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An artist rendering of the proposed stage extension (viewed from the balcony)  for the Michigan Theatre.  Courtesy Michigan Theatre.

(November 29, 2022 11:18 PM)  The Michigan Theatre of Jackson today announced the start of a capital campaign to raise funds for a major restoration project.  In making the announcement, Executive Director Steve Tucker said, “The project will restore the theatre to its original beauty while meeting the needs of the 21st Century.”

The Restoration Project is being launched after ninety-two years and over three million visitors to the Michigan Theatre.  Tucker said the goal is to bring the theatre back to its former optimal operating and performance efficiency. The restoration projects are organized in an order of both need and importance. For instance, logic demands that before the plaster and painting is completed, the climate control systems must be in place to allow for optimal plaster longevity.

The goal of the campaign is $6 million, with $3 million already pledged or raised.

In making the announcement, the Theatre outlined the planned improvements and renovations:  

UPDATING ADA COMPLIANCE HCA SEATING AND COMPATIBILITY Upgrading all doors and restrooms to alter, where needed, and to accommodate all persons, and adhere to all laws and regulations pertaining to the Americans With Disabilities Act.

NEW HVAC SYSTEM This upgrade will allow us to provide a historic venue that meets ventilation, filtration, and air cleaning requirements for reducing airborne infectious aerosol exposure. This also will enhance plaster longevity, improve energy efficiency, and reduce long term utility and maintenance costs.

PLASTER RESTORATION AND PAINTING The restoration of our plaster requires great attention and the work of experienced artisans. This is the major portion of the renovation budget, but critical to the historic preservation of the space’s breathtaking beauty.

NEW RIGGING SYSTEM WITH ENERGY-EFFICIENT LED LIGHTING These behind-the-scenes mechanisms used to lower, raise, and carry stage lighting, curtains, and often scenery need to be modernized to meet the standards set for safety, efficiency, and maintenance. Weight and counter weights are distributed to allow for improved performance and operator safety. An LED lighting system will allow us to maintain the classic feel while offering enhanced performance for dramatic and musical performances.

STAGE EXTENSION Extending the main level of the stage to the edge of the orchestra pit will allow The Michigan Theatre to offer more elaborate types of entertainment including dramatic presentations with larger casts, the ballet, the symphony, and events that require more stage area including meetings, weddings, and workshops.

BALCONY BOX SEATING Creating a balcony with larger seating areas that enhance guests’ safety and comfort will make The Michigan Theatre of Jackson a venue that illustrates the flexibility of a modern day venue wrapped in the opulence of the grandeur of the 1930’s. The incline of the current steps will be decreased thereby creating a safer more enjoyable experience. Period correct tables, chairs, and lighting will only add to the experience.

CARPETING, FLOORING, SAFETY LIGHTING Some of the carpeting in The Michigan Theatre of Jackson is 92 years old! The newer floor coverings were installed in the 1990’s. They are worn and, in some locations, have been removed to maintain safety. The entire theatre needs new carpeting. We are constantly searching for period correct designs and the durability that can withstand tens of thousands of visitors per year. LED safety lighting will be installed along carpet edges to ensure visitor safety.

The Michigan Theatre at 124 North Mechanic Street opened in 1930 and was designed by Detroit architect Maurice Herman Finkel for the Butterfield theatre chain.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 8, 1980.

The Michigan Theatre of Jackson Inc., a not-for-profit Michigan corporation, acquired the building from the City of Jackson in 1993. The group continues to restore and operate the theatre, bringing in classic films, art films, live theatre productions, concerts, meetings, and other community events. According to Tucker, the project will finally transform downtown Jackson’s sleeping beauty into a major attraction for the entire region. 

The Theatre has set up a Capital Campaign donation portal on its website, with more details on the project here.  Artist renderings, fundraising video and more information are available on the site.

Interior photos from recent events (JTV file photos):

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