Howell Theatre

Address: 315 E Grand River Ave
City: Howell
State: MI
Zip:
County: Livingston
Notes:
Open: 1927
Capacity: 500
Owner History: Chandler Inc
Number of visits to this page: 11238
Info Updates:
3/30/2021 - Andy Gray

The Howell Theatre is located at 315 East Grand River Avenue in Howell, Michigan. The theater first opened in 1928 and it's still open today! It appears that my grandfather Albert S. "Al" Johnson remodeled the theater in 1938. His collection of Kodachrome slides documenting the Johnson Construction Company theater jobs include a single image of the Howell taken in June 1948 (see below).

The theater is bracketed by a sandwich shop and a Kroger market to the left, and a bus station to the right. Its exterior is similar to other early Johnson theater projects. The marquee and vertical sign are consistent with a late 1930's style, and the front doors have full glass panes. The blackened area of brickwork on the second story, which at first glance appears to be smoke damage, can also be seen in a photo apparently taken in 1956 on the WaterWinterWonderland.com site, so it's not clear what caused this persistent discoloration.

6/12/2014 - B.J. McDevitt
6/12/14 - After being on the market for six months, a Downtown Howell fixture has a new owner. Tyler DePerro, the owner of FilmTell LLC in Toledo, Ohio issued a press release saying he closed on the theater Tuesday. DePerro says he has a “unique vision” for the theater at 315 East Grand River, which he plans to renovate over the next few months. He plans to keep it as a two-screen theater, but wants to make-over the building’s facade and lobby to showcase local artwork and host community gatherings. He describes himself as a movie guy with a “deep and expansive” knowledge of film and its history, His plans for the Howell Theater call for an assortment of films offered each week that will be a mix of independent, classics and documentaries, along with silent films and world cinema. In the release, DePerro says he wants to bring back the “magic in movie magic,” with period renovations and thoughtful programming, The theater had closed down last summer after the previous owners failed to make it financially successful. A plan to locate a gourmet restaurant there also fell through, leaving many to worry the theater and its iconic marquee would no longer be a part of Howell’s downtown. DePerro says he has created a Facebook page for people to follow the progress of the renovations and plans for the theater.
5/24/2013 - B.J. McDevitt
No need to add this note, but wanted to let you know that the Howell Theater is not closed yet. No date set for the closing yet, but will send you a note when it does.
10/2/2011 - B.J. McDevitt
The theater has yet again closed. It is however slated to open under new ownership on October 7th 2011.
5/5/2009 - Livingston Daily
Howell Theater closing its doors By Leah Boyd • DAILY PRESS & ARGUS • May 5, 2009 The historical Howell Theater in downtown Howell will shut down after business hours today, ending an extensive effort by an owner who purchased the theater in 2001. He said Monday that he couldn't make the business profitable. Advertisement Owner Gene Chandler said the landmark theater at 315 E. Grand River Ave. will close indefinitely and that the property has been put up for sale. "The business hasn't been profitable in quite a while," Chandler said. "The things necessary to change the business are quite substantial." Chandler, who invested more than $1 million in renovations to the theater after he purchased the building from the city of Howell eight years ago, said business suffered from movie-licensing restrictions and by only having two screens available to show films. He said he has been unable to secure the financing required to fund the expansion needed to make the theater successful. "We've been kind of stuck, unable to expand," he said. "The problem isn't that the business can't be made profitable." Chandler said licensing issues created most of the problem because film companies require the theater to play a movie for several weeks, although attendance usually dies down after the film's first week. For example, "Hannah Montana: The Movie" grossed three times as much in its first week playing at the theater than it did in its third, Chandler said. Since the theater only has two screens, it also doesn't allow for a wide selection or for keeping up with the latest releases. "That's the trouble with small downtown theaters," Chandler said. "That's why there aren't any of them left. You have to have enough screens to play the hot movies that are opening." Chandler, who operates under his family business, Chandler Corp. of Michigan, is the primary owner of the Howell Theater, although he said other family members have stock in the company. He said the decision to close was partially due to the family's inability to agree on a viable business strategy. The theater property, which also includes upstairs residential apartments, was listed for sale at $690,000 Monday. The theater, which has operated in the city for several decades, was most recently closed in the late 1990s. The city of Howell purchased the property in an attempt to preserve the historic site and then later sold it to Chandler. Advertisement The Daily Press & Argus, which is located next door, had shown interest in purchasing the building to expand its facility before the city intervened, but the paper has no interest in the building at present. Debbie Mikula, director of the Howell Area Parks and Recreation Authority, headed the city's Howell Theater task force to keep the entertainment facility a part of downtown. "The residents of this area wanted a small-town theater," Mikula said. "It absolutely enhanced the downtown. But I understand the conditions they are facing right now." Those conditions showed Monday when no customers showed up for the theater's 3 p.m. showing. Theater Manager Mike Gianino said only two people attended that day's 1 p.m. showing. "It's been slow," Gianino said. "If people don't show up, there's nothing we can do." The Howell Theater closing leaves Livingston County with one cinema, the 20-screen MJR Brighton Towne Square Digital Cinema 20 in Brighton.
2/23/2003 - WaterWinterWonderland
The Howell Theatre has been restored from top to bottom and is one of the most gorgeous theatres we have seen yet. The brand new marquee welcomes you into a totally remodeled and restored interior. 2 Auditoriums with new seating, DTS sound, as well as immaculate rest rooms. An excellent snack bar completes the picture. Special thanks to Sanford Chandler who was kind enough to give us a tour and explain the whole process of getting the Howell restored to its former splendor. Keep up the good work Chandler Inc!!!
1/8/2003 - Web
The Howell Theater was constructed in 1927 as both a movie house and a live entertainment venue. It replaced the smaller Temple Theater (located one block west) that was apparently suitable only for movies. It also provided a stage and orchestra pit suitable for musical and live entertainment that would have been previously held at the Howell Opera House that closed several years earlier. The Theater was built by the Locey family which had developed several other recreational properties in the same block, including a dance hall and gym (now Howell Auto Parts) and a roller rink. As late as New Years 1932 there was still live musical entertainment at the theater along with movies. In 1938 the Howell Theater was extensively renovated by the Schulte Amusement Company of Detroit which had acquired the Theater. The renovations included more spacious seating (which remain) and bathrooms, new projection and sound equipment, acoustical treatment, and a new marquee that complimented the original vertical sign that was retained. Schulte Amusement continued to operate the theater for many years, although by 1944 the theater was being used exclusively as a movie house. In 1956 they again replaced the marquee along with the original entrance and canopy. The original theater sign and 1938 marquee were also removed. The original storefronts were not altered and remain to this day, although some architectural elements may have been covered over. By 1970, the theater had been acquired by The Whisper and Wetsman Company, that ran the Theater as the Howell Theater Corporation. During the 1970s the plaster walls were covered by draperies and the movie screen was moved to the front of the proscenium to accommodate a larger picture. The sound system was also upgraded around this time and it remains. Little additional work was done after this time period, although the dual carbon-arc projection system has been changed to a xenon single projector platter system. In 1998 the theater was placed on the market and closed its doors in December, 1998. The theater was acquired by the City of Howell in June, 1999. Immediately following the purchase, the City Council formed the Howell Theater committee to advise them on the potential renovation and future usage of the theater. The committee did extensive research and learned the intricacies of operating a movie and rental facility. The general consensus of the committee was to guarantee and retain the historical and architectural elements of the Howell Theater and to see it renovated as a modest and plain art deco movie house. As it looked at financing and overseeing the renovation of a theater facility, the committee felt that it would be imperative to find someone or some group with theater management experience along with vision and commitment to oversee the renovations and operations. The committee produced a final report outlining recommendation for redevelopment of the Howell Theater. A complete copy of the report is available for review at the City Managers office located at 611 E. Grand River, 3rd Floor, Howell, Michigan 48843. The Theater committee recommended that the city accept proposals from a private entity (for-profit or non-profit), company, individual, or group of investors to purchase, renovate and operate the Howell Theater with the goal of maintaining the theater as an entertainment venue.
1/8/2003 - Web
A 75-year-old theater in Howell, Mich., opened last month after a two-year restoration. The Howell Theater first opened in 1927. A year after the theater closed in 1998, the city bought the building for $310,000. A private developer, Chandler Corp., bought the Howell for the same price in 1999. Workers repaired the theater’s leaded-glass windows, replaced the seats, and raised a new sign that resembles its original 1927 marquis. The 500-seat theater now shows first-run movies. "The community is thrilled," says Camille Lievense, manager of the city’s downtown development authority. "So few movie houses have such a happy ending."
 Photos:13
Howell Theatre - FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
Howell Theatre - OLD SHOT OF MARQUEE
OLD SHOT OF MARQUEE
Howell Theatre - 1931 PHOTO FROM PAUL PETOSKEY
1931 PHOTO FROM PAUL PETOSKEY
Howell Theatre - ORIGINAL MARQUEE
ORIGINAL MARQUEE
Howell Theatre - OLD MARQUEE
OLD MARQUEE
Howell Theatre - OLD MARQUEE SHOT
OLD MARQUEE SHOT
Howell Theatre - Photo from 5/9/2010
Photo from 5/9/2010
Howell Theatre - Photo from 5/9/2010
Photo from 5/9/2010
Howell Theatre - Photo from 5/9/2010
Photo from 5/9/2010
Howell Theatre - ORIGINAL SEATS
ORIGINAL SEATS
Howell Theatre - Photo from 5/9/2010
Photo from 5/9/2010
Howell Theatre - OLD NIGHT SHOT
OLD NIGHT SHOT
Howell Theatre - OLD PIC
OLD PIC
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