Wednesday, March 26, 2014

3.26.14 Hero of the Day: Studio 28

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



Name: Studio 28
Age: was 49
Occupation: the world's first megaplex movie theatre
Last Seen: Wyoming, MI
Awarded For: being a pioneer in the world of movies


When the movies were invented, theatres only had one screen.

Then, some 50 years ago, a man decided, why not have two theatres in the same house? The multiplex was born. Then came three screens, then four, five... you get the drift.

When Grand Rapids' Studio 28 went to a whopping 20 screens in 1988, people thought that its owner, Jack Loeks was nuts. After all, he was a pioneer in the world of movies with a career that spanned over 50 years and ended with his passing ten years ago at the age of 85. He brought the multiplex to Grand Rapids in the 1960's, and it all started in part with Studio 28.

Studio 28 opened on Christmas 1965 as a simple, 1,000-seat auditorium. Then, a second screen was added and eventually, it became a six-plex in the 1970's. In 1982, Studio 28 became a 12-plex and eight more screens were added in 1988, making it the nation's first true megaplex.

As the years wore on, Studio 28 had been remodeled and grandfathered more times than most people could count. But it was important since it was the flagship of the Loeks Theatres empire. Studio 28 was modernized with digital picture and sound and with the exception of its main and original 1,000-seat auditorium, stadium seating.

However, Studio 28 became a victim of its own success. Loeks Theatres started up the Celebration! Cinema chain in the late 90's and built more megaplexes including the 18-screen+IMAX Celebration! Cinema North and 16-screen South at M6. They also acquired Cinemark's two theatres at Rivertown Crossings (20 screens) and Woodland Mall (14 screens, which was turned into a sub-runner) several years ago. Now, the only movie theatre in Grand Rapids not owned by the Loekses is the AMC Star Theatre on Plainfield, which ironically was started by Jack's son, Barrie.

Back in the olden days, if a movie theatre was older than the new kid in town, it eventually closed. A six-screener built in 1977 could never survive against the modern 20-screen megaplex by a long shot. Studio 28 had it all: digital picture and sound, stadium seating, comfy seats and just about everything you could imagine in a modern movie house. But Studio 28's problem was simple: location, location, location.

The theatre was on a stretch of 28th Street that over the years got infested with crime and other businesses closing up shop. Even its neighbor, the Rogers Plaza shopping mall, is a ghost of what it once was back in the 1960's. Loeks kept building and buying up theatres in more-desirable areas while Studio 28 ended up becoming its red-headed stepchild. On November 23, 2008, Studio 28 closed for good.

For the past five years, Studio 28 became an eyesore. All offers made on the theatre were never finalized and it kept dormant all this time. True, AMC or another chain could have bought it, but it was no use. People broke into the property and vandalized it and years of damage from the elements forced Wyoming officials to condemn the aging cinema a few months ago. Yesterday, after nearly 50 years of being a symbol of movie magic to the citizens of Grand Rapids and her surrounding areas, Studio 28 was demolished. People have been taking bricks from the fallen structure as mementos of good times gone by.

Now, with a 20-acre vacant lot, some wonder what will happen to the former Studio 28 property. Many feel that either Walmart or Meijer will build a new store. But, the future for the site is now in the hands of whoever wants to buy it.

Personally, I felt that Loeks should have made Studio 28 a sub-runner, not Woodland. There's a lot of low-income people on that side of town and luring them all to Woodland - which has had its problems with crime - is a bad idea. However, the Loekses had their reasons. Studio 28 was old and inefficient. It had six projection booths while all their newer theatres all have one (then again, that issue is now moot since movies are no longer projected on 35mm film but rather on computerized digital projectors). There's also the issue of Studio 28 being grandfathered for so many years. Personally, I got lost in that theatre the few times I was there. It was almost confusing as hell.

I did see a few films there myself: Mel Gibson's Signs (before he totally lost it), An Inconvenient Truth (where the projector bulb was as dim as hell) and my last film there, Step Brothers with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

In all, it's sad to see Studio 28 go. It was a better theatre even in my old hometown of Traverse City where all of the theatres are stuck in 1980's hell. To see something nice and modern get bulldozed into a heap of concrete and steel is nothing short of pathetic, but that's life.

So long, Studio 28. Say hi to The Movies at Woodland, Showcase Grand Rapids and just about every theatre Loeks and Bob Goodrich ever owned up there, will ya?

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