KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — New life is coming to a Kalamazoo theater that was once downtown’s only choice to see a movie.
Moviegoers are familiar with the theater standing at 180 Portage Street near E. South Street, which was home at different points in time to Rave Motion Pictures, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and AMC. The AMC closed in 2020, though its signage is still up.
Come November, a new name will grace the building as movie screenings resume. KP Cinemas came on board earlier this summer to operate the theater after it was bought by a different landlord in 2022.
“We’re a one-off independent group that believes that downtown Kalamazoo needed a theater,” KP’s director of operations Josh Ward said.
Daniel Stern, whose name is associated with Kalamazoo Theater LLC, is the listed owner of the property. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Restoration and renovation work on the 70,000-square-foot space has been ongoing since August.
“We have to really come at it like we’re a brand-new business, a brand-new operator. So we have to go through the deep fire inspections. It’s not just the yearly inspections,” Ward explained. “There have been maintenance issues. We’ve had some elevator issues we’ve had to work through, but realistically, it hasn’t been too much of a problem. It’s a lot. It’s a huge building.”
KP also has huge shoes to fill. Longtime patrons remember Alamo having in-theater food service and alcohol sales. According to Ward, they will only have the latter, with a full bar ready by mid-December and an expanded food menu that will offer more than traditional concessions.
“At opening, we are going to be all counter (food) service. But as we expand the menu and stuff takes a little bit longer to make, we are leaning into doing that pager-type option,” Ward said. “Likely not service in the theater, just because of the extensive staff and how much larger of a footprint that requires for our team to maintain.”
The building will feature 10 screens, including a premium theater with quality sound and large screens. Each theater can seat at least 50 people, all with recliners. Six of the 10 screens will be ready by KP Cinemas’ opening, which is expected to be Nov. 10.
At their Nov. 7, 2022, meeting, Kalamazoo city commissioners approved an agreement with the property owner providing a 50% discount on rates at the Kalamazoo Mall and Epic Center parking ramps for staff and patrons. Community Planning and Economic Development Director Antonio Mitchell confirmed the agreement is still intact.
“There’s also, as I say, additional parking in the area that they’ll be able to take advantage of,” Mitchell added. “One good thing that’s been happening is that weekends in downtown are pretty busy. Hopefully, this will bring back additional traffic for the additional restaurants that are coming, that people can have, as I say, ‘a dinner and a show’ in our downtown again.”
Ward said the theater is an investment in Kalamazoo, with a long-term lease and creating at least 30 jobs.
“We have worked out a deal that makes it affordable and reasonable for us to be able to have customers come out here for a reasonable price,” he said.