We were driving up the eastern side of Michigan along Lake Huron when we decided to have lunch by the mostly abandoned Municipal Marina waterfront. Most of the boats had been taken in for the winter, and sea gulls swirled above empty docks. Driving away, we turned onto an incredibly wide main street, making us wonder if the town had suffered a devastating storm and had been rebuilt. Not so. Later we learned the streets were originally wide in order to accommodate the logging industry that once flourished in the area.
Anyway, on that astonishingly wide street, we spied an old fashioned theatre with a marquee lit with yellow and orange lights. Intrigued by such a beautiful little building with its orange and black tile Art Deco doors, we stopped to admire it. One thing led to another. We ended up staying to see the feature movie, but that’s not the point. The point is this tiny restored theatre, the Rogers City Theatre, is a treasure. I do not exaggerate. You can check this out by looking it up on the internet.
The theatre was built in 1937, as a classic, single screen small town movie palace in the Art Deco style. After a fire in 1947, it was rebuilt and expanded. For years, it was a downtown landmark and served as the center of the town’s social life. In time, however, the theatre fell into disrepair. After all, Interstate 75 does encourage people to zoom straight north, and many beautiful little towns are bypassed. But I digress.
In 2003, Karl Heidemann, a retired attorney from the Detroit area, purchased the building. He tore out some of the interior and built a stage and installed theatrical lighting and utility improvements. He located someone to rewire the marquee lights. He restored the exterior and brought back the black and orange tile work of the original façade. He built, rebuilt, painted, replaced, and restored. “It was something of a hobby,” he told us, “but it was a lot of work.”
Theatre productions now alternate with first run movies in a revitalized auditorium where newly installed state-of-the-art seats in the center section are wonderfully comfortable. "Along with the digitalization of the movie presentation process, installation of Real-D technology for showing 3-D films, and a new (really big) screen," the theatre is "set to become a destination for movie and theatre-goers throughout northeast Michigan!”
It was a pleasant surprise to meet Heidemann who sold us our movie tickets. He told us what the website states. “We're volunteers who have a love of the theatre! We act. We direct. We sing. We dance. We design and build sets. We make costumes and props. We help with hair and makeup. We design and run lights and sound. We help back stage. We usher and take tickets.” The theatre group offers at least three presentations each season—one play, one musical, and a summer youth musical. The theatre has a website that works. Check it out: www. rogerstheatre.com
We plan to go North again.