State Thr/Traverse City MI – A follow up

THS Vice President MIKE HAUSER shared this email regarding the situation at the STATE THEATRE – a highlight of our 2011 Conclave:


Thank you so much for your response to our fundraising appeal last week. Over $80,000 came in immediately — a huge and heartfelt show of support for our beloved local movie house. Along with the $200,000 we had already privately raised, that brings our total to $280,000, which means we only have another $220,000 to go!

I want to be clear about one thing: the State Theatre is not, nor has it been, in danger of closing or cutting back. The basic operations of our downtown movie theater are in great shape. I don’t want to overlook this very good news: the State Theatre is alive and well, and stronger than ever. Admissions are up over last year, we continue to be among the top box office earners in North America for the films we show, and we remain in the black when it comes to our basic operation of showing great first run movies every day of the year. We need no extra funds to do this — our model of picking “just great movies” and operating a first class theater that respects and celebrates the movie-going experience has succeeded. Our belief that we did not need to sell $9 popcorn nor request support in the form of tax dollars from government agencies — all of that was correct.

But the State is much more than your basic movie theater. When we re-opened TC’s historic movie palace, we decided that we could — and should — do even more for the community than just provide a first-class movie theater. We decided the State should be a year-round hub of good will and community. Guided by that idea, we open our doors, every week, at no charge, to area nonprofits and groups and individuals from all walks of life.

And so the State has become the place where teachers bring classroom after classroom of students to learn about the art and magic of the movies. Now, when Rotary holds a community-wide meeting to discuss the future of TC, when the local environmental group wants to alert people to an ecological problem we are facing, when the child abuse agencies want to hold a public forum on the issue, they all do it at the State. Because these groups do so much good for our community, we have supported over 100 area nonprofit groups over the past four years by providing space for them, free of charge. There’s a very good chance you support one or more of these nonprofits whose outreach and fundraising efforts we have so freely and wholeheartedly supported.

And the State is the place where we gather when we have something to celebrate, when we want to experience something important together with our fellow citizens. When we want to cheer on our local football team as they play in the state championship 300 miles away, when high school seniors want to have part of their graduation night celebration in cool place, when we want to gather together to watch the historic inauguration of a new president, we do it at the State.

We believe it is vital to the community that the State be more than a movie theater by continuing to do this important work. Because of the path we have forged over the past four years, the State is an anchor and stimulus for a thriving downtown Traverse City. You can travel all over our great state of Michigan and rarely see a downtown this active and alive. Our actions have played a key role in this, and have inspired others to do good things for this town, too — the ripple effects of re-opening this theater and running the film festival are everywhere. Nearly anyone you run into here will agree: the State Theatre has significantly improved the quality of life in the Grand Traverse region.

But the fixed costs of these community events cannot be supported by our basic nonprofit operational revenue. For all of these reasons, we are asking for your help with what we’re calling our “Community Fund.”

The other reason we are fundraising right now is the urgent need to fix the exterior of the theater. When Rotary gave us the building, they knew and we knew that the roof and the front of the building had not been properly maintained since the State was reborn in 1949. You cannot “not maintain” a building two blocks off northern Lake Michigan for over 60 years! Look closely and you will see — there is so much water damage and decay, so many pieces falling off, that we have no choice but to begin fixing it immediately.

You may have noticed that we’ve already started the work before the fundraising drive is complete. The serious condition of the building demands it. The only other choice here is to shut down the theater until we raise all the money, and we don’t know anyone who likes that option. Showing “just great movies” can pay for the great movies; it can’t pay for brick and mortar, baked enamel and stainless steel.

In addition to the urgent need to fix the exterior there are other important capital improvements we need to make (like a soon-to-be-unavoidable upgrade to our digital projector), so we are asking for your assistance with these things, too.

So, fear not, the State Theatre is doing well. The building it sits in — and the good deeds it does — are in need of a helping hand. Those who love the State Theatre, and who understand the value it has for our community, are rallying around it in an overwhelming and heartwarming show of support. Thank you to those of you who have given so far!

To those of you who have yet to do so, please accept my humble encouragement to visit, where I hope you will find the way to help that best suits you.

And we all should be members, or renew our memberships! We are all in this together, and memberships are one of the theater’s most important funding resources.

Thanks again.
Michael Moore

P.S. Today is the fourth anniversary of re-opening the State Theatre on Front Street. We’ve come a long way since that cold but snowless November day in 2007. So many great movies, so many great events, and so much support from volunteers, patrons and donors have made the difference between a shuttered and empty building destined to become yet another condo, and what it has become: Traverse City’s Town Hall, a vibrant beacon of culture and community in downtown Traverse City.

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