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The Ironwood Theatre was built as a vaudeville/silent movie palace in 1928 under the direction of Architect Albert Nelson at a cost of $160,000. Under the leadership of A.L. Pikar, the theatre became the center of entertainment in the Ironwood area. The Hollywood Golden Age of the 30,s, 40s and 50s followed the Great Depression. In the 60s, the Ironwood Theatre was sold to Thomas Theatres of Iron Mountain. The theatre operated as a first run movie house until its' closing in 1982.
In 1982, owner Thomas Renn gave the Ironwood Theatre to the City of Ironwood through the Downtown Ironwood Development Authority(DIDA). Restoration efforts began at that time under the direction of the newly formed Ironwood Theatre Preservation Committee. On January 11, 1985, the Ironwood Theatre was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
In 1986, the DIDA was awarded a grant by the State of Michigan, beginning an extensive renovation program that is ongoing. Completed renovations include be seats in the main auditorium and balcony, carpeting, restoration of the ceiling mural, wall and beam decorations, as well as a new stage floor, heating and state of the art lighting and sound systems, to name a few. Restoration efforts at present include custom-made organ vent curtains funded by a grant from the Albert W. Cherne Foundation, and basement and ventilation improvements partly funded by the Michigan Council of the Arts and Cultural Affairs.
The Ironwood Theatre was incorporated in 1988 as an independent, non-profit cultural organization and the building is leased from the City of Ironwood. The Ironwood Theatre assumes all operating costs and all maintenance and repairs of the facility. In the absence of local tax support, it is funded by ticket sales, user fees, ad annual Friends Drive, a Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs grant, along with area business support and other fundraising activities. The Ironwood Theatre is a volunteer based organization with a 15 member Board of Directors, three employees and hundreds of dedicated volunteers.