GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hours before the ribbon was scheduled to be cut on Studio Park, developers talked about the $160 million project that’s brought mainstream movies back to downtown Grand Rapids.
The project is located on Oakes Street, between Ionia and Ottawa avenues, south of Van Andel Arena.
Developers Wednesday showcased Celebration Cinema at Studio Park’s 90-foot screen in theater 1, with picture and sound that will blow away avid movie-goers.
But there may be an even bigger surprise off the screen.
“And that is… free parking for movies,” said Studio C owner and CEO John Loeks.
Movie fans will also love the heated, reclining seats that were locally built, as well as this:
“There is free parking for movie-going customers at Studio Park,” said Emily Loeks, director of education & community affairs at Celebration Cinema.
A ticket to a movie at Celebration Cinema at Studio Park will cost you the same as one in the suburbs.
“And if you buy a movie ticket… I don’t know if you’ve heard, but parking is free,” says J.D. Loeks, president of Studio C.
John Loeks says Grand Rapids city leaders have been after him to open a theater downtown for the past 20 years, but there was always one major road block:
“And that was how do you compete with suburban movie theaters when they have free parking?” Loeks said.
One key to free parking was the scale and scope of Studio Park, which became a mixed-use development. Along with the completed nine-screen theater and piazza for public gatherings, crews are building apartments, a hotel, music venue, restaurants, retail and office space.
The project will also bring jobs. Insurance broker Acrisure will occupy the next phase of the project, bringing 400 more workers downtown. Work on the office tower is expected to begin in about two weeks.
“Our intent in coming to downtown Grand Rapids is not a money grab,” assured J.D. Loeks. “It is something we’re doing because we love this community. It is riskier, and it’s why it’s not happened yet.”
The project also marks the return of the Loeks family to downtown.
Movies have been the family business for decades. They had theaters downtown in the 1940s and 50s. They followed movie goers to the suburbs in the 1960s, opening the country’s first multiplex, Studio 28 in Wyoming.
“We’re coming back to where we got our start at 123 Ionia — the same street number actually, just blocks from where we got our start. So this is a full circle story of our family’s business,” said JD Loeks. “But it’s also a full-circle story, we believe, for the renewal for the city of Grand Rapids.”