Jackson’s Michigan Theatre Gets Closer to Its 100th Anniversary
Let's face it – the Michigan Theatre was the place to go if you wanted to go to the movies. This was before the Plaza Cinemas, Westwood Mall Cinemas, Goodrich Cinemas, and whatever others came and went. Sure, Jackson had the Capitol Theatre throughout most of a Boomer's young life, and before that there was the Family, Regent, Bon Ton and others. But above 'em all, the Michigan stood out like a beacon.
It was the last and largest theater to be constructed in downtown Jackson, beginning in 1929 and opening on April 30, 1930...but it wasn't just for movies. Vaudeville hadn't petered out yet and many of these shows - as well as live performances from the big stars of the day - appeared at the Michigan.
What made the Michigan stand out above and beyond the rest was the decor, artwork, woodwork, carpeting, statues, and stained glass that was just as entertaining as any show you came to see. After you paid for your tickets at the booth, you were privy to a subtle touch of brilliance: the incline that led from the ticket booth to the main lobby. Walking up that gentle incline gives patrons an extra bit of subconscious anticipation, as if you were walking up toward something magical.....a couple of people I know felt it was “almost like a stairway to the clouds”. That was truly a brilliant, but subtle touch on the part of the theater designer.
I remember shooting a TV segment at the Michigan around 1993-94. The owner showed me around and we took a look in the basement. And there, in all it's glory, was a lifesize, cardboard cutout of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein Monster, a promotional lobby standup from when the Michigan was showing “The Bride of Frankenstein” back in 1935! The owner said I could have it – but it was so dirty, moldy, and ripped that I couldn't take it...yet. After a while, I found a company who said they would clean it and fix it up for me...when I went back to the Michigan to accept it, it was GONE. Someone else saw the historical value and grabbed it.
The Michigan was also the first air conditioned building in downtown Jackson and was owned by Butterfield Theatres, who took care of it for 48 years until it closed in 1978. When the Michigan Theatre of Jackson Corporation took over the theater in 1993, they went through a continuous effort to maintain, upgrade, and bring back all types of entertainment – movies, concerts, live shows, guest speakers, and more.
Find out more and see what shows are on the schedule at michigantheatre.org.
Now take a look at some photos below!
Jackson's Michigan Theatre