Restored 1930s theater will serve Burton Heights community

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A landmark building on South Division Avenue that hasn’t been used in a decade will be getting new life under a plan that hopes to bring entertainment and community involvement to a part of Grand Rapids looking to improve.

The marquee at 1944 S. Division Ave. north of Burton Street reads, “Regent Theater,” but it started as the Four Star Theater and that name is coming back.

It was built in 1938 as a movie theater that seated more than 900 and in the 1970s became a place to see kung fu grindhouse movies. In 1978, it was transformed into a music venue.

“It saw some really notable acts come through here: Joan Jett was here, X was here, Hank Williams Jr. was here. So I’ve talked to a lot of people in the community who saw those events and it was, by all accounts, a great music venue,” property owner Marcus Ringnalda said.

Most recently, the theater served briefly as a church starting in 2004, though it has sat vacant for more than a decade.

Ringnalda used to work for Wolverine Building Group and was a member of the steering committee that, along with city planners, developed a plan to revitalize the stretch of Division on Burton Heights where the theater stands.

“I walked through this building and I just couldn’t forget about it. Just a beautiful thing in great shape, has really good bones, as they say,” Ringnalda said.

He bought it, paying about $160,000 in 2017. But as Monday a tour of the building showed, there’s a lot of work to be done — to the tune of at least $2 million.

In July, Ringnalda quit his paying job to take over the project. The goal is to become a nonprofit charitable organization.

“What we’re looking for is individuals in the community who can help us plan events where they can invite their friends and come in here, so it might be a movie, it might be a musical act,” Ringnalda said.

The goal is to get some projects going in late summer — perhaps in the parking lot — give tours of the building and get people in the neighborhood involved.

“Also to really serve the core neighborhood here in Burton Heights and be equipped to employ people in this neighborhood, to be a source for community gatherings,” Ringnalda said.

He wants to work up to hosting weddings or quinceañeras. He said the venue could handle as many as 200 events per year and bring 50,000 people through the doors annually, which could spill over to neighboring businesses.

You can follow the Four Star Theater Facebook page for updates on the project.

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