Bringing Big Town Movies to Small Town Michigan
Column for July 12, 2006
<%FloatImg "images/flinn/1089.jpg", "The Owosso Cinemas,
NCG's first and flagship multiplex", "left", "location.asp?id=1089&type=5"%> For decades, taking in a movie in a small town in Michigan usually involved going to a typically art deco style downtown theater which has served the town for decades. Older theaters, built before the 1930s, tended to be classically styled. Some theaters built with balconies had enclosed their balconies to create a second auditorium. One such small town theater was the Capitol Theatre in Owosso. It was operated by W.S. Butterfield Theatres which ran the theater since it was built by Owosso businessman Joseph Lebowsky. But Butterfield sold most of their theaters in 1984. Since the lease for the Capitol Theater in Owosso was about to expire, it was not included in the sale so it closed in 1985. That's now the Lebowsky Center operated by the Owosso Players.

<%FloatImg "images/flinn//a%5Efront_from_parking_lot.jpg", "The Alma Cinemas in Alma", "right", "location.asp?id=335&type=5"%> Fortunately for Owosso, local businessman Gary Geiger had plans to build a multiplex theater in downtown Owosso called the Owosso Cinemas which opened in 1985. In 1987, Geiger took over the Clio Cinemas in Clio (first opened in 1974).

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/1008.jpg", "The Lapeer Cinemas which
threatened the Pix Theatre in Lapeer", "left", "location.asp?id=1008&type=5"%> In 1989, Geiger built the Alma Cinemas in Alma which started a pattern of opening multiplex cinemas in small towns throughout the state. The cinemas seem to follow a common basic design with only minor changes to distinguish each one. In short order, he opened the Greenville Cinemas in Greenville in 1990, the Midland Cinemas in Midland in 1992, the Lapeer Cinemas in Midland in 1995 and the Coldwater Cinemas in Coldwater in 1999.

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/a^en.jpg", "The Coldwater Cinemas which
killed the Main Theatre in Coldwater", "right", "location.asp?id=445&type=5"%> The opening of these multiplexes changed the nature of moviegoing in these small towns. The Pix Theatre closed in Lapeer as it couldn't compete. The city of Lapeer bought it and made it a civic theater for local events including concerts, plays and movies. The Main Theatre in Coldwater was converted into office and retail space.

As the theater chain developed, Geiger formed the Neighborhood Cinema Group, or NCG to operate the theaters. In 2002, NCG entered the big town cinema marketplace by opening the NCG Eastwood Cinemas in Lansing. In 2005, NCG opened the Auburn Cinemas in Auburn, Indiana, their first location outside of Michigan.

<%FloatImg "images/flinn/1003.jpg", "NCG hits the big time with the
NCG Eastwood Cinema in Lansing", "left", "location.asp?id=1003&type=5"%> NCG is truly a family operation. The principals in the company, besides Gary Geiger, are his sons Jeff and Joe. Steve Smith is a partner with the Geigers. The company is still headquartered in Owosso. <%FloatImg "images/flinn/a000%5Efrom_adam.JPG", "The NCG Trillium Cinema in
Grand Blanc is their most luxurious yet", "right", "location.asp?id=1980&type=5"%> This year, NCG built their most ambitious megaplex yet when they opened the NCG Trillium Cinemas in the fast growing community of Grand Blanc outside Flint. It's their most luxurious cinemas with the latest amenities. But they haven't forgotten their other multiplexes and megaplexes in the smaller markets. NCG has retrofitted all of their theaters to feature stadium style seating, with the exception of the Clio Cinemas as its ceiling is too low for conversion to stadium seating.

So with the amenities NCG Theaters offer in nearly all their cinemas, NCG really is bringing the big town moviegoing experience to small town Michigan. Their official web site is at http://www.ncgmovies.com