The Center of Michigan's Movie Business is--Grand Rapids?
Column for January 5, 2006
Yes, Grand Rapids which is where two regional Michigan-based theater chains are headquartered. They are Goodrich Quality Theatres, Inc. and Jack Loeks Theatres, Inc. Goodrich operates theaters in four states while Loeks dominates the movie business in western Michigan. Both theater chains began with the purchase of existing old theaters in Grand Rapids.

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/920.jpg", "Goodrich's first theater, the Savoy", "left", "location.asp?id=920&type=5"%> The oldest of the two is Goodrich Quality Theatres which was founded in 1930 by William Emmett Goodrich with the purchase of the Savoy Theatre which was a failing vaudeville theater at that time. Goodrich immediately upgraded the theater to show talking movies and reopened the Savoy in 1931 with the movie "All Quiet on the Western Front." The theater was immediately successful thanks to Goodrich's policy of showing double features for 15˘. The double feature was the must-see hit for the first film and rebooking one of the most popular recent films for the second film. The Savoy was the longest lasting of the Grand Rapids downtown movie houses, finally succumbing to urban renewal in 1979. One reason for its longevity was that the balcony was enclosed to create a second auditorium making the Savoy a twin theater. It was torn down in 1980. Another downtown Grand Rapids theater which Goodrich used to operate was the Majestic which is today the Civic Theatre which is the largest community theater in Michigan and one of the biggest in the country.

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/a^as_the_majestic_in_the_early_days.jpg", "Goodrich's Majestic Theatre, now
the Civic Theatre", "right", "location.asp?id=911&type=5"%> William's son Robert Goodrich expanded the business by opening the Northtown in Grand Rapids, the Quad in Saginaw and the West Columbia in Battle Creek among others. He also added drive-in theaters in Manistee, Cadillac, Big Rapids and Muskegon. William Goodrich died in 1990 at age 91. Today, Goodrich Quality Theatres operates theaters serving 28 cities in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. Their Michigan locations are the Quality 16 in Ann Arbor, the West Columbia 7 in Battle Creek, the Bay City 8 in Bay City, the Cadillac 5 in Cadillac, the Canton Cinema in Canton, the Hampton 5 in Essexville, the Grand Haven 9 in Grand Haven, the Hastings 4 in Hastings, the Holland 7 in Holland, the Jackson 10 in Jackson, the Kalamazoo 10 in Kalamazoo, the Lansing Mall Cinema in Lansing, the Ada Lowell 5 in Lowell, the Oxford 7 in Oxford, the Krafft 8 in Port Huron, the Saginaw 8/Quad 4 in Saginaw and the Three Rivers 6 in Three Rivers. Their official web site is at http://www.gqti.com

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/364.jpg", "The Quality 16 in Ann Arbor is
one of Goodrich's newest megaplexes", "left", "location.asp?id=364&type=5"%> John "Jack" Loeks was inspired by a theater in New York City which showed only newsreels to open the Fotonews Theatre in 1944 in the former Powers Theatre in Grand Rapids. He wanted to show feature films but ran into opposition by the major film producers, distributors and the established theater chains. The Fotonews was renamed the Midtown which showed movies made outside the established studios to get around the Hollywood monopoly. One such movie which was successful for Loeks was the controversial western, "The Outlaw" starring Jane Russell. Loeks was one of the parties in the 1948 anti-trust suit again the motion picture industry which forced the film studios to divest themselves of their movie theaters. Loeks built or bought drive-in theaters as well. In 1970, Loeks founded Auto-Cine, Inc. which built small automated twin theaters throughout western Michigan. The Plaza 1 & 2 in Muskegon is the last surviving example of these theaters.

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/b^another_vintage_shot.jpg", "Jack Loeks' first theater,
the Fotonews/Midtown", "right", "location.asp?id=1279&type=5"%> <%FloatImg "images/flinn/C^Marquee_Photo_by_Robert.jpg", "The Getty 4 Drive-in,
Loeks' last remaining drive-in", "left", "location.asp?id=254&type=1"%> His first drive-in, the Beltline in Grand Rapids, would become the location of Loeks' first megaplex, the Studio 28 on 28th Street which started as a smaller suburban theater co-existing with the Beltline Drive-in until the Studio 28 swallowed the drive-in up. The Beltline's marquee is still standing serving the Studio 28. Inspired by Jack Loeks' son Jim and his wife Barrie who broke away from Jack Loeks Theaters to start the successful Star Theatres chain, Jack Loeks Theatres copied the family upstarts' success with the Celebration! Cinemas. The rival chains operate in Grand Rapids with the Star Grand Rapids on 3000 Alpine Ave. (Star Theatres now owned by Loews Cineplex) and the two Celebration! Cinemas locations–the Celebrations!/IMAX North on 2121 Celebration Drive NE and the Celebration! South at 1506 Eastport Drive SE. as well as the aforementioned Studio 28. Jack Loeks had sued his upstart son and daughter-in-law for violation of a non-compete agreement but they reconciled. Jack Loeks Theatres still owns one drive-in, the Getty 4 in Muskegon which survived threatened redevelopment in recent years

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/a04^lot_from_Jack_Loeks_Theatres_collection.jpg", "Jack Loeks' first drive-in, the
Beltline, when it co-existed with the
Studio 28 Theatres", "left", "location.asp?id=112&type=1"%> Other Jack Loeks Theatre locations are the Celebration! Cinema Crossroads in Portage near Kalamazoo, the Celebration! Cinema in Benton Harbor, the Cinema Carousel in Muskegon, the Celebration! Cinema/IMAX Theatre in Lansing and the Celebration! Cinema in Mt. Pleasant.

Jack Loeks died in 2004, today John Loeks, Jr. runs the Jack Loeks theater chain. Their official web site is at http://www.celebrationcinemas.com

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/a^Entrance.jpg", "Jack Loeks' Celebration! Cinema
and IMAX Theatre in Lansing", "right", "location.asp?id=1002&type=5"%> I will conclude this column by updating my earlier column about National Amusements. One of the last remaining Redstone drive-ins, the Oakley DI in Cincinnati, first opened in 1956, has shown its last movie. It has been sold for redevelopment and will be torn down in the spring to make way for offices and retail stores. This will leave only two Redstone drive-ins still in operation–the Kenwood DI in Louisville, KY of which its isolated location, far from expressways and buffeted by a CSX rail yard and Louisville International Airport just east of it, means it is not prime real estate. The other remaining Redstone DI is our own Miracle Twin DI in Burton. Also, Redstone's company Viacom has been split into two companies. The new company is CBS Corporation which took over the broadcast and media operations while the entertainment operations are now run by the "new" Viacom. Sumner Redstone is the chairman of both companies.