Cinema Chat: State Theatre Renovation, 'Max Rose,' 'Liberty's Secret,' 'Snowden,' And More

Sep 15, 2016

Michigan Theater Lobby
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

There's a lot going on in the world of movies this week, including special announcements regarding the State Theatre and the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor!  In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins about the movie business and all the flicks coming to your local theater this weekend.


The State Theater is on hiatus for the next 10 or so months!!

The State Theater closed yesterday (Wednesday, September 14) but will reopen next summer a rejuvenated and full accessible Art Deco icon.  The Michigan Theater Foundation (MTF) has secured pledges of more than $6.2 million toward the renovation and restoration of the historic State Theatre and improvements to the Michigan Theater.  The total amount of improvement will total $8.5 million.  After purchasing the State Theatre in 2014 to save it from being turned into office space, the MTF committed itself to raising funds to restore the theater’s historic marquee and lobby back to its 1942 Art Deco glory, while also providing a modern, comfortable movie going experience for patrons.  The Michigan Theater will get new, more historically appropriate seats and much needed capital maintenance work to several critical building systems.

The State Theatre was designed by renowned architect C. Howard Crane, the Detroit and London based architect who created Detroit’s Fox Theatre, Orchestra Hall, and Detroit Opera Houses, as well as Broadway’s Music Box Theater (for Irving Berlin), and August Wilson Theater and Los Angeles’s United Artists Theater (for Mary Pickford).  Crane was one of the four major movie palace architects of the first half of the twentieth century designing nearly 300 theaters world-wide.  The State Theatre is the only remaining design by Crane in Ann Arbor.

Expanding the number of screens from two to four, with new comfortable seating, increased leg room and realigned sight lines, these newly constructed theaters within the historic envelope of the State Theatre will offer movie goers a modern, technologically advance and comfortable movie going experience.  The renovation of the State Theatre not only preserves iconic architecture, it will strengthen the operating business model for presenting excellent and technologically advanced motion pictures in Downtown Ann Arbor.  The programming profile will be expanded to offer more of the films that play in New York and other big city cinemas and plus offer expanded choices for films of interest to University of Michigan student and the campus community.

The renovation project will also install a full size elevator, with stops at each level of lobbies and theaters, as well as new ADA features for mobility-impaired, hearing-impaired and vision-impaired citizens.  New heating, cooling, plumbing, electrical and safety systems will be installed, along with the latest in movie projection and sound systems.

In addition to the exciting new State Theatre, the MTF will also use these funds to bring the well-loved (and well used) Michigan Theater up-to-date, with new comfortable and historically appropriate seats, much need improvements to well-worn mechanical systems, as well as accessibility enhancements in the theater’s balcony.  New historically accurate carpeting will be installed, as well as much needed updates and modernization to the theater’s stage equipment, lighting and heating/cooling systems.  These updates will take place after the reopening of the State in mid-2017.

OPENING TOMORROW – The Michigan Theater NEW ANNEX CINEMA!!!

To maintain excellent cinema programming while the State Theatre is on hiatus, the Michigan Theater will open a 60 seats theater, adjacent to the Michigan Theater’s Screening Room in the Michigan Theater complex.  The theater will have a state of the art digital projector and high quality surround sound.  Patrons will buy tickets for the Annex Cinema from the Michigan Theater box office, pick up concessions at the Michigan Theater concession stand, walk through the Michigan Theater’s Grand Foyer, and head to the Screen Room lobby.  A doorway in the Screening Room lobby will provide access to the Annex Cinema.  Just before entry into the Annex Cinema, you will pass a tropical garden, go down a short hallway, and enter a theater that will surprise you!  The Annex Cinema opens tomorrow – program to be announced.

Opening Downtown

"The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years"

This film is based on the first part of The Beatles’ career (1962-1966), the period in which they toured and captured the world’s acclaim. The film explores how John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr came together to become this extraordinary phenomenon, and delves into their inner workings: how they made decisions, created their music and built their collective career together.  Directed by Ron Howard, “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years” opens Thursday, September 15 at the Michigan.

"Max Rose"

Featuring the legendary Jerry Lewis in his first starring role in over two decades, this is a deeply moving drama about a retired jazz musician whose beloved wife of nearly six decades has just passed away.  Though his career wasn't everything he hoped for, Max always felt like a success because his beautiful, elegant Eva was by his side.  Then, while going through her effects, he discovers a love note from another man, a shocking revelation that leads him to believe his entire marriage, indeed, his entire life, was built on a lie.  Following a period of anger and withdrawal, Max decides to confront the man who "stole" his wife in the hope that what he learns will provide the answers he so desperately needs.  “Max Rose” opens Friday at the Michigan.

"Eva Hesse"

The documentary film explores the life of one of America's foremost postwar artists.  Her pioneering sculptures, using latex, fiberglass, and plastics, helped establish the post-minimalist movement.  Dying of a brain tumor at age 34, she had a mere, decade-long career that, despite its brevity, is dense with complex, intriguing works that defy easy categorization.  The film makes superb use of the artist's voluminous journals, her correspondence with close friend and mentor Sol LeWitt, and contemporary as well as archival interviews with fellow artists who recall her passionate, ambitious, tenacious personality.  “Eva Hesse” opens Sunday at the Michigan.

Special Screenings Downtown

"Liberty's Secret"

This is a new movie-musical written, composed, and directed by U-M professor Andy Kirshner.  The film follows the rise of Liberty Smith, the squeaky-clean daughter of a “family values” preacher who becomes the symbolic centerpiece of a socially conservative presidential campaign.  When ingénue Liberty falls in love with her (female) spin-doctor, the result is a cable news catastrophe.  A confused Liberty must choose between the life she knows, and the love she has always dreamed of – while all of America watches.  “Liberty’s Secret” premieres at the Michigan Theater on Thursday, September 22 at 8 PM.

Opening at the Multiplex

"Bridget Jones's Baby"

After breaking up with Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Bridget Jones's (Renee Zellweger) "happily ever after" hasn't quite gone according to plan.  Fortysomething and single again, she decides to focus on her job as top news producer and surround herself with old friends and new.  For once, Bridget has everything completely under control.  What could possibly go wrong?  Then her life takes a twist when she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch…she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby's father.  “Bridget Jones’s Baby” opens Friday.

"Blair Witch"

A group of college students venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of James's sister, who many believe is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch.  At first the group is hopeful, but as the endless night wears on, the group is visited by a menacing presence.  Slowly, they begin to realize the legend is all too real and more sinister than they could have imagined.  “Blair Witch” opens Friday.

"Snowden"

This film reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world.  Directed by Oliver Stone, “Snowden” opens Friday.

"Hillsong: Let Hope Rise"

Capturing the on-stage energy and off-stage hearts of the Australia-based band Hillsong Worship, this film is a “theatrical worship experience” that explores the band’s humble beginnings and astonishing rise to prominence as an international church whose songs are sung every Sunday by more than 50 million people worldwide.  “Hillsong: Let Hope Rise” opens Friday.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu