DetroitPhoto Du Jour

Pix Theater

I was in Lapeer, MI over the long weekend attending a friend’s wedding, when I spied this art deco gem along the main street.

A quick check online came up with this history:

Pix Theatre History

Constructed in 1941, the PIX Theatre was built by George Smith who began his “show business” life in a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin at the White Opera House. When the show went on the road, 18-year-old George went with it. Before long the troupe ended up broke in Chicago and George returned to Lapeer.

Next, George began playing in theater orchestras in Flint and Saginaw where he met and married Vera, the pianist. In 1914, the Smiths opened a small movie theatre next door to what would become the PIX Theatre. Business was good, with tickets selling for five and ten cents. By 1921, the Smiths were ready to expand their business, so they built the Lyric Theatre – the fanciest show house around. Silent movies reigned supreme, accompanied by Vera on the piano until 1928 when “talkies” came to town.

Early in 1940, with movies at the peak of popularity, it was rumored that Harry Hobolth, owner of the Deluxe Theater in neighboring Imlay City, was planning to build a new theater in Lapeer. George Smith – not to be outdone by the competition – quickly set to work locating a site for a new, modern movie house that he would name the PIX Theatre.

George bought the Wattles Bank property and set to work building a theater that would serve the community for decades to come. The PIX opened one year later on April 9, 1941. Its flashing marquee and porcelain enamel panels were the pride of the community. Prior to the Grand Opening presentation of The Bad Man, starring Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore and Ronald Reagan, George Smith declared the policy at the PIX would be “strict adherence to just one aim…the finest of entertainment,” and promised never to inflict upon his audiences “such parasitical annoyances and BUNK NIGHT, BANGO, SCREAMO and – most important of all -never a double bill!”

From 1941 to the mid-1950s, Smith operated both the PIX and Lyric theaters, but rarely at the same time. The Lyric was a larger and grander theater, but the PIX had a state-of-the-art cooling system (which in 1941 meant cold water dumped from a well through a series of coils to chill the air before it was blown in to the theater). In the 1950s, with the advent of television, Smith closed the Lyric Theatre for good. After years of private ownership, the PIX closed in 1996 and was purchased by the Downtown Development Authority.

Today, the PIX still retains its original art deco facade and marquee, and many of the interior elements were retained during the 1997 $325,000 renovation.

ABOUT THE PIX ARTS COUNCIL FOR GREATER LAPEER

The PIX Arts Council for Greater Lapeer, Inc. is a private non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Its mission is to promote the availability and accessibility of arts and cultural opportunities for Lapeer and surrounding communities. The goal of the fifteen-member Board of Directors is to provide arts and cultural programming and related educational opportunities at the PIX Theatre.

The PIX Steering Committee began operation in 1997 as a programming committee of the City of Lapeer Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Its responsibility was to develop programming for the PIX Theatre, a 1940’s Art Deco movie house located in the center of historic downtown Lapeer, Michigan. The theatre was purchased by the DDA and renovated as a live performance venue (296 seats) in order to preserve it as a center for entertainment and culture in the heart of the downtown business district. From its inception, the intent was to build toward the day when the PIX Steering Committee would become a private, non-profit organization. Its outgrowth, the PIX Arts Council for Greater Lapeer, achieved it non-profit status in April, 2001. It now functions as a subcontractor to the DDA for the purpose of managing the theatre. The DDA contract provides approximately twelve percent of the funding necessary to support the current programming offered in the Theatre.

The PIX Arts Council and the PIX Theatre serve a population of approximately 90,000 residents of Lapeer County (as well as drawing audiences from surrounding areas). The County is composed of the City of Lapeer (population 9,000) and several smaller communities surrounding it. Historic preservation and promotion of “quality of life” assets such as housing, education, and arts/culture/recreation facilities are high priorities for residents of both City and County. A Community Cultural Plan guides the work of the PIX Arts Council as it endeavors to increase the accessibility of cultural experiences for the residents of Lapeer.

So it closed in 1996, and was purchased by the city of Lapeer, and reopened in 1997.

It is used for community events, and shows second run movies. It makes income from the second run movies and theater rental fees, and is almost self sufficient.

Imagine if that was tried with the Capitol?

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