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Konczak to purchase, restore State, Royal Knight theaters

Courtesy Photo The original exterior of the Royal Knight Theater.

ALPENA — The State and Royal Knight theaters will get fresh starts and complete overhauls, an Alpena developer announced today.

Jeff Konczak and his wife, Tina, formally announced plans to convert the old Maltz Opera House and State Theater back into a single live performance venue in downtown Alpena and restore the original look of the early 1900s inside and outside of the facility.

Acquiring the State “was one of the things that I have at the top of my bucket list,” Konczak, the developer behind the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building and Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, Biggby Coffee, and Harborside Mall, said today. “This is 20 years of me dreaming coming true.”

The 800-plus seat venue, built in 1879, will have a single stage, as it did when the building opened as the Maltz Opera House. Many of the original, covered-up features will be carefully unearthed and exposed in renovation expected to take at least a couple years, Konczak said.

“This will be a community facility for live plays, opera, speeches, events, and community gatherings,” said Konczak.

Courtesy Photo The original exterior of the State Theater.

The State, which was the only first-run movie theater in the county, closed earlier this year when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down businesses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and hasn’t reopened since.

Meanwhile, the Royal Knight, which closed in 2018, will be reopened as a movie theater, Konczak said.

He said exterior work on the theater could begin as soon as the end of the month and inside improvements could happen this winter. Konczak said the three screens could begin playing movies in the spring.

The timeline for renovating the State Theater is more fluid, because Konczak said he wants to research the history of the Maltz Opera House before breaking ground, and he wants to gather historical photos from Alpena residents to help guide the work.

“We are asking people who are older who may have had a first date there and have photos to please provide them,” Konczak said. “Someone’s grandparents may have died and left behind photos, and we ask them to look through them for us. I want to get this right, and this is going to be a community project.”

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The exterior of the State Theater is seen in downtown Alpena on Friday.

Konczak said he has already acquired the rights to use the name Maltz Opera House, or Maltz Theater, as well as a Web domain.

NO TALKS WITH EXISTING THEATERS

Konczak said he has not communicated with administrators of the two existing live theaters in town, the Thunder Bay Theatre and Alpena Civic Theatre. But he said competition won’t be a concern for at least the next several years.

“This is not going to be done overnight, and will take all of two years or more,” he said. “Like I said, I’m going to work with the community to get this right, and that is going to take time.”

Thunder Bay Theatre Artistic Director Lucas Moquin said he would be happy to talk about possible options for the State Theater. TBT’s building, down the road from the State, needs extensive repairs and renovations after the building suffered severe smoke and water damage from the July 21 fire that destroyed the John A. Lau Saloon next door.

“There’s nothing in the works at the moment,” Moquin said this afternoon. “If that is his intention, to make it a performance venue, I would be very interested in speaking with him. I’m sure the Civic Theatre would want to talk to him, too. I would be all over that.”

Moquin added that the State Theater building is a beautiful performance space with a rich history.

News Lifestyles Editor Darby Hinkley contributed to this report.

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