Monday, August 4, 2014

8.4.14 Hero of the Day: Michael Moore

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




Name: Michael Moore
Age: 60 
Occupation, filmmaker, philanthropist, organizer, etc.
Last Seen: Traverse City, MI
Awarded For: putting his money where his mouth is

Many of us had their childhood movie theatres. For me, it was the Elk Rapids Cinema in Elk Rapids, MI.

When I was young, the Cinema had a unique charm of its own, both good and bad. It was one of northern Michigan's oldest movie theatres - opened in 1940 as the State Theatre - and it's spacious auditorium created an intimate atmosphere for many movie lovers. However, thanks to years of neglect from previous management, the roof leaked and there were missing seats all throughout the theatre. The Cinema - whose slogan is "The World's Largest Ceiling Mural" - would have to be remodeled from the roof down because of its unique condition.

And they said it couldn't be done.

When Joe Yuchasz bought the Cinema from Howard Coddington in 1972 for reportedly a dirt-cheap price, he knew that renovations had to start the second he acquired it. But, it wasn't easy. A rough economy throughout the 70's and 80's hurt the small village of 1,600, but thanks to his tenure of Village President starting in 1986 and ending in the 2000's, Elk Rapids saw a boon of new, small businesses come into town and of course, more people visiting his Cinema. When the Traverse City Film Festival started up ten years ago, it gave Joe a chance to finally follow co-founder Michael Moore's dream of renovating a theatre like his - in this case, the unrelated State Theatre in nearby Traverse City - into a place where people can go to see just great movies.

After the roof was replaced on the Cinema, Joe finished the task of repainting the ceiling and then the rest of the work began. The old seats were junked and replaced with new, modern seats, the floors were re-carpeted, the walls were repainted and even a new stage was put in for local events, such as a recent performance from comedian (and apparently, it's his real name) Chuck King.

Recently, the bank loan for Joe's renovations to the Cinema were paid off. But, he had a new challenge: the mandatory switchover to digital. A few years ago, the major Hollywood studios announced that they would no longer ship out films in traditional 35mm film because of the high cost of doing so while shipping out films in a hard drive for digital projectors was a lot cheaper. Most smaller theatres had no choice but to either close or beg for donations, which would cost $80,000. In Joe's case, he went back to the bank instead and got the loan for their new projector, which was installed late last year.

And the best thing out of all this? Their ticket prices haven't changed in around a decade. In an era of $10 tickets at the megaplex, the Elk Rapids Cinema only charges $5 for their daily matinees and $7 for adults past 7 p.m.  

A few weeks ago, Moore made agreements with local theatres around the Grand Traverse Region to show selections from this year's Film Festival, which ended yesterday. Elk Rapids Cinema showed Sister starring VEEP star Reid Scott about a man who has to take care of his younger, mentally unstable sister. The film was sold out, and even Michael Moore came out on stage, handing out a $5,000 check to Yuchasz for his continued work on keeping the projector light on in Elk Rapids 365 days per year.

But, that wasn't the only theatre Moore helped. He also handed out a $5,000 check to the owners of the Garden Theatre in Frankfort for their continued work on that theatre, which years ago was forced to close for the winter due to their heater breaking down. Now, it's a fully-restored theatre, which like the Elk Rapids Cinema went digital last year.

Last week, we reported on a piece The Today Show aired about Moore's finances. They bragged about the $2 million mansion he and his ex-wife owned on Torch Lake in Bellaire. Yeah, the guy talks about how the 1% will do anything to beat up the 99% but NBC basically said that the guy's a hypocrite for being in the 1% bracket himself. That's a bunch of crap. Moore is nowhere near the wealth of Michigan's wealthiest, i.e. the DeVoses, the Meijers and the Ilitches and unlike them, he doesn't throw people into the poor house and make them suffer.

Mike has given a TON of his money to help out a lot of folks in Michigan. He even donated $250,000 of his own money to the TCFF, which he co-chairs with the likes of writer and dirctor Larry Charles, actor Jeff Daniels and former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello. I know, Flint's still a hellhole, but I think he's done with that town. Flint, Detroit and even Grand Rapids had what northern Michigan never quite had, and that's unionized auto plants where people got paid $50 per hour and could support their families. I was raised in northern Michigan and never had the pleasure of having parents who could live totally comfortably. My mother seemed to have a new job every year and my father's jobs were seasonal. Same went with my neighbors. Because of all this, it's one huge reason why I live in Grand Rapids.

Next year, I'd like to go to the Film Festival and maybe even catch a show at the Elk Rapids Cinema. Both the TCFF and Harbor Days are that weekend and I would like to catch a few shows. I hope they can do something exciting like they've been doing every year. Plus, I'll have my car paid off this time next year. :)

Michael Moore's not some stodgy 1%-er after all, right NBC?

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