GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Celebration Cinemas at Studio Park, the centerpiece of the $160 million project bringing the first movie theaters to downtown Grand Rapids since the 1960s, is open for business.
The first movies at Celebration Cinema at Studio Park were set to roll at 5 p.m. Friday.
In true movie theater tradition, they’ve also added some “Easter eggs” to the project.
Bricks from Studio 28, the country’s first multiplex that closed in 2008, are part of a wall near the entrance to the theaters.
“It’s a reminder to our own staff, as we walk through, about what’s possible. To dream big,” said Celebration Cinema President J.D. Loeks.
Another nod to West Michigan’s theater history greets you from the mezzanine as you walk through the cinema’s front door.
“This is the original sign from the exterior of the Studio 28 Theater,” explained Loeks.
“For people who have that fond memory of their childhood, watching movies at Studio 28, they can come in and hopefully bring in some of that karma from all of the story there with that building,” he added.
The sign, stored away since Studio 28 closed in 2008, is also tribute to the Loeks family’s past.
J.D. Loeks’ grandfather, Jack Loeks, opened his first theater in downtown Grand Rapids in the 1930s.
The movies followed much of the population to the suburbs in the 1960s. So at that time, Jack Loeks pioneered the urban multiplex concept with Studio 28 on 28th Street in Wyoming.
Now the family business has come full circle by moving back downtown.
“He probably never thought we’d be coming back to downtown Grand Rapids based on the climate he left in the 60s. But he was a believer in a lot of the other things he did — that a community, to be strong, needs to have a strong core, a strong sense of local identity. And that’s what we’re investing in here for the community, and we’re pretty proud of it,” said Loeks.
Part of an ongoing theme at Celebration Cinema at Studio Park centers on the experience you can only get at a movie theater, since people can get pretty much the same level of entertainment on your living room couch.
“If you ask about meaningful experiences watching streaming services at home… people will talk about the content they like,” said Loeks. “Tell me a meaningful experience that you’ve had in a movie theater, it’s usually about the people they’re with and the content is secondary.”
Crews broke ground on the Studio C project south of Van Andel Arena in the spring of 2018, but the work isn’t over yet.
Along with the nine-screen theater, the complex on Oakes between Ionia and Grandville Avenue will feature 140 apartments.
The hotel under construction at the site is set to open later this year.
An office tower and condos above the parking structure are planned in the next few years.