Vogue Theater in Manistee has opened its doors for summer! After a sold-out Memorial weekend, this theater is helping bring the community back together after many months of being closed. Learn more about the 2020 closures and what they’re up to for 2021.

While in the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic, downtown merchants and others in the City of Manistee gathered to brainstorm ideas to create a spark in the downtown corridor.

“They were coming up with ways to lift community spirits,” said Sarah Herberger, General Manager of the Historic Vogue Theatre of Manistee. 

Like many other businesses in the city, due to the pandemic, the fully restored historic Vogue Theatre had gone dark. The Theatre was renovated inside and out in 2013 and reopened through the largest community-driven, volunteer-led initiative in the history of Manistee. A symbol of rebirth for the community, the renovations were supported with donations and grants from 740 people and organizations adding up to $2.6 million.

“[The group] went to our Board of Directors and asked them to turn on the bright lights of the marquee and covered the expenses, even though many were struggling,” said Herberger. “[When] the Theatre’s lights came back on, people were heartened and encouraged that the flame had been lit and that there were most certainly better days ahead.”

Today, the hopes of that downtown group are coming true. Recovery is picking up, retailers and the Vogue are open, and residents and visitors are returning to the main street of the Victorian town.

Sold out films at Manistee’s historic Vogue Theatre over the Memorial Day weekend bolstered feelings that recovery was near from the most devastating pandemic in a century. With Covid-19 distancing rules still in effect, there were sellouts at the Theatre for three consecutive days as people returned to the iconic theatre for the popular films, “A Quiet Place – Part II” and “Dream Horse.”

“Everyone we talk to wants to go to the movies,” said Steve Brower, a chair on the Board of Directors of the Historic Vogue Theatre of Manistee nonprofit.  “These two movies, hits nationwide, brought sellout crowds three nights in a row.  From our thousands of movie-goers to the foundations, businesses, organizations and individuals who raised over $2.6 million to bring the Theatre back to life; we can be proud of the Theatre’s resilience, as well as its importance as a catalyst for positive change throughout our community.”  

Brower said that hundreds of filmgoers returned under the 50 percent occupancy limitation to see the two hit movies.  

“People want to gather to enjoy great entertainment in an inspiring setting as we recover together. Yes, everyone now wants to go to the movies.”

“We’re going to turn this corner and return with great programming for the consistently strong crowds we’ve had at the Vogue since the restoration to the Theatre seven years ago,” said Brower.  

“We will be selling tickets with 100 percent capacity under the Governor’s current plan by July 1, just in time to welcome permanent and seasonal residents and visitors to Manistee. We hope they’ll join us in a celebration of great entertainment at reasonable prices at our community theatre.”

Brower said that the tremendous surge in people returning to theatres is happening nationally and the film industry has a steady stream of blockbusters waiting in the queue for the remainder of 2021. 

“We’ve heard through our programming agent in Los Angeles that filmmakers, theatres and filmgoers are back on track to generate big crowds and revenues with the lifting of COVID requirements,” said Brower.  “Fortunately for everyone, the premature concerns about the fate of the movie industry were dead wrong. From our rural town setting in Manistee to the large cities of New York and L.A., we’re seeing excitement and enthusiasm for film entertainment everywhere.”

The Vogue Theatre was closed for over three months: from March 13, 2020 to June 26, 2020, and closed again for five months from November 18, 2021 to May 1, 2021. While revenues were slashed, the Vogue Board managed expenses and fixed costs, keeping one full-time employee on the payroll with the help of the Vogue’s remarkable volunteer base. Loyal beneficiaries rose to the challenge and kept the non-operating income alive through philanthropic giving.

“In 2013 the Theatre was brought back from the ashes through the collective effort of hundreds of people and organizations,” said Brower.  “Now, in 2021 we are seeing the resilience and the perseverance of people in overcoming enormous challenges. People want to gather to enjoy great entertainment in an inspiring setting as we recover together. Yes, everyone now wants to go to the movies.”

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