While watching the ceremony to dedicate the new marquee at the Penn Theatre in Plymouth on June 25, 2009, I thought about all the influences that might have led to this magic moment.
The staff at the Penn has done an excellent job of combining the business models of many restored movie theaters in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. Its heavy reliance on volunteers is very similar to what keeps the Redford Theatre running. It has taken smart advantage of its location in a busy downtown, just like the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.
Its programming includes second run Hollywood movies like those shown at the Farmington Civic Theatre and the State-Wayne Theater. And it’s built a healthy relationship with donors, businesses, and other parts of the community, just like the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan, Redford, and other theaters.
The evening began with what’s become a pleasant habit for many moviegoers in the Plymouth area. Thursday night has become classic movie night at the Penn, and this week’s offering was the 1962 musical The Music Man, with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones.
The rousing finale of “Seventy Six Trombones” was the perfect segue into the marquee dedication ceremony, which took place at about 9:30 p.m. in front of the theater. People wandered over from Kellogg Park, and the splashing fountain helped set the scene on this warm summer evening.
Friends of the Penn Executive Director Ellen Elliott and others spoke to the crowd about all the efforts it took to save the Penn from possible demolition and restore it after several years of being closed. The emotions in her voice and the voices of other speakers reminded me of the heartfelt speeches I’ve heard at the DFT, Michigan, and Redford after recent renovation efforts and milestone anniversaries.
The marquee lighting was used to give special recognition to the different people and groups who have helped the Penn return as an active part of the Plymouth community. Parts of the marquee (like the underlights, rolling lights, letter area, and theater name) were progressively lit up to honor the volunteers, Penn patrons, donors, and others for their help in re-opening the Penn three years ago and keeping it going.
So once more, some caring people helped preserve part of this area’s past, at a time when we are losing such cathedrals of memories like Tiger Stadium. You can always help keep such places alive with your patronage, your donations, and your volunteer time.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.