelley on Friday was greeting fans as “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” opened. In the movie, Kelley plays a son of the titular butler to eight U.S. presidents, Cecil Gaines, played by Forest Whitaker.
An event originally was planned at Lafayette Square, but was canceled due to expected rain. Instead, people were directed to the theater where Kelley signed autographs and greeted eager fans.
Justin Milton, 18, was one of the first to get an autograph from Kelley on Friday. He excitedly pointed out that he and Kelley both attended Troup High School.
“I’m so excited,” Milton said about meeting Kelley.
Milton said he was going to watch “The Butler” that evening.
“I’ve found that he is definitely a hometown celebrity,” said Dale Hurst, manager of LaGrange 10. “Just the mention of his name in a new movie and people start asking us when it’s coming out and if he’s going to be here.”
The crowd of fans wrapped around the lobby of the theater. Kelley signed pictures, shook hands, hugged and posed for photos with attendees.
In a quick interlude, a group of dancers from Eagle’s Nest Cathedral Church in West Point did a step show for Kelley during the autograph session.
“Young Elijah used to come to the youth program and dance and sing at the church,” said Tammy Jones with Eagle’s Nest.
Kelley sat on top of a barrier to watch the young children perform, applauding and coming up to thank the youths after they finished.
Cathy Sargent, a former Troup High School teacher, was one of many people in line to get an autograph from Kelley, but she was greeted with a familiar hug from the actor, who is a former student.
“It’s such a good feeling to see my kids doing great and living out their dreams,” she said.
Sargent said she directed Kelley in plays at THS and everyone knew he was talented then. Seeing him reach the big screen isn’t a surprise.
“My heart is full to see him doing so well,” Sargent said. “I’m proud of him.”