Every time I travel, I look for two things: the local library, and whether there are any old movie houses in the area. Last August, I had the pleasure of spending about a week and a half camping near Manistee, Michigan — home of the Vogue Theatre.
My luck was doubled on that trip because not only was there an old movie house in town, but it was operational, and it was showing a special screening of The Music Man during the week of my visit! I attended that show, and by the end of the trip had returned to the Vogue twice to take in its newer offerings.
The Music Man (1962) at the Vogue
The Vogue does a classic series on Wednesday mornings, and to my luck, the feature chosen during my trip was one that I love: The Music Man. I would have attended regardless of the film, but it was a special experience to see this one on the big screen — the Vogue got special permission from the estate of Meredith Willson to screen it!
So, the screening was already an exciting rarity. But beyond the movie itself, the Vogue was going all out for this Wednesday Morning Classic: Ken Cooper, a Vogue volunteer who introduced the film on TCM, would present it to the audience. There was a TCM merch drawing (which I, sadly, did not win), a very funny Ken Cooper opening monologue, and Mr. Cooper’s TCM introduction with Ben Mankiewicz was screened before the film.
As Mr. Cooper explained, he chose this film for TCM because it is “the favorite movie of [his] favorite person in the world,” his wife, Ruth. He calls her “Manistee’s Roberta Osborne.” Ken and Ruth are true couple goals for us classic movie weirdos; not only is their love for each other everlasting, but they share a love of film, and they both volunteer at the Vogue. (Ruth plays a large part in programming the Wednesday Morning Classics series.)
The Music Man is a colorful, snappily-paced, exuberant film with songs that will get stuck in your head for days. It was a real delight to watch with an audience — which was surprisingly full for a Wednesday morning, with visitors of all ages and many large groups of friends or family.
Before August, if you would have asked me to list my favorite musicals, The Music Man wouldn’t have been among the first that came to mind, though I’ve always liked it. This screening not only reminded me how excellent the film is but firmly placed it in my top five.
New Release Screenings at the Vogue
I couldn’t stay away from the Vogue after The Music Man was over! For its regular programming, the theater was showing Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I wasn’t rushing out to see either of those films on opening day, but since the theater was so lovely, the tickets so affordable, and the popcorn so fresh, I visited the Vogue twice more during the week and saw both.
While The Music Man had screened in the main auditorium, both of my return screenings were on a smaller screen, the 44-seat Oleson Family Theatre (OFT). It was cool to see these films in a low-capacity, completely distraction-free environment; the people of Manistee are incredibly respectful movie-goers! (It reminded me of the Annex Cinema at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater, another Mitten movie-going treasure.)
While there were a few previews for upcoming attractions at the Vogue, my screenings in the OFT also included some pre-show interviews/featurettes about the films of Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater, which was really neat.
About the Vogue
Originally built in 1938, the Vogue Theatre closed in 2005. When a grassroots effort emerged to reopen the theater, it took a complete rehabilitation, from replacing wires and pipes, to adding new screens and a roof, to fully rebuilding the lobby and adding a lounge/cafe area next to the concession stand. It reopened to the public in 2013, staffed mostly by a team of loving volunteers. It is, to my knowledge, the only movie theater in Manistee County, with the closest multiplex about 40 minutes away in Ludington.
It’s lovely to hear about a community coming together to save an old theater. I couldn’t have been more impressed by the Vogue’s volunteer staff or by learning about all of the time, money, and effort the community put in to bring the Vogue back to life. On top of that, the theater is transforming the downtown Manistee area. Since it reopened, over 20 new businesses have popped up around it!
This charming theater had me contemplating a move across the state — something that still crosses my mind once a week when I’m sitting at my desk in Detroit instead of taking a seat at the Vogue’s Wednesday Morning Classic. (I’m publishing this on a Wednesday; today’s feature is King Kong. Where’s my teleportation device?)
You can learn more about the Vogue Theatre at its website, VogueTheatreManistee.org. And if you ever find yourself in the area, it’s a must-visit — especially on Wednesday mornings!