Ceremonial demolition, public fundraising begin for State Theatre renovations

The Michigan Theater Foundation has kicked off the public phase of its capital campaign to renovate Ann Arbor's historic State and Michigan theaters.

The State and Michigan Project had already received pledges for $6.2 million toward its $8.5 million goal before announcing the public campaign and ceremonially beginning demolition work on the State last week.

Plans for the State call for restoring the theater's marquee and lobby; installing an elevator and other accessibility features for mobility-, vision-, and hearing-impaired guests; updating heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical, and safety systems; and installing the latest projection and sound equipment.

Closed for renovations until next summer, the State will also be converted from two screens to four, with more comfortable seats, more legroom, and improved sight lines.

More screens mean that more of the arthouse films opening weekly in New York and Los Angeles will be showing in Ann Arbor, says Russ Collins, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Theater, which purchased the State in 2014.

"Our job is really just to provide more access to that wonderful programming," Collins says. There's so much great stuff out there that isn't getting on the screen in the way it deserves to be."

It also gives the theater a chance to appeal to students in a way it hasn't before by bringing in more popular, yet "tremendously artistic," films, Collins says. One example is last year's multiple Oscar winner "Mad Max: Fury Road."

"We're the arthouse for our part of the world … but we're also the campus town cinema," Collins says.

While the State gets overhauled, the Michigan Theater has added an additional screening room, dubbed the Annex, to help fill the programming gap in the interim.

The State is scheduled to reopen mid-2017, the year of its 75th anniversary.

Campaign funds will also be used to update the Michigan. Last refurbished in the 1980s, notable improvements include new seats that will be more comfortable and historically in line with the theater's 1920s architecture, as well as several systems updates.

Collins is confident donors will deliver the remaining $2.3 million and the campaign will meet its goal by the end of next year.

"We have a community that believes in investing in the public good," he says.

Photos by Doug Coombe.
Signup for Email Alerts