The State Theater ~ State of the Art Movie House

The opening of a new movie theater is always a big news item but it was especially noteworthy for the State Theater. The State opened in the midst of World War II when Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County were focused on their role of building bombers and equipment for the United States military. The building of the theater was announced in November, 1940 with a planned opening date of August 1941. When the theater finally opened in March, 1942, the Ann Arbor News devoted an entire section of the March 17th issue to the gala event.

The section included articles on the Butterfield Company and its founder, W. S. Butterfield. The News reported on the modern equipment, the modern design, the modern screen, even the cooling system. The building of the State involved 35 companies, including many local firms. To make way for the theater, six businesses were removed. Butterfield moved Majestic Theater manager Larry Mull and his staff to the State.

Local businesses took out dispaly ads welcoming the State, and the PR machine of the movie studios went into high gear sending telegrams from stars like Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and Mickey Rooney congratulating the State. The opening movie was The Fleet's In starring Dorothy Lamour and William Holden. The News even reached back into their archives to recount the famous student riot of 1908 at the Star Theater.

Grace Shackman's Then & Now article on the Whitney Theater fills in the local theater scene. Old News had published articles on many of Ann Arbor's theaters.

Comments

It's surprising to hear about celebrities congratulating a local theatre. It gives an idea of the importance of the theatre. Too bad it opened behind schedule.