Going to a movie probably doesn't rank at the top of many things-to-do lists when visiting a new city, but at the Michigan Theater, it’s more like time travel. Some features of this majestic facility, such as the original 1928 marquee and the red and gold Barton Theatre Pipe Organ, are original. Others, like the elaborate plaster ceiling covered with metallic leaf and gold paint, have been lovingly restored. Everything else (chandeliers, carpet, paneling) has been reproduced as closely as possible to make the experience of attending a movie or concert a genuine night on the town—nothing like a trip to your average local multiplex.
The Michigan Theater came this close to being demolished and replaced with a parking structure; a local philanthropist stepped in at the last minute and wrote a check big enough to keep it alive. Now, it hosts classic and indie-art house movies (including silent pictures with live accompaniment on the pipe organ), as well as live events like classical and contemporary music concerts. Most visitors and patrons watch movies from the vintage wooden theater seats with tubs of popcorn doused in real butter. Popular screenings include It's a Wonderful Life at Christmas, The Sound of Music sing-along in the summer, and all the latest indie darlings slated for Oscar nominations.