The memories I have of this theatre are deep and all good. A fourth grade birthday party where my friends and I saw Judy Holliday and Dean Martin in "Bells are Ringing." High school dates in the balcony. Enjoying Audrey Hepburn movies with my mom.
I would walk through the beautiful arcade where a selection of shops tempted my parents, buy popcorn at the concession stand and crawl into the cushioned red seats, ready to be enthralled by "Pollyanna," cry at "Old Yeller" or scream at "Wait Until Dark." The lights would dim, the stars on the ceiling would appear, I would be transported.
My mom's experience with the theatre went back far longer than mine. When it was called The Strand, she and her friends would go to the early movie and stay all day long. Money for the movie, a nickel for a candy bar. All the magic you could stand.
The Eberson atmospheric theatres were designed by John Eberson and in cities across the country including Dallas, Wichita, Tampa, Houston, San Antonio, Shaker Heights, Louisville, Chicago, and countless others from 1905 to 1950. Many of those theatres, like the Michigan, have since been demolished, making way for other businesses, unable to support their costs with crowds flocking to mall multiplexes.
Now, for some lovely background music, click on the video below!
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a concert by the ethereal Loreena McKennitt at another Eberson-designed theatre, the State Theatre located in downtown Kalamazoo.
I walked in and it was like walking into my past. Elaborate ceiling work in the lobby.
A small but busy concession stand. Classic signs indicating the Ladies Room.
The auditorium was spectacular -- well preserved and elegant. As I recalled from the theatres of my youth, stars twinkled on the ceiling and the ornate pillars and decor transported me to another world.
There was a powerful Moorish feeling to the setting. Sculpture was found in inset nooks on the walls and the gold was plentiful.
Everything was beautifully lit -- dark enough to be mysterious, light enough to see the fabulous details.
The large and steep balcony (that's where we were sitting!) offered a terrific perspective for the stage and a great view of the entire space.
Add to this McKennitt's powerful Celtic music, filling the space with her clear voice and small but very effective musical trio who played cello/recorder, bass, fiddle with McKennitt on harp and piano.
It was a performance and evening to remember -- remembering both the evening itself and all those wonderful times long ago in another theatre that was much the same.
Vintage photos in this post are from the sites Water Winter Wonderland and Cinema Treasures.