Residents petition to keep State Theater sign

ALPENA — Since news broke about AMC Theaters intentions to remove a portion of the marquee at the State Theater, word has spread on social media and a petition to save the marquee has been circulating online to keep the sign up.

As of Thursday afternoon more than 2,600 people had signed the petition with hopes of convincing AMC to leave the lettering in place and that number continues to climb.

AMC announced earlier this week that it wants to remove the theater’s STATE logo lettering from the top of the marquee as well as close the Royal Knight. It came as a shock to residents. There is no firm date when the sign will be taken down, but the Royal Knight’s last day was Thursday.

The company purchased the State and Royal Knight theaters last year and said the cost is high formaintaining and powering the sign. It has agreed to keep the main marquee in place and possibly make improvements, and to donate the STATE logo to someone in Alpena. It could be housed at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan.

As word spread about the removal of the sign, people began contacting city administrators and members of council. The only action the city took was to issue a sign permit to AMC for the removal. It never supported or endorsed the move, it only granted the permit like it would for similar requests that meet the requirements.

Breanna Schmanski read the news and saw a lot of comments and concerns regarding the sign’s removal. She said it motivated her to take action and she began the online campaign and collecting signatures. Since 12 p.m. Monday thousands of people have signed the petition and it is still circulating rapidly on social media.

Schmanski said the theater sign is important to her and many others and believes trying to save it is worth the effort.

“It is the staple of downtown and I remember it being there as far back as I can remember,” she said. “There was a lot of talk about it on social media but it didn’t seem like anyone was taking action and I figured if I didn’t step up to the plate, maybe nobody else would.”

Schmanski said she thought maybe the petition would get a few hundred signatures, but it has far exceeded her expectations.

“When I woke up today and saw it was over 2,000 I couldn’t believe it,” Schmanski said. “It is a good thing because there is power in numbers.”

According to Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mary Beth Stutzman the marquee and State Theater sign is used in plenty of promotional material that is distributed. She said the mix of modern and historical features downtown makes it appealing to visitors and residents alike.

Stutzman said having the sign taken down will affect the aesthetics, appearance and character of downtown.

“When we market the downtown and its vibe, the theater sign is a big part of that,” Stutzman said. “It has been a prominent, historic landmark and it is important some of those type things of remain. Change is great, we embrace change and it is important, but it is also important that our iconic structures that are important to our landscape remain as anchors for our community.”

Pennie Hoeft remembers when another area theater was undergoing change and how keeping its marquee and sign was important to the community. She said driving down Second Avenue will be a little different.

“I’m glad when they did the refacing of Rogers City Theater, they left the old sign on the front,” Hoeft said. “Some things are priceless and it will be a big change not to see that when you are coming down the street.”

Ranae Kinsel said she wishes AMC would have been more open with the public about its plan earlier and taken some input. She said the sign is a reminder of days past and is important to a lot of people.

“I feel whether it was a privately owned or not, they should have had the consideration to discuss the renovation plans with the public and consider its opinion,” Kinsel said.

Schmanski said when people post about the sign or marquee on social media they should tag or hashtag AMC. She said there also are a few other hashtags that are being used, #saveoursign and #smalltowncharm.

“We need to put this right in their face and show them how important this and the theater is to our community,” Schmanski said.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.