Home Entertainment Theater State of the art house: Ann Arbor theater gets welcome renovations

State of the art house: Ann Arbor theater gets welcome renovations
State of the art house: Ann Arbor theater gets welcome renovations avatar

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ANN ARBOR — The Square, writer-director Ruben Östlund’s highly praised satire about the nature of art and our current culture, won the coveted top film prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

But don’t look for the film in Toledo.

The Square is playing at the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, along with the refugee crisis documentary Human Flow, as well as more commercial films Lady Bird and The Disaster Artist and “midnight movie” engagements like The Room, The Big Lebowski, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Harold and Maude.

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The Art Deco design has been continued from the facade to the entrance, lobby, and restrooms.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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In other words, the State Theatre, 233 S. State St., is also Toledo’s neighborhood art theater, plus or minus 50 miles.

And that’s why the recent and significant $6.5 million renovations to the theater is important.

Celebrating its 75th birthday last March, the State Theatre reopened earlier this month after a year-plus of construction with a drastic yet familiar new look.

Among the noticeable changes:

The two movie house auditoriums have been doubled, with seating for 140, 100, 80, and 50 moviegoers, depending on the theater. Each auditorium also features digital projection and Dolby Digital Surround Sound.

Famed architect C. Howard Crane’s Art Deco design of the theater’s façade, entrance, lobby, and restrooms has been restored and refreshed.

A full-size elevator and escalator have been installed.

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The newly renovated theater will also feature an elevator, accessible auditoriums with ADA features, new seating, heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical, and safety systems.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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The concession stand has been renovated, and there is a full-service cocktail bar.

Other smaller but equally important renovations include new heating and cooling, plumbing, electrical, and safety systems, more seating legroom, and handicap accessibility in the four auditoriums.

Fund-raising for the renovation was overseen by the Michigan Theater Foundation, which owns the State Theatre as well as the Michigan Theater and produces the annual Cinetopia Film Festival in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

It’s a project that began as far back as 2007, when the foundation first considered the possibility of taking ownership of the theater portion of the building, before purchasing it in 2015.

Under an agreement with the building’s prior owners, Urban Outfitters leases the street-level first floor of the building, with the State Theater occupying the upper floors. The contract with Urban Outfitters will continue “for the foreseeable future”" said Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater Foundation. This meant the organization was limited to renovating the theater's portion of the building, rather than restoring the entire building to its original look.

And that worked to the State Theatre’s advantage.

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The Art Deco design has been continued from the faade to the entrance, lobby, and restrooms.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Unlike the Michigan Theater, a “saved restored theater” that must be made to maintain its original look, the State Theatre could be modified to compete with the bigger theater chains,

“It gave us license to change the space to fit more contemporary film exhibition needs and expectations,” Mr. Collins said.

“I think we have developed the highest and best use for a historical theater,” he added. “It was a win-win.”

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.

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