State Theater's final closing to take place in early September

Ann Arbor, Mich. - As of today, the State Theatre, the Art Deco cinema-style theater located at 233 South State Street in Ann Arbor, will officially continue to serve as a home for film screenings. The management of the non-profit Michigan Theater Foundation announced they have signed a purchase agreement and have long-term plans to make accessibility, comfort, and presentation quality improvements at the historic facility. The purchase agreement was signed this afternoon by Russ Collins on behalf of the Michigan Theater Foundation Board of Directors and Jim Chaconas on behalf of the State Theatre owners.

"After months of negotiation, the State Theatre owners are pleased to announce that the State Theatre will continue to serve as a home to movies," Chaconas said. "We are grateful to the State Theatre owners for negotiating with us in good faith," said Collins. "We believe this opportunity benefits the community and fits the mission of the Michigan Theater."

The Michigan Theater is purchasing the part of the State Theatre currently used for film exhibition, which is located in what was the balcony of the original theater. The former main floor of the State will continue as the highly successful Urban Outfitters retail store.

The signing of the purchase agreement begins a 60-day period of engineering examination, master deed negotiations, and legal due diligence. Final closing of the purchase is expected to take place in early September. Michigan Theater Foundation Board Chair Alec Allen said, "We have thought long and hard about this opportunity and now, before the final closing, we will closely examine the property and work with the current owners to prudently finalize this deal for the benefit of our community."

 © 2005 Joe Braun Photography

Collins indicated that the community should not expect significant improvements to the State Theatre until after a community-based funding appeal occurs. The fundraising and design of improvements and eventual construction are expected to take place within the next 14 to 30 months. Preliminary estimates done previously for the Michigan Theater put improvement costs, when combined with acquisition costs, between $2-3 million.

The majority of the improvement costs are related to accessibility issues, especially the installation of an elevator, and qualitative enhancements that will transform the State Theatre from a well-used 1940s film theater into an outstanding 21st century digital cinema.

Lee Berry, Chief Development Officer at the Michigan Theater, looks forward to working with individuals and companies in the area to generate the funding to support the purchase and improvements to the State Theatre. "An enormous amount of work needs to be done at the State Theatre to meet contemporary code compliance for accessibility as well as audience demand for an excellent movie-going experience.

 Fortunately, we live in a generous community that recognizes the value of preserving historic architecture and downtown vitality as key factors contributing to our quality of life. We look forward to conversations with everyone who might consider a pledge to help us preserve the State Theatre as an Art Deco treasure and a make it a state-of-the-art cinema center."

Originally designed in the 1930s by architect C. Howard Crane, the State Theatre opened on March 18, 1942, soon after the United States became involved in World War II. In the spirit of the era, the State was opened with a military musical The Fleet's In starring Dorothy Lamour, William Holden, and Eddie Bracken. The theater's renowned architect specialized in the design of movie palaces in North America. Crane designed more than 250 theaters, with over 60 of them in the Detroit area. His 5174-seat Detroit Fox Theater was the largest of the Fox Theaters.

Crane was a genius at giving his venues great acoustics, including Orchestra Hall, home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Capitol Theater, now the Detroit Opera House, home of the Michigan Opera Theater. Crane also designed Olympia Stadium in Detroit, which was the home of the Detroit Red Wings and a famous rock and roll concert venue until it was razed in 1987. In 1930, Crane moved to London, England, but kept his office in Detroit. Crane's most famous U.K. commission was the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, a convention center that opened in 1937, which, like the State Theatre, was acclaimed for its Art Deco design.

The State Theatre was operated from its opening in 1942 until 1984 by the Butterfield Theater Corporation, a Michigan company that ceased operating theaters in the 1980s. The Butterfields also operated the Michigan Theater from its opening in 1928 until it was bought by the non-profit Michigan Theater Foundation in 1979. In 1977, Butterfield inelegantly chopped the State into a four-screen multiplex. In 1984, Kerasotes Theaters purchased the State; however, in 1987 they promptly left all of their Michigan holdings including the State Theatre.

Tom Borders, a founder of the Borders bookstore chain, bought the State Theatre and remodeled the theater's main floor in 1989 for retail use by Urban Outfitters. Borders preserved the two screens in the former balcony for cinema exhibition and leased it to a local company, Aloha Entertainment, in 1992.

When the current owners bought the State Theatre from Tom Borders in November 1999, they terminated the lease with Aloha and asked Collins and the Michigan Theater staff to assist with the selection and marketing of the films for the State Theatre. However, the Michigan Theater has never had an ownership stake or responsibility in the State Theatre's business or venue management; after the closing in September, the Michigan Theater will have sole responsibility for the business operations and facility improvements.

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