Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2.5.13 Hero of the Day: The Kurtz Family

Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday, Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Friday on Chuck69.com.



Names: Luther and Mary Kurtz
Age: ??
Occupation: businesspeople
Last Seen: Charlevoix, MI
Awarded For: keeping the lights on

Charlevoix, MI was once a hotbed for entertainment.

As many a northern Michigan rock fan can tell you, there was once a big place for concerts during the Summer up north, and it was Castle Farms in Charlevoix. From the early 70's until the 90's, it was a haven for all music fans, although many residents cringed when many rock acts came to town and the sound went for miles and miles.

Many notable acts that played The Castle were Donny Osmond, The Beach Boys, Duran Duran, Metallica, Ted Nugent, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leppard.

In 1994, concerts ended at The Castle when owner Art Reibel leased the land to a local 4-H group, who turned it into a camp. However, in 1996, the group fell behind on their payments and Reibel turned it back into a concert venue. However, that only last one year. After Reibel passed away, the family turned the venue into boat storage - rumor had it that it made more money than it did when it was a concert venue - and in 2001, it was sold to Linda Mueller, who turned it into a venue for arts, festivals and weddings.

Thankfully, this otherwise sleepy resort town of 2,500, and once the home of JonBenet Ramsey has a movie theater. But, even that was thisclose to closing.

For decades, downtown Charlevoix had the Cinema III. Despite its name, it only had one screen. But in 1996, the owner purchased what used to be an auto dealership across the street from Oleson's Food Store Plaza and converted it into a new, three-screen theater that was now true to its name.

But thanks to Michigan's economic downfall and the quick diminish of population amongst resort towns like Charlevoix, the Cinema III fell on hard times in the 2000's. In 2011, the Charlevoix State Bank took over the theater after owner Bill Supernaw defaulted on his mortgage. But, the bank miraculously kept it running in spite of them not wanting to be in the theater business. They felt that shutting it down would be more of a burden on the city than anything else.

But in the beginning of 2013, a new - and exciting - chapter of the Cinema III began when a young couple, Luther and Mary Kurtz bought the theater from the bank. Mr. Kurtz owns a successful skydiving business and grew up in the area, so he obviously enjoys risk-taking. The Kurtzes immediately made upgrades to the theater, including installing new seats, adding on to the concession stand and most-importantly of all, installing new digital projectors.

Digital projection is now key to any theater's survival. At the end of the year, Hollywood's major studios will no longer ship traditional 35mm prints of movies to theaters, citing cost, plus the fact that most movies are no longer shot on film, but rather digitally. As a result, many small town theaters that don't have digital projection are waiting longer for prints to be sent to them because now so few prints are being made of current movies.

Sadly, many smaller independent theaters cannot afford digital projectors, since one costs at least $70,000 to buy and install. Some theaters are asking for donations and others are trying to go non-profit so they could raise funds to keep them running.

In northern Michigan, most movie theaters are small and independent. Some owners are skeptical on if they will still be in business after the new year. Some are exploring getting the equipment and others think that Hollywood will still realize that 40% of all theaters are still using 35mm and will try to ride the storm out. If it means waiting longer for prints of hit movies, so let it be. Heck, I'll betcha that there's still some small cinemas that use two projectors to show movies instead of using the platter system!

We've got a little bit less than 11 months to see if Hollywood sticks to their promises and if smaller cinemas will stay open. But in the meantime, the Kurtzes need to be commended for taking a huge risk to keep the movies alive in this great Michigan town. Yes, there's a bigger cinema up in Petoskey that has five more screens plus stadium seating, but the locals deserve their own piece of Hollywood.
And the Kurtzes thought ahead of schedule.  

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