State Theatre auditorium June 2011 / photo by Kathy McLeister

Michael Moore fights to save State Theatre in Traverse City [Mich.]

[State Theatre as seen on the 2011 Conclave/Theatre Tour; article via THS Director Dennis Wilhelm]
Louis Aguilar/ The Detroit News
 November 11. 2011 1:00AM

State Theatre as seen during Conclave/Theatre Tour, June 2011 / photo by Kathy McLeister

 Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore sent out a mass email Wednesday warning that the historic Traverse City movie theater, which is the base of the city’s film festival, is in bad financial shape and in danger of closing.

“So, the theater is in crisis. A building maintenance crisis, and a financial crisis. And measures need to be taken immediately … or well, I don’t want to go there,” Moore writes in the lengthy email.

Moore spearheaded the $850,000 renovation of the State Theatre in downtown Traverse City several years ago, and the theater is run by the nonprofit that also runs the annual Traverse City Film Festival. There is no indication of what would happen to the film festival if the theater shut. This year, the seventh annual festival drew more than 128,000 admissions to more than 156 screenings.

In addition to the film festival, the State Theatre features art-house films, a 25-cent Saturday matinee for children and free community events.

“Unlike the cine-malls who make their money on $9 popcorn, we would do it the old-fashioned way — people paying for the movies because they love the movies we bring,” Moore writes in the email.

But that film-lover’s approach to running an old movie theater is facing money problems, Moore concedes in the email. The exterior hasn’t been repaired or renovated since the theater was rebuilt in 1949. The marquee has seen long-term damage and deterioration. And the local nearby movie chain prevents the venue from showing any film that opens on more than 200 screens nationwide.

Moore, who is also a liberal activist, is critical of that corporate restriction, describing it as “a restriction that flies in the face of our monopoly laws.”

State Theatre membership is down 60 percent, according to Moore, who adds: “Without a few thousand people agreeing to be participants in the State’s ongoing survival, the theater will simply cease to exist.” …

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