GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - In 1944, Jack Loeks acquired the Midtown Theater in downtown Grand Rapids, billed at the time as a hub of entertainment.
Though it flourished for a long time, eventually it closed. And when it did, the central city was left without a movie theater.
But the company he founded, best known now for its Celebration Cinema complexes , now have an option on a property at Oakes and Ionia SW, just south of Van Andel Arena.
The Downtown Development Authority OK'd a two-year option that will sell the parking lot to Jackson Entertainment LLC for $8.5 million.
Celebration Cinema is billing this modern day movie complex as a next generation theater, with 6-8 screens, restaurants and retail shops in one 60,000-square foot entertainment complex.
"If this happens, we're a couple of years out, but we're well underway with conceptualizing what the theater would look like," said Steve VanWagoner, the vice president of marketing for Celebration Cinema.
Currently, the locally-owned theater chain operates four complexes in the surrounding area. After Studio 28 closed in 2008, officials said it was now time to look downtown.
They've already consulted with organizations like the Convention and Visitors Bureau that supports the idea.
"Downtown is a such a great place," VanWagoner told 24 Hour News 8. "It's in the middle of a growth process right now and it's a great time to be a part of that."
Other venues in the downtown area are also supportive.
The Urban Institute for Contemporary Art has a 198-seat theater in their new location. Ironically, the chairs in the theater are from Studio 28. The UICA shows mainly independent films and views the potential move from Celebration Cinema as a positive development.
"Hopefully some of their audience will come downtown and check out a different option that's available," said UICA's Phil Meade.
The Wealthy Theater showcases documentary-style films and community events, and they're also supportive.
"I think a vibrant downtown corridor is in everybody's best interest," Erin Wilson, the Wealthy Theater director, told 24 Hour News 8.
Celebration Cinema estimates the move will draw 400,000 visitors each year and create 200 jobs. Their biggest challenge will be parking, and they will have to work out that detail with the DDA before a final agreement is reached.
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