Thousands visit Vogue for opening weekend

Theater manager Travis Alden (right) cut the ribbon to open the Vogue Theater on Saturday.

Theater manager Travis Alden (right) cut the ribbon to open the Vogue Theater on Saturday.

MANISTEE — The Vogue Theater officially reopened on Saturday as a crowd of about 200 gathered for a ribbon cutting and ceremonial lighting of the marquee.

In the 48 hours after the ribbon cutting, about 3,000 people walked through the doors to see the restoration first hand, theater officials estimated.

“I would say it beat my expectations,” said Tony Dziabuda, theater assistant manager of operations. “It went fantastic. We had great crowds for all of the showings. People were just very curious; we had a constant train of people coming in and out all weekend long.”

The theater opened despite not being 100 percent complete. In the coming weeks, officials say, the concession stand will be installed and crews will continue to work on the building’s smaller theater, which is expected to be complete in January.

“There’s still a little bit to be done,” Dziabuda said. “But, for all intents and purposes, we are operational.”

The building’s punch-list of construction items is expected to be mostly complete by the weekend of Dec. 21.

In the theater’s current state, it takes all three paid staff members to show a movie. The lighting is controlled manually with a breaker in the basement while the other two involved handle projection equipment and other pre-show needs. When the electric is fully installed, one person will be able to show a movie.

Despite the difficulties, theater manager Travis Alden said the opening weekend — which coincided with the Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend — went smoothly.

Though the majority of the weekend’s showings were free, theater officials say around 100 people — mostly a younger crowd — attended Saturday night’s paid showing of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Two more paid showings were planned for 5 and 8 p.m. on Sunday.

Throughout the weekend, the theater was staffed with a full roster of volunteers. Five shifts of 10 volunteers worked Saturday and Sunday each. Several volunteers worked multiple shifts throughout the weekend.

“We ended up needing every last body,” Alden said. “You learn a lot from stuff like this so we know, moving forward, how to tweak things.”

The restoration of the theater is the largest volunteer-led project in Manistee County’s history. After a $100,000 grant the theater received last week is matched, about $2.1 million of the $2.4 million needed will have been raised.

“I want to thank the community for all of the support they put behind this project,” Dziabuda said. “It’s definitely a big boost for downtown Manistee. I’d just like to have the public’s continued support.”

The Vogue Theatre officially reopened on Saturday, adding to the excitement of the Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas weekend.

The Vogue Theatre officially reopened on Saturday, adding to the excitement of the Victorian Sleighbell Parade & Old Christmas weekend.

About 650 people have committed money toward the project, while roughly 500 have volunteered their time.

“I remember coming to movies here as a kid, and always enjoying it as an entire experience,” said Marty Yaple, theater assistant manager of technology. “It wasn’t always the best experience because there were certain operational things that just didn’t happen because they were short staffed.

“Seeing it now, and seeing how beautiful it is inside, and how beautiful it’s going to be, it’s really exciting to call this place my home.”

This week and next, showings of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are planned for 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Construction will continue in the daytime. On Friday, two showings are planned. On Saturday and Sunday, officials hope to offer a full slate of programming.

The showtimes are subject to the construction schedule. Up-to-date information can be found at www.voguetheatremanistee.org.

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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