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The State Theater ~ State of the Art Movie House

Sat, 09/14/2013 - 10:52am


The opening of a new movie theater is always a big news item but it was especially noteworthy for the [|State Theater]. The State opened in the midst of World War II when Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County were focused on their role of building [|bombers] and [|equipment] for the United States military. The building of the theater was announced in [|November, 1940] with a planned opening date of August 1941. When the theater finally opened in March, 1942, the Ann Arbor News devoted an [|entire section] of the March 17th issue to the gala event.

The section included articles on the [|Butterfield Company] and its founder, [|W. S. Butterfield.] The News reported on the [|modern equipment], the [|modern design], the [|modern screen], even the [|cooling system]. The building of the State involved [|35 companies], including many local firms. To make way for the theater, [|six businesses] were removed. Butterfield moved [|Majestic Theater] manager [|Larry Mull] and his [|staff] to the State.

[|Local businesses] took out dispaly ads welcoming the State, and the PR machine of the movie studios went into high gear sending [|telegrams] from stars like Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and Mickey Rooney congratulating the State. The opening movie was [|The Fleet's In] starring Dorothy Lamour and William Holden. The News even reached back into their archives to recount the famous [|student riot of 1908] at the Star Theater.

Grace Shackman's Then & Now article on the [|Whitney Theater] fills in the local theater scene. Old News had published articles on many of Ann Arbor's [|theaters].


It's surprising to hear about celebrities congratulating a local theatre. It gives an idea of the importance of the theatre. Too bad it opened behind schedule.