Michigan Theater announces capital campaign to secure and improve Ann Arbor’s downtown theaters
ANN ARBOR—The Michigan Theater Foundation (MTF) representatives have announced the launch of The State & Michigan Project, a capital campaign to renovate the State Theatre and to make critical capital improvements to the Michigan Theater. The campaign goal is $8.5 million and pledges of over $6.2 million toward that goal have been received. After purchasing the theater in 2014 to save it from being turned into office space, the MTF committed itself to raising funds to restore the theater’s historic marquee and lobby back to their 1942 Art Deco glory, while also providing a modern, comfortable movie going experience for patrons.
According to Executive Director Russ Collins, the success of the campaign so far is due to the exemplary leadership committee, headed by honorary co-chairs Judy Dow Rumelhart and Ambassador Ronald N. Weiser, and campaign co-chairs Martha Darling and Gil Omenn. Martha Darling commented, “This is a testament to the generosity of our community to support the things that contribute to our quality of life. It also demonstrates a clear, community consensus that the iconic State Theatre is a vital part of the downtown landscape that must be preserved.” She added, “Now we have reached the point in the campaign to invite everyone to join their friends and neighbors in helping the campaign to our finish line.”
Designed by renowned architect C. Howard Crane, the Detroit-based architect who created Detroit’s Fox Theatre, Orchestra Hall, and Detroit Opera House, as well as Broadway’s Music Box Theater (for Irving Berlin), and August Wilson Theater and Los Angeles’s United Artists Theater (for Mary Pickford). Crane was one of the four major movie palace architects of the first half of the twentieth century, designing nearly 300 theaters world-wide. The State Theatre is the only remaining design by Crane in Ann Arbor.
Expanding the number of screens from two to four, with new comfortable seating, increased leg room and realigned sight lines, these newly constructed theaters within the envelope of the historic State Theatre will offer movie goers a modern, technologically advanced and comfortable movie going experience. The renovation of the State Theatre not only preserves iconic architecture; it will strengthen the operating business model for presenting excellent motion pictures and other events in Downtown Ann Arbor. The programming profile will be expanded to offer more of the films that play in New York and other big city cinemas and offer expanded choices for films of interest to University of Michigan students and the campus community.
A highlight of the renovation project will be the installation of a full-size elevator, with stops at each level of lobbies and theaters, as well as new ADA features for mobility-impaired, hearing-impaired and vision-impaired citizens. New heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical and safety systems will be installed, along with the latest in movie projection and sound systems. The State is expected to re-open in mid-2017, the 75th anniversary of its opening in 1942. More information can be found at statetheatrea2.org.
In addition to the exciting new State Theatre, the MTF will also use these funds to bring the Michigan Theater up to date, with new, comfortable and historically appropriate seats, much-needed improvements to well-worn mechanical systems, as well as accessibility enhancements in the theater’s balcony. New historically accurate carpeting will be installed, as well as repairs and modernization to the theater’s Barton organ, stage equipment, lighting and heating/cooling systems. These updates will take place in the fall of 2017.
Now celebrating its 89th year, the Michigan Theater is Ann Arbor’s award-winning, non-profit historic center for fine film and performing arts. The Michigan Theater welcomes more than 300,000 visitors each year to its art house films, concerts, lectures, live theater, and special programs such as Sundance Film Festival USA and Cinetopia International Film Festival. The Michigan Theater is located in downtown Ann Arbor at 603 East Liberty Street. The Michigan Theater also owns and operates the historic State Theatre, located at 233 S. State Street. Visit michtheater.org or call the 24-hour information line at (734) 668-TIME for schedule and ticket information.