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Cinema Chat: State Theatre Update, 'The Florida Project,' 'Suburbicon,' And More

Michigan Theater
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In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's David Fair talks to Michigan Theater executive director Russ Collins about the latest movie news and all of the new and returning flicks you can catch at your local movie house this pre-Halloween weekend.  Plus, you'll get an update on the State Theater's grand re-opening.

Adam Driver Joins Spike Lee’s ‘Black Klansman’ Thriller

“Star Wars” actor Adam Driver is attached to star in Spike Lee’s “Black Klansman,” a crime thriller about the KKK.  Laura Harrier of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” has also been cast.  Lee will direct from a screenplay he co-wrote with Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott.  Lee is producing with Jordan Peele and others.  Focus Features is releasing.

The movie follows Ron Stallworth, a detective in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who, in 1978, answered an ad in the local newspaper seeking new Klan members.  John David Washington was announced last month for that role.  Stallworth rose through the ranks to become the head of the local chapter — even though he’s African-American.  He sent a white officer in his place for any in-person meetings.

Driver will play the role of an undercover police officer who is the best of the Colorado Springs police force.  He is known on the force for being anti-social, and he’s a perfectionist, critical of others’ mistakes, but brave and dedicated.


The Michigan Theater Foundation-owned, C. Howard Crane-designed StateTheatre, on State Street at Liberty Street in Downtown Ann Arbor, is planning to be reopened for members-only on Friday, December 8.  It will be opened to the general public on Saturday, December 9.  Advance, reserved seat tickets will go on sale to members-only around Thanksgiving-time.  Reserved seat tickets for Saturday, December 9 and beyond will go on sale on or about December 1.

Interior decorating of the State Theatre begins on Monday, October 30, while instillation of the new elevator and escalator continue.  The State Theatre, a 1940s-era Cinema-Style theater, was purchased by the Michigan Theater Foundations in 2014.  An $8.5 million Capital Campaign (of which $8 million has already been raised, substantially from local, private contributions) funded the acquisition and renovation of the State Theatre.  The Capital Campaign will also fund capital repairs and improvements at the Michigan Theater (including new, but more historically in appearance, seats on the Michigan’s main floor).

The State Theatre opened in 1942 as a 2,000 seats cinema (bigger than the Michigan Theater).  It is currently divided into two business units.  The first-floor business unit, is an Urban Outfitter retail store, which recently signed a new three-year lease.  Above, in the second-story unit, the beautifully renovated State Theatre cinemas have installed a modern elevator and escalator – which will make the State Theatre accessible for all for the first-time.  The restoration of the high-style Art Deco mezzanine lounge features a specialty concession stand with a full liquor license.  The four state-of-the-art cinemas are outfitted with comfortable high backed modern movie theater seats with ample leg room.  Other features of this historically sensitive renovation is the remanufacture of the original and unique Art Deco carpeting and wall sconces, restored banquet seats, a custom designed Motawi tile drinking fountain area, new restrooms including a gender neutral/family restroom and an original 1940s Wurlitzer Art Deco jukebox. 

On the outside, the landmark marquee, with colorful neon and sparkling light bulbs has been fully restored and the original “sports car” red metallic “streamlined” facia on street level is being custom manufactured and will be installed by the December 8 opening. 

Opening Downtown

"The Florida Project"

This is the follow up from director Sean Bakerto his acclaimed 2015 indie feature "Tangerine," which gained notoriety for being shot entirely on an iPhone.  "The Florida Project," which he shot on 35mm, tells the story of a mother and daughter living in a budget hotel on the on the outskirts of Disney World.  6-year-old Moonee spends her days enjoying the fantasy and wonders of childhood while getting into mischief and setting off on adventures with her friends, while her mother, Halley, strives to protect and care for her daughter by taking on dangerous responsibilities and living week to week.  The film introduces breakout stars Brooklynn Prince as Moonee and Bria Vinaite as Halley, but also features veteran actor WillemDafoe (Platoon, Spider-Man) who plays Bobby, the manager of the motel, whose role is being described by critics as a “career best.”  "The Florida Project" opens this Friday, October 27.

"Goodbye Christopher Robin"

Director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) offers a glimpse into the life of author A.A. Milne (DomhnallGleeson) and his son Christopher Robin who inspired Milne to create the lovable children’s books of Winnie the Pooh. The film also stars Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad) as Daphne Milne, wife of A.A. Milne, and Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting), nanny to young Christopher, whose lives are inadvertently swept up into the wild success of the books.  "Goodbye Christopher Robin" opens this Friday, October 27.

Continuing Downtown

"Battle of the Sexes"

The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (SteveCarell) became the most watched televised sports event of all time.  Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles.  With her husband urging her to fight for equal pay, the private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past.  Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine).

Films Closing

"Victoria and Abdul" 

Playing through Thursday, October 26 - Queen Victoria's (Judi Dench) questions the constrictions of her long-held position, Victoria and Abdul forge an unlikely and devoted alliance.

"So B. It"

Playing through Thursday, October 26 - Adapted from the novel by Ann Arbor native Sarah Weeks. Features John Heard, AlfreWoodard, TalithaBateman, ClorisLeachman star.

Special Screenings Downtown

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

We’ll close out October with some more Halloween favorites and Michigan Theater traditions.  First, let’s do the time warp again!  This film returns for another night of singing, audience participation, and this year will feature a “shadowcast” from The Leather Medusas, who will perform a pantomimed reenactment of the film while it’s playing on screen!  This cult classic stars Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon as a couple who discover an eerie mansion after they become stranded in the rain from a flat tie.  There, they meet Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a transvestite scientist and a houseful of wild characters, including a rocking biker (Meat Loaf) and a creepy butler (Richard O'Brien), and through elaborate dances and rock songs, Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation: a muscular man named “Rocky.”  "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" will play this Saturday, October 28 at 10:00 PM.

"Mad Monster Party?" 

From producers Rankin/Bass. this is the spooky cousin of holiday classics Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.  The film starsBoris Karloff as Dr. Frankenstein, who decides to retire and summons a collection of monsters to elect his successor, including The Creature, Dracula, The Werewolf, and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.  The film also stars Allen Swift(who voices 13 characters!), PhyllisDiller, and Gale Garnett.  "Mad Monster Party?" will play Saturday, October 28 at 3:00 PM and because it’s part of the Toyota Family-Friendly Film Series presented by the Benard L. Maas Foundation, children 12 & under receive free admission!


The original 1982 film, directed by the recently passed TobeHooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), tells a story of a California family, the Freelings, who make contact with the supernatural world via a television set.  At first, the spirits seem innocent and friendly, but events take a dark turn when their five year-old daughter, Carol Ann, goes missing and the family must turn to a parapsychologist and an exorcist for help.  The film stars Craig T. Nelson, JoBethWilliams, and Heather O'Rourke as the young Carol Ann with the film’s signature line: “They’re here.”  "Poltergeist" plays Thursday, October 26 at 9:30 PM.

"The Monster Squad"

And our Classic Monsters and Stranger and Stranger film series come to a close in our cross-over screening of the 1987 horror comedy about a group of pre-teen monster fanatics who must save their hometown from Dracula and his squad of classic Universal villains who arrive to find a long lost amulet that will enable them to rule the world.  "The Monster Squad" plays Monday, October 30 at 7:00 PM.

"The Trip"

Our next series ’67, will begin Thursday, November 2 beginning with the psychedelic drama written by Jack Nicholson and directed by Roger Corman. This series will take us back to the year 1967, when our culture witnessed a social and cinematic shift that would bridge Classic Hollywood to the American New Wave.  The series will feature such cinematic revolutionaries as "The Graduate," "The Valley of the Dolls," "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner," "Monterey Pop," and more!  Visit michtheater.org/67-series for the complete series lineup.

Opening at the Multiplex


The popular "Saw" franchise returns: “Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for ten years."  (IMDB) Jigsaw opens this Friday, October 27.


George Clooney returns to the director’s chair with this film and a screenplay written by the Coen Brothers. “Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns... the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town's dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence.  This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices.  This is Suburbicon” (Rotten Tomatoes).  "Suburbicon" opens this Friday, October 27.

"Thank You For Your Service"

"A group of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq struggles to integrate back into family and civilian life, while living with the memory of a war that threatens to destroy them long after they've left the battlefield” (IMDB).  "Thank You For Your Service" opens this Friday, October 27.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
Russ Collins is the executive director of Marquee Arts, the nonprofit that oversees the Michigan Theater and State Theater in Ann Arbor.
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