History & Vision
“We will turn on the Vogue’s marquee lights, bring in some jobs, pump money into the economy and do it with a nonprofit staffed mostly by volunteers. The people of Manistee are about to see what a popular, thriving movie palace can do for their downtown.”
With these words, Academy Award winning filmmaker and author Michael Moore helped kick off a project to completely rehabilitate Manistee’s historic Vogue Theatre and revitalize Manistee in the process.
The Vogue Theatre Project was a complete rehabilitation of the theatre – inside and out – including mechanical and plumbing systems, roofing and a totally renovated interior with two screens. The large “grand theatre” seats 187, while the smaller screen seats 44. The completely rebuilt lobby and lounge area and concession stand emphasize operational efficiency and provide a top-notch experience for film-goers. State-of-the-art digital projection equipment and facilities have been outfitted by industry leader Boston Light & Sound.
The Vogue has positive implications far beyond the restoration of a historic movie house, including:
- A catalyst for economic prosperity
- A vibrant and diverse downtown district
- A renewed sense of pride for residents, merchants and visitors
- More retailers, restaurants, art galleries and destinations for music, art, recreation and family entertainment
- Revitalization of Manistee County’s only cinema, preventing Manisteeans from having to drive 30 miles to the nearest multiplex
- Programming of the best movies; independent, documentary and otherwise, creating a cinema destination unlike any other in the area.
The revitalization of the Vogue is a grassroots effort under the direction of the Historic Vogue Theatre of Manistee (HVTM), a non-profit organization formed to spearhead the project. To date, well over 500 people from all walks of life have volunteered their time and talents to make this project a reality.
History of Manistee’s Vogue Theatre
The Vogue Theatre was built in 1938 and was “ultra modern in every respect, the last word in design, luxuriously fitted with every convenience with the finest project and sounds systems.” It was a northern Michigan variation on an Art Deco theme with a deeply recessed entry that led to a modernistic lobby and a theatre with 935 seats. The Vogue had last operated regularly in the fall of 2005 before closing for good…or so everyone thought.
In 2010, a feasibility study funded through USDA Rural Development concluded that the building was structurally sound and should be restored as a Theatre to meet market demands, particularly since there were no movie theaters in Manistee County. In 2010 the Vogue property was purchased by the Manistee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) through a federal bankruptcy proceeding. Subsequently, the DDA “sold” the property to the newly-formed 501c3 non-profit organization – The Historic Vogue Theatre of Manistee (HVTM) – which would guide the theatre’s rehabilitation. The DDA and HVTM entered into an agreement which would forgive the purchase price at a rate of 20% per year for every year that the new Vogue was up and running and showing films daily. The capital campaign began in 2011, the contractor was selected in 2012 and the rehabilitation project began concurrent with fundraising in October of that year.
The HVTM was formed to oversee the restoration of and ongoing operations of the Vogue. The Board consists of community leaders and is a working, hands-on Board. The Manistee County Community Foundation, a 501c3 organization, received and managed the grants and donations that were received to support the revitalization project. The Community Foundation also holds a Vogue Theatre endowment that was created to provide a source of operating and maintenance capital.
The overall cost of the rehabilitation project was just over $2.6 Million, with over $2 million raised from a wide range of private and public benefactors.