The Historical Michigan Theatre
The Michigan Theatre, the last and largest theatre built in downtown Jackson, opened April 30, 1930. It was built for the mainstream popular entertainment of the day — vaudeville and movies. For just pennies, the public was treated like royalty as it passed under a glittering marquee into a Hollywood Fantasyland. The building’s exotic Spanish style, lavish interior plasterwork, ornate polychrome terra cotta facade, carved walnut furniture, plush wool carpeting, heavy damask draperies, stained glass light fixtures, and oil paintings entertained the patrons as much as the attractions on the stage and screen. It was the first air conditioned building in downtown Jackson and offered a place to escape the summer heat.
Many of our Jackson residents remember seeing their first movie in this theatre. They fondly remember entering through the massive doors, gliding up the incline to the theatre lobby, smelling the freshly popped popcorn, and seeing the vast interior of the theatre. Suddenly they were transported through time to a familiar, comfortable place in history.
The Michigan Theatre, unlike many older theatres, escaped severe alterations as styles and the movie business changed over the years. Early on, the interior was partially repainted in a darker color scheme, carpet was changed, the marquee was changed to a modern, streamlined style, and a candy counter was added. Its original owners, Butterfield Theatres, maintained it well until it ceased operation in 1978.
The Michigan Theatre of Jackson Inc., a not-for-profit Michigan corporation, acquired the building from the City of Jackson on August 24, 1993. The group continues to restore and operate the theatre, bring in classic films, art films, live theatre productions, concerts, meetings, and other community events. The project will finally transform downtown Jackson’s sleeping beauty into a major attraction for the entire region.