The glow of a theater marquee can ignite the spirit of an entire town. We’ve seen it in Traverse City, and now we’re seeing the effect in Frankfort. Two Benzie County couples pitched in to buy and resurrect Frankfort’s decrepit movie theater, the Garden Theater, last October. And since then they’ve been racing to get the work done for a mid-June re-opening.

“All of us have been really overwhelmed by the amount of community support,” says Rick Schmitt, one of the original purchasers. In a smart bit of innovation, the ownership team sold 13 2-percent shares in the theater to locals as a way to help fund the project and broaden the base of community support.

Benchmarks to date: community volunteers have repainted the Art Deco design on the ceiling tiles; a buy-a-theater-seat campaign is only 10 seats shy of supporting the seat order; a new heating and cooling system is about to be ordered; a digital projector is on the way; and that marquee is refurbished and shining brightly. Bonus: The architect who directed the State Theatre renovations grew up in Frankfort and is now applying his skill and eye to the Garden Theater. “He’s an angel from heaven,” Schmitt says.

More Benzie County Resources

  • The Benzie & West Shore Vacation Directory: Listings to lodging, galleries, restaurants and more along with an interactive map.
  •  Benzie & West Shore Digital Vacation Guide: Browse the pages of the complete Guide and click to hundreds of websites.
  • The Complete Restaurant Guide for Benzie and the West Shore: Just type in any Benzie County town or town on Northern Michigan’s West Shore and browse the array of restaurant options.
  • Video: Discover Pt. Betsie Lighthouse
  • Check out all the music, festivals, arts and events of all kinds happening in Benzie and the West Shore: Just pop the name of the Benzie County town you’d like to play in, or one along the West Shore of Northern Michigan, and choose amongst hundreds of things to do!
  • Rent a cottage in Benzie and the West Shore: There hundreds of cottages to rent in Northern Michigan. Type the town you’re interested in into the Search box and plan your getaway Up North!

Photo(s) by Brian Confer