VHS Night: Downtown’s Broadway Theatre celebrates nostalgia and nerdiness with film series

Gone are the days of Blockbuster and rewinding a VHS tape to rewatch your favorite movie … Or are they?

Broadway Theatre’s VHS Night welcomes “tapeheads” (VHS tape collectors) and lovers of cult-classic movies for an exclusive lineup of cult classics shown in the VHS format. This weekend on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m., they’re showing “The Thing,” the 1982 horror thriller starring Kurt Russell. 

See “The Thing” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, at Broadway Theatre’s VHS Night. (Photo courtesy of Tyler Sonnichsen)Event organizers Lisa “Macaroni” and Tyler Sonnichsen hope the series creates a destination spot in Mt. Pleasant for vintage enthusiasts, retro movie format fans, and the everyday cinema goer. 

Friends of the Broadway Board member Sonnichsen says the idea of a movie night dedicated to VHS has been around for awhile. 

Once he joined the nonprofit group that runs and manages the Theatre, he proposed the VHS movie night series. The first film shown was “Scream,” the Wes Craven-directed teen slasher film from 1996. Past audiences also enjoyed more family friendly flicks such as “Gremlins” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Sonnichsen hopes VHS Night can bring the central Michigan region into that larger conversation, and create a place for those who love movies and this particular format. 

“There are so many great scenes – like in Indianapolis, we went to an amazing VHS Swap Meet last summer and realized there’s a big, vibrant culture around this. That’s part of what inspired us to start this series,” he says.

As the trend in vinyl collecting grows within the music industry, the desire to collect tangible items and keepsakes like VHS tapes is also rising. Lisa says some of the draw is the pure nostalgia effect. 

“Going to the movie rental place Friday night, getting your tapes, your candy, and going home and popping in those movies. Having to rewind – ‘be kind, rewind’ – it just hits all those nostalgia buttons,” she says. “When you think of nostalgia and the resurgence of 90s culture that’s come back, VHS tapes have been a part of that.”

Sonnichsen says another thing VHS tapes have going for them in comparison to DVDs and streaming content, is the format and visual effects. “As much as DVDs and Blu-rays can be great, they don’t have the visual pop that VHS tapes have. It’s a real testament that the DVDs that Netflix actually releases, like ‘Stranger Things,’ were packaged to look like a rental VHS.”

Another draw for collecting VHS tapes compared to vinyl or other items, Sonnichsen says, is their accessibility and affordable price point. “If you want to go to Main Street Audio/Video on one of their video sale days, you can walk away with like 20 VHS movies for $10. You can very easily build a collection for very cheap.”

Sonnichsen says the VHS Night at the Broadway film series provides moviegoers the opportunity to see some of their favorite films on the big screen for the first time. “We’re trying to establish The Broadway as a great place not only for all-ages productions, but also a venue for cult movies and outsider film nerd stuff.”

In order to show the movies in VHS format, Lisa says Sonnichsen worked really hard on rewiring, and donating a VCR to the Theatre’s projector. With that comes some of the graininess you’d expect from a tape. Some people think the name of the series is just for fun, but the dedication and celebration to the VHS format is evident.

“A lot of the crowd is really in it for the experience, which includes the aspect-ratio as if you were watching it at home in the 80s or 90s,” Sonnichsen says. “We show the trailers that come on the tapes. It really stamps what you’re watching in a particular place and time.”

(Photo courtesy of Tyler Sonnichsen)The series takes place each month on the first Saturday. Typically, movie trivia kicks off the night, followed by the movie, and a raffle after the end credits. Sponsors include Main Street Audio/Video, where many of the VHS tapes for the series have come, as well as gift certificates for prizes. 

The duo hope that VHS Night can grow here locally in Mt. Pleasant, and expand to other cities across the state. “We are currently in the process of talking with some other venues in central Michigan about bringing VHS Night there as well. Whenever we tell this to locals who come to our screenings, or supporters of these movie nights, they always say, ‘Yes, more.’”

Popcorn, pop, candy, and snacks are available for purchase at the concession stand. Tickets can be purchased in advance online for $8, or at the door for $10. The box office opens at 7 p.m., an hour before showtime. 

Follow along for more movie fun at #vhsnightathebroadway and on Facebook and Instagram.
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.