A 10-month, $8.5 million renovation project at Ann Arbor's iconic State Theatre gives a nod to the theater's movie-palace past while updating the facility for a modern audience.
The theater, located at 233 S. State St., will host a grand reopening Friday, Dec. 8, with a full slate of movies starting on Saturday, Dec. 9. Ann Arbor native and filmmaker Qasim Basir is scheduled to come to town for the reopening, and a special engagement of Basir's film Destined, shot in Detroit, will run from Dec. 8-13.
Renovation efforts were focused on the balance between restoring many of the building's original Art Deco touches — designed by renowned Michigan architect C. Howard Crane and opened in 1942 — while also creating more legroom and making the building more accessible to those with mobility impairments.
"I am personally thrilled to be honoring C. Howard Crane, an under-appreciated Detroit-based architect," says Russ Collins, executive director for the State and Michigan theaters.
Renovations included updated movie projection and sound systems, increasing the number of screens from two to four while providing more legroom, and adding a full-sized elevator, escalator, full-service cocktail bar, and completely renovated concession stand.
Recreating the original 1942 carpet was one of the most challenging aspects of the renovation.
"It was this cool, spacey Art Deco design that was removed in the 1970s or early 1980s," Collins says.
Photos gave a general idea of the color and pattern, but it wasn't until a patron offered the theater a 12' x 18' piece of the original carpet that designers were able to confirm the exact colors and size of the pattern.
Collins says the most exciting part of opening the theater again isn't the aesthetics, but the wide range of films the State and Michigan theaters will now be able to offer their customers.
Collins says that, with the exception of a few obscure formats, the theaters will now be able to "show any kind of celluloid film cinema ever made."
Theater projectors can slow down the speed of the film to make sure silent films are projected at the right speed. The theaters will be able to handle 35mm film, 3-D movies, and all other kinds of films, from blockbusters to archival footage to art cinema.
Collins says other big cities like Los Angeles have the ability to show many different types of films, but not all "under one roof."
"Together, the State and the Michigan will be the most outstanding set of cinema screens capable of a wide variety of archival and exhibit content unrivalled in the rest of the country," Collins says.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of the Michigan Theater.