Studio 28 demolition ‘spurring the next chapter’

Studio 28, which has sat empty for five years. (March 3, 2014)

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A once-iconic West Michigan movie theater will soon be no more.

Studio 28 will be torn down within four weeks, according to Steve VanWagoner of Celebration Cinema, though precise demolition dates have not yet been set.

When Studio 28 opened on Christmas Day 1965, it had only one theater. It expanded to 20 theaters in 1988, making it the largest multiplex in the world at the time. At its peak in the late 1990s, it drew in more than 1.7 million customers each year.

But the theater closed in November 2008 due to dwindling attendance — down more than 75% from peak figures — and increasing operational costs.

Since then, it has become a target for vandals.

“There’s been roof leaks. The interior has been deteriorated. There has been broken glass. It’s just become obsolete,” Wyoming Director of Community Services Rebecca  Rynbrandt.

She said the city had no choice but to condemn it and have it torn down.

“When we think of demolition, some of us think of it as it’s spurring the next chapter, and that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about looking toward the future,” Rynbrandt said.

Celebration Cinema does not yet have plans for the property south of 28th Street between Burlingame and Michael avenues SW. There is not yet a potential buyer for the lot.

There are quite a few large vacant buildings in the area. But an empty lot is more appealing to buyers, the City of Wyoming says.

“I think it’s a good thing for the city,” City Manager Curtis Holt said. “Demolition, I think, will make it a more valuable property. People will be able to see more potential than with a vacant piece of property.”

The city rolled out is “28 West” master plan — an effort to create a walkable downtown area along 28th Street between Burlingame and Clyde Park avenues — last summer. Holt said the Studio 28 demolition could “get the ball rolling in that area.”

Jonny Vitale, whose family owns nearby FrankieV’s, agrees that it’s time for the theater to go.

“An abandoned building helps nobody. It doesn’t create any  jobs or things like that. We are hoping they tear it down and build something new,” He said.

After 48 years, Vitale said he’s sad to see it go, but feels good can come from the demolition.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, but we’re ready to turn a new leaf,” he said.

VanWagoner said the flea market that has been held in the Studio 28 parking lot will continue this summer.

Watch 24 Hour News 8’s November 2008 report on the theater closing via YouTube:

Inside Laff at the Movies on Studio 28

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