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Behind The Scenes Of Ann Arbor’s State Theatre Re-Opening After A Multimillion Dollar Renovation

Dec 7, 2017

The newly restored & renovated State Theatre marquee.
Credit Lisa Barry
The State Theatre's executive director, Russ Collins
Credit Lisa Barry

After a year of construction and millions of dollars in improvements, the historic State Theatre on State Street in Ann Arbor is reopening to the public on December 8th.

89.1 WEMU'S Lisa Barry takes you on a tour of the renovated movie house with the executive director of the State and Michigan Theatres, Russ Collins, as workers put the final touches on the refurbished movie house.


Russ Collins points out a brand new entrance, a brand new elevator and escalator in the refurbished State Theatre lobby, as well as a brand new view of Liberty Street from a newly installed lobby window.

Collins says there will be built in booths in the Art Deco-styled lobby matching the style of the theater first built in 1942.  But there will be a modern concession stand selling wine and beer, and they will eventually add other food items.

The renovations were funded by a “community campaign” to raise $8.5 million.

Collins says those donors decided against new theater seats with footrests believing they wouldn’t be appropriate for the historic State Theatre and the type of movies they will show there.

Collins sits in one of the newly-installed seats at the theater.
Credit Lisa Barry

The carpeting in the newly refurbished State Theatre was re-created from the original Art Deco design using new technology.

Each theater inside will have two 7 foot-tall Art Deco style wall sconce lights also created to match what was in the State Theatre when it first opened in 1942.

Collins unwraps one of the specially-created Art Deco wall sconce created for the newly renovated State Theatre.
Credit Lisa Barry

Despite all the energy and effort into making the 75 year-old State Theatre look like it did when it first opened in 1942, Collins says they’ve doubled the number of theaters inside, enhanced the screen size and sound system and they will have a “modern” concession stand offering wine and beer and will eventually add in more food options.

Collins with the new wall sconce.
Credit Lisa Barry

The executive director says movies are competitive with music as a passionate art form in Ann Arbor and says people from all over the state and from nearby states to see a movie at the State Theatre.

The view of Liberty Street from the new window being installed in the State Theatre lobby.
Credit Lisa Barry

Collins says the theater will re-open with an "old look and new technology" in an "old meets new" movie theater renovation.

Art Deco style carpeting in the State Theatre specially created to look like the original carpeting installed in the theater in 1942.
Credit Lisa Barry

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu