The Detroit Movie Palaces are all living museums of movie theater history. But to keep their past alive, these theaters must continually look to the future. The Michigan Theater gave a vivid demonstration of that commitment on March 4, 2007.
At the annual membership meeting, strong supporters of the Michigan heard presentations on the recent successes of the theater, as well as on goals and strategies. Later, hundreds of young future filmgoers enjoyed the latest installment in the theater’s Family-Friendly Film Series.
The annual membership meeting of the Michigan Theater Foundation, Inc. has become one of the most interesting and valuable benefits of my membership. It’s quite intriguing and informative to hear a behind-the-scenes description of what goes on at the Michigan.
As visitors walk in, they pick up a financial report on the theater. This document shows the many items that must be managed to keep the theater financially viable. Expenses include salaries and wages, film expenses, depreciation, and utilities. Income to pay for all of this comes from a variety of sources, including films, rentals (such as live events), membership fees, and major gifts.
On hand to explain everything were Executive Director & CEO Russ Collins, Annual Gifts/Membership Director Laura Barnes, and members of the Board of Directors. They talked about their stewardship responsibilities to the Ann Arbor area and their goal to “continuously enhance the community’s investment in the ‘glow’ of the Michigan.”
One goal is to become “a world-class cinema culture institution,” which this year will include participation again in the Sundance Institute Art House Project. That project gives the Michigan contact with other theaters around the country, helping the theater benchmark its film program to assure best practices in programming, marketing and technical execution.
Wallace and Gromit
One concern at the membership meeting was the effect on the Michigan Theater of the closing of the Ann Arbor office of Pfizer Inc. That was particularly relevant, because the meeting was followed by the latest movie in the Pfizer Family-Friendly Film Series at the Michigan.
But economic concerns seemed to be the last thing on everyone’s mind as they gathered for a showing of all three of the 30-minute films that introduced the world to the animated duo of the bumbling, cheese-eating Wallace and his faithful and frustrated dog Gromit.
I first saw these movies about 15 years ago at the Detroit Film Theatre. I’ve always been impressed with their clever satire and skillful clay animation. I always wondered if I’d have the chance to see all three together in a theater, and the creative film programmers at the Michigan made my wish came true.
On this late winter Sunday afternoon, parents steered small children to their seats, balancing big popcorn buckets and cups of soft drinks as they gave directions. A short intermission after the first two films helped shake any restlessness out of the boys and girls. In the outer lobby, a Girl Scout cookie sale added to the youthful feeling of the day.
Maybe 10-20 years from now, when the young visitors of that March 4 afternoon are attending the University of Michigan or settled in the area with jobs and families, they’ll return to the Michigan to relive their happy memories. The current commitments of the Michigan Theater staff and members will help make that possible.
Copyright 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.