By Beau Brockett Jr.
Despite light flurries and a dysfunctional pair of ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors, the Bohm II, Albion’s second movie theater, opened Wednesday evening to a crowd of approximately 80 people for small tours and refreshments.
After four months of renovations, the unoccupied office space of the property adjacent to the historic Bohm was transformed into a 41-seat movie theater, complete with its own concession stand. Three of the seats are spaces for wheelchairs and the five seats making up the front are reclinable. All seats are the same plush rockers that the historic Bohm holds, only blue.
Plans are for the second floor to be renovated from a former dentist’s practice to an executive office and a private video editing department, which will develop the shorts and slideshows the Bohm provides as previews to their films and events, said Dick Levin, a Friends of the Bohm board member who led the tour.
With an all-or-nothing run, the Bohm set out to raise at least $50,000 in 45 days on the crowdfunding site Patronicity to receive a $50,000 match from the MEDC and MSHDA’s Public Spaces Community Places program for the creation of the Bohm II. The campaign raised $74,000, of which $35,000 was raised by pledges before the crowdfund began.
Before this, the Albion Community Foundation’s board of trustees and its former executive director Elizabeth Schultheiss sold the Bohm the adjacent property, which the foundation owned, for $1. Schultheiss then secured a $65,000 construction grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and a loan from the USDA to start the project off.
“I like to put it that Elizabeth pushed that snowball of the mountain, and then it’s been rolling ever since,” said Nancy Doyal.
Doyal is the executive director of the Bohm Theatres. Soon after the theatre’s renovation and reopening in October 2014, both she and Schultheiss realized that having multiple screen venues would be necessary to circulate the products the surrounding community wanted.
“What many people don’t understand is that I am required to hold a film a certain amount of weeks,” said Doyal. “I have to negotiate with a booker, with all the major studios, for the product.”
Doyal provided a real-time example as to why a multi-screen model is important. Usually, she is required to hold a highly-anticipated movie, called a tentpole film, at the Bohm for three weeks. In most cases, Doyal has found that these movies do well for two weeks, but drop the third. However, because she is bound to hold the movie for three weeks, Doyal was previously unable to take down movies that were no longer faring well and replace them with new film screenings.
With a second screen, however, Doyal is given wiggle room. For the past two weeks, Hidden Figures had been doing so well that the hold was extended one week longer. However, Doyal had also made a commitment to begin playing La La Land. But, thanks to a multi-screen model, Doyal can open La La Land for its two weeks in the Bohm II, keep Hidden Figures at the historic Bohm for its final week and then open Fences for one week in the historic Bohm after Hidden Figures finishes. Then, she will be ready to screen The LEGO Batman Movie.
The Bohm II will also serve as a space for rentals and for arthouse products – foreign films, independent films and documentaries, Doyal said. She sees a serious interest for these films in the community, who before had to drive to cities like Ann Arbor to watch them.
With the Courtyard by Marriot hotel not set for completion until early 2018 and re-bricking of downtown Superior Street slated for the summer of this year, Doyal is unsure of the immediate success the Bohm II will appear to have. She said, however, the Bohm Theatres will remain committed to providing great customer service and continue a Thursday-to-Sunday screening schedule so that events at the Bohm may continue to be held Monday through Wednesday.
Jason Cox, president of the Greater Albion Chamber of Commerce board, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and, in an email, was excited about what the Bohm had to offer.
“If you think about it, the Bohm is much like Albion,” said Cox. “It was what many viewed in disrepair, and neglected. Someone took a chance on it, turned it around and made it into this beautiful building, and now look at the success it’s had.”
The Bohm II’s inaugural screening will show La La Land at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The box office opens at 6:00. For future listings, visit http://bohmtheatre.org/calendar/.
Photos by Beau Brockett Jr.