In the next month the sprawling Studio 28 twenty-screen multiplex will be torn down. It was just condemned, 5½ years after it closed. There were no buyers for the building, which once drew moviegoers from all over West Michigan.
We saw a lot of movies at Studio 28 over 16 years, especially enjoyed the huge auditorium screen in Theatre 1.
They rebuilt Theatre 1 and had a grand opening with reserved seating for Jurassic Park on 11 June 1993 -- we were coming back from a vacation and it was early enough to catch a movie and a hot dog dinner at Studio 28, but nothing appealed until we found out we could get special tickets for the next week. Though they apologized for the lack of carpeting, the new seats were great and it was a packed house. The new Dolby sound system made the scrape of the Jeep along the concrete terrifying and the roar of the T-rex deafening.
We first saw Titanic in Theatre 1 in December 1997. Sat in Row D for all three Lord of the Rings movies at midnight, the last on 17 December 2003. And still in Theatre 1 for The Second Ending of Star Wars on 19 May 2005. (Really, Episode III was after Return of the King? Huh.)
And I think it was after seeing Apollo 13 that we hung around for a rare glimpse of Mir + Space Shuttle one summer night as a bright star coming over the horizon far above us. Two guys in a Security car stopped to find out why we were loitering -- we said we were waiting 19 minutes for Mir. Twenty minutes later, they stopped by, excited that they had seen it, too.
And now, just like Mir, Studio 28 is about to go.
When Studio 28 opened on Christmas Day 1965, it had only one theater. It expanded to 20 theaters in 1988, making it the largest multiplex in the world at the time. At its peak in the late 1990s, it drew in more than 1.7 million customers each year.And now it is shattered glass and leaking roofs. Shattered dreams.
But the theater closed in November 2008 due to dwindling attendance — down more than 75% from peak figures — and increasing operational costs.
Since then, it has become a target for vandals.
Thank you, Studio 28. Thanks for so many memories.
UPDATE: The Loeks Theatre chain is giving away bricks from Studio 28 to anyone who wants a memento. Demolition starts Wednesday 12 March 2014.