State Theater sign will see some changes

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The historic STATE logo at the top of the marquee at State Theater will be taken down in the coming weeks. Owner AMC intends to add its own lettering, but will keep the lower portion of the marquee in place. A plan to preserve the sign is being explored.

ALPENA — In the coming weeks there is going to be a change in the landscape on Second Avenue as well as a prominent business that will be closing.

AMC, which owns and operates the Royal Knight and State theaters, is in the process of closing the Royal Knight and consolidating it with the State Theater. It also is going to rebrand the theater and remove the neon STATE sign from the top of the marquee and replace it with its own logo.

According to Alpena Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Anne Gentry the city granted the company permission to do so and mentioned at a DDA meeting shortly after it acquired the two theaters from Carmike last year. Now there are some in the community who don’t want to see the historical sign come down.

“From a downtown perspective it is one of the most iconic buildings, as is the marquee and we always try to keep those types of things in place,” Gentry said. “The company did compromise because it was considering talking down the entire marquee.”

Gentry said AMC will make improvements to the marquee and maintain it without the current wording on top and is allowing the community to keep it once it comes down.

Stephanie Gandulla said when she learned about the sign coming down it saddened her and she spoke with Gentry to see what could be done to keep it in place or preserve it. She said since moving to Alpena she has noticed that the theater and sign are important symbols of Alpena’s history.

“I think the community’s going to be shocked when they look up and see a very prominent feature of downtown gone and changed to a national brand,” Gandulla said. “I think when people think of downtown Alpena they picture that sign and I feel it really adds to the character of our historic downtown.”

Large marquees and local logos are becoming things of the past, as corporate America moves into more rural areas and they are often only found in small towns. Rogers City still has its large marquee, as do several others in northern Michigan. In many communities, however, cineplexes have been built and replaced the small theaters. Gandulla said that has taken some of the charm away from downtown.

“When my husband and I moved here we lived upstairs right across the street from the theater and I would see it every day,” she said. “It became a part of my life and very special to me. To take it away will change the entire look of downtown.”

Last year a community on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio, faced the same dilemma Alpena does now and was able to convince AMC to reverse its decision to remove the logos from its theater, Uptown Theater. When residents found out they took action and utilized social media to gain support to have the sign stay intact. AMC agreed to keep it in place, but changed the lighting to LED for better energy efficiency and lower utility costs. Gentry said the company seems pretty locked into place on the issue in Alpena, but at least the lower section of the marquee will remain.

“From the conversations I’ve had, it seems impossible that we will be able to keep the entire sign up,” she said. “The man I talked to said it will continue to change bulbs on the main marquee and there could be some improvements made to make it more affordable to display.”

Several messages to the AMC media hotline were not returned. A date for the closure of the Royal Knight Theater has been set. Gentry said she was told it would be relatively soon.

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