The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - September 8, 1998 - 9D
Renovations mark Michigan
Theater's changes this fall
By Peter Meyers
Daily Staff Reporter
University students stepping onto
campus this fall will find many differ-
ences in the Michigan Theater from
when they lefl town.
The historic theater is undergoing a
$4.4-million renovation that will peel off
the current facade to restore the theater to
its 1928 look.
The theater will sport several new
rooms on the north side. The north side
addition will include a 200-seat screen-
ing room that "will have state-of-the-art
equipment, said Michigan Theater
Executive Director Russell Collins.
Unlike the main 1,700-seat theater,
which hosts traveling Broadway shows,
rock concerts and other performances,
the screening room will only be used for
movies, Collins said.
The new rooms will increase the selec-
tion and frequency of movie screenings.
Most movie distributors don't allow the-
aters to run movies for less than seven
days, Collins said. With all the events the
theater is used for, it is rarely set aside
seven days for consecutive showings.
The theater opened in 1928 as a place
to view silent movies accompanied by
live organ music. This "multimedia"
design set up the theater to cater both to
video and musical perfomances, he said.
'The renovations will be extensive,
beginning with the theater's decade and
adding decorative turrets to the corners of
the building. The marquee itself, which
dates back to when the theater was reno-
vated in 1956, will be replaced by a
smaller marquee to expose more of the
facade's antique ornamentation.
The lobby and ticket booth will also be
replaced by a booth that more closely
resembles the original. The present walls
in the lobby will be pulled down to dis-
play the earlier plasterwork that lies
Collins said architects referred to the
theater's original blueprints and early
photographs for the restoration. The ren-
ovation is scheduled to be finished by
December, he said.
Louisa Piper, Ann Arbor's historic
preservation coordinator, said the city
bought the building in 1979 primarily
through the influence of then-Mayor
Louis Belcher, who wanted to preserve it.
"It was considered a real asset to the
community" said Piper, adding that it is
unusual for a city to buy properties it
wants to keep for community purposes.
"It's usually the worst way" to preserve
a building, Piper said. "Rarely can a city
organize the funding to buy it."
After the city purchased the theater,
the Michigan Theater Foundation took
over operations of the historic building.
Today, 20 percent of the theater's operat-
ing costs are funded through private
donations, Collins said.
Collins said the theater's non-profit
status has allowed it to avoid the debili-
tating effects of market pressur on
downtown theaters to give up space to
retail operations or to subdivide intoanul-
The Campus Theater on South
University Avenue fell victim to these
pressures, Collins said.
"They tore that one down because it
was inefficient to subdivide," Collins
said. Collins said the State Theater:was
"The State Theater used to be orit big
theater," Collins said. "'The main floor
was gutted and turned into real estate."
The State's balcony was converted into
two screening rooms and its ground floor
now houses the U. rban Outfitters clothing
After 70 years of operation, the Michigan Theater is revamping itself - sort of. Renovations will be made to the streetside
marquee and a new 200-seat screening room will be added to enhance the number of choices the theater offers.
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The Michigan Theater is an Ann Arbor landmark, rich with a history that
will be altered with the recent renovations, Below are some interesting
facts about the theater's past and the changes.
a Opened in 1928 as a silent movie venue complete with organ music
a The marquee - originally installed in 1956 - will be updated and
made smaller to expose more of the antique ornamentation
a In addition to the current 1,700-seat theater, a 200-seat screening
rooms will be added on the north side
mA significant advantage the Theater has is its non-profit status
A N N A N D d A
berty in the Michigan Theatre Bldg
open every day