years the location and ownership changed numerous times. In 1929, like the
rest of the country, the Great Depression hit Elk Rapids, closing the theater
when the bank foreclosed. It didn't last long, however, reopening one month
later under new management.
The economy recovered, movie popularity increased, and the Elk Rapids
theater upgraded, ready to meet higher demands. They expanded their hours,
remodeled the exterior, and even installed some neon. Then, in 1940, the
theater found a new home when owner E.C. Loomis constructed the current
classes. When he was ready
"Howard knew me as a person who didn't mind working hard and who
liked good movies," says Joe. "He wanted to save the theater, but his kids
didn't want to run it. He saw me as someone who would run it as a theater."
As Elk Rapids grew and changed, so did the theater. Summer weekend
matinees used to include Spanish movies for the migrant workers, but by
1977 the auto cherry pickers eliminated the need for laborers, thus stopping
the circuit of Spanish films in northern Michigan. That didn't eliminate
weekend movies, though. As Michigan's highway system expanded and
improved, Elk Rapids became a weekend destination, increasing the need for
The true theater supporters, however, are the residents who show up year
round. "The bottom line is that our local audience supports us," says Joe.
Elk Rapids residents supported the theater through its long years of
renovations, forgoing the Traverse City multiplex for the Elk Rapids ambiance.
"We did what we could as we could, and the local population backed us," says
Joe. Now that many visible and mechanical upgrades have been completed,
he is looking forward, toward possible expansion and digital upgrades.
Much like the village he calls home, Joe continues to look to the future
and adapt, doing whatever he needs to do to help the theater remain a viable
business and a cultural center in the community.
Rapids the best," says Joe. "I didn't want the big city rat race. My family and
friends were here. There was always someone to help. The same is true
with the theater. People have expressed interest in helping. They give me
copies of articles on digital projectors, and ask how they can help us raise
funds for improvements. People are delightfully concerned with the future of
As Elk Rapids continues to evolve, the theater plans to evolve with it.
As long as people like Joe work hard to keep it current, and as long as the
community supports this unofficial historical center, the Elk Rapids theater
will continue to shine as a vibrant piece of Elk Rapids' history.