The grand opening of Saline’s Emagine Theatre, the town’s first movie theater since the mid-20th Century, was a swanky affair that raised around $36,000 for Saline Area Social Service and the Foundation for Saline Area Schools.
All 500 tickets were sold for the event ($100 a ticket for adults and $50 for children), which gave the dapper and elegantly-dressed crowd a sneak preview of the luxury theater before it opens to the public Saturday. Friday’s grand opening was jubilant celebration of many things. Great community charities. Progress in a long-neglected shopping plaza that is a gateway to the community. The optimism that’s arm-in-arm with Saline’s economic rebound. And the return of the Hollywood big screen to the City of Saline.
(Emagine Theatre is open to the public. Click here for movie listings.)
Emagine Entertainment CEO Paul Glantz was thrilled to open his newest theatre and to see the public enjoy all it had to offer, from the leather reclining seats in the spacious theater to the open bar. (Learn about more Emagine Saline features in Bob Conradi’s article.)
“I’m very happy with how the facility turned out. I am extraordinarily pleased with the fine work that our contractors and tradesmen did to build this magnificent venue. We’ve got a very talented design staff that I think have designed one of the most elegant theaters in the market place,” Glantz said as guests sampled salmon, corned beef, prime rib and other fine foods stationed around the new theater. “Now that we have people in the building, we’re getting a lot of positive feedback. Folks are very impressed.”
Before Friday, Saline was without a movie theater since 1952.
“We’re glad to bring one back,” Glantz said.
Emagine Entertainment invested $10 million to convert the grocery store, last occupied by Country Market in 2012, into a theatre. Glantz said Emagine has a formula that’s brought magic back to a night at the movies.
“It’s our intense focus on the guest experience. We try to be empathetic and a place of hospitality and be a place where folks want to leave their home to be entertained,” Glantz said. “And we have a sense of style. We’ve designed this to be as elegant as a five-star hotel. We want people to come in here and feel wined and dined.”
Many of the patrons in attendance Friday were in awe at the grand opening.
Saline City Council member Dean Girbach struggled to think of the last private investment to create so much excitement.
“We’ve had certainly had some great projects in the city, but I think you might have to go back to Ford building its plant on Michigan Avenue to find a grand opening with such fanfare,” Girbach said.
Mayor Brian Marl pointed out that Saline went from going 65 years without a movie theater to having the nicest theater in Washtenaw County.
“The Michigan Theater in downtown Ann Arbor has a certain ambiance and charm and a lot of history, but I have no reservations saying that this is now the premier, the nicest movie theater in Washtenaw County,” Marl said. “I think it will be a destination for people throughout the county and throughout the region.”
That’s music to the ears of other business owners in the plaza who’ve struggled with a half-empty shopping center for years. Jeff and Katie Spence own Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders. They’ve been selling coupons for Emagine Theatre for over a month. Katie was thrilled to see a parking lot full of cars Friday.
“I think this is fantastic. This is something Jeff and I have wanted for a long time and we’re really happy to welcome Emagine into our city,” Spence said.
The new movie theater is symbolic of a new optimism in Saline. Commercial development lagged behind the residential recovery after the recession. Now, with a tough Michigan Avenue construction project in the rearview mirror, businesses are starting to fill the vacant downtown storefront. Across the street, there are plans to build a hotel, which would address another long-identified community need.
“Saline is open for business,” Mayor Marl said. “This theater is going to breathe new life into this shopping center and into the commercial districts on the eastern border of the City of Saline.”
Marl said there is much more to come.
“What’s the Karen Carpenter song? ‘We’ve Only Just Begun?’ I’ve only just begun and we are going to continue to work aggressively to bring businesses to the community, to enhance the quality of life for our citizens, and to make Saline a destination for the surrounding areas,” Marl said.
Proceeds from Friday’s event benefitted Saline Area Social Service and the Foundation for Saline Area Schools. Each agency is expected to make about $18,000 on the event.
Jamail Aikens, executive director of Saline Area Social Service, said that number will cover about a month of operating support at the agency, which serves residents with low incomes.
“That will probably provide about 500 to 700 bags of groceries for us and provide services for the families who come in to receive the groceries,” Aikens said.
He said Emagine Entertainment was incredibly generous.
“We’re excited. It’s a big night for us. Emagine has been wonderful. They’re paying for all the food and drinks,” Aikens said. “All the charities had to do tonight is sell tickets and invite the community.”
Annherst Kreitz is executive director of the Foundation for Saline Area Schools, which supports dozens of initiatives, large and small, in the school district.
“We’ve raised around $36,000 to $38,000 to split between us and Saline Area Social Service. It’s been a phenomenal collaborative event. Working with them has just been a joy,” Kreitz said. “Emagine has just been incredibly generous to us. And here we all are without about 500 people. So, this is wonderful.”