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Theater Launches New Era

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Theater launches new era

One era has ended but another has begun for Ann Arbor’s historic Michigan Theater.

The 52-year-old Liberty Street landmark has closed its doors as a moviehouse. But it will reopen again in September as a community facility, under the direction of the Michigan Community Theater Corp.

The theater, in danger of being turned into a shopping center or other commercial establishment, was purchased for $1.3 million by the non-profit corporation in July from the heirs of its builder, Angelo Poulos.

The Poulos family returned to Ann Arbor then for one last look at the theater their father built and loved, saying that community use of the facility would have pleased him. 

THE THEATER had been operated as a moviehouse by the W.S. Butterfield Theater Co. of Detroit, but sagging attendance caused the company to not renew its long-term lease. Butterfield had been operating on a monthly basis while other options for the theater were considered.

Richard Lotz, president of the non-profit corporation said MCTC will take title to the theater Sept. 1. The corporation is just getting organized, Lotz said. He added that he did not yet know if there would be any community activities in the theater in September.

The corporation hopes to restore the Michigan to its original appearance, he said. It could then be used by Ann Arbor drama and musical associations, the University of Michigan or other groups needing large meeting or lecture space, he explained.

Nineteen of the 20 members of the theater’s board of directors have been appointed, Lotz said, and a fund drive to support the operations has begun. The Swisher Realty Co., which handled negotiations for sale of the building, will serve as theater manager.