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Michigan Theater, downtown businesses share in success

By Hillary Crawford, For the Daily
Published February 5, 2013

After last Thursday’s screening of the Sundance Film Festival’s psychological drama, The East, the excitement of festival-goers spilled out from the Michigan Theater and into the surrounding area, helping nearby businesses.

Though hosting Sundance—an annual film festival based in Sundance Col.— brings more customers to the theater and downtown Ann Arbor, the relationship between the Michigan Theater and local businesses extends beyond the festival.

Rich Bellas, president of the State Street Area Association and owner of Van Boven Shoes, described the relationship between the theater and downtown community as a symbiotic one.

“When you give back, the theater gives back also,” Bellas said.

Roger Hewitt, owner of the Red Hawk Bar and Grill, said the arts, culture and business communities of Ann Arbor work closely together. Red Hawk donates a portion of the sales from their “Michigan Theater Tuna Melt” to the Michigan Theater.

“Having all of those performing arts venues and events — they’re what a lot of the restaurants feed off of,” Hewitt said. “ … I am a very strong supporter of the relationship between the arts and private sector.”

Many businesses like Red Hawk sponsor the theater, which, in turn, promotes the businesses to their clientele through coupons.

Jessie Seaver, general manager of Tio’s Mexican Café, catered a portion of the Sundance screening. She said movie-goers often eat at Tio’s after seeing a film.

“The Michigan Theater does a good job of promoting the community, and local businesses do get a boost when there’s an event there,” Seaver said. “Lots of people come downtown, go to dinner and then grab a drink after the movie.”

Nicole Minney, manager of Biggby Coffee, said she had been hearing about the premiere all week and the coffee shop definitely benefitted from the buzz. She said the café saw an unusual influx of people from noon until midnight on Thursday.

“We have a lot of coupons that go out with the Michigan Theater, so a lot of people come in here that day, because our name is out there,” Minney added.

Biggby Coffee also sponsors a “not-just-for-kids” series of children’s plays at the theater.

Tropical Smoothie Café, which opened less than a year ago, saw a positive effect on its business as well. Its manager Justin Hanna said sales doubled in the short hour before the premiere started.

Hanna said he saw many new faces, which he suspects were people attending the film, and hopes it brings in new customers in the future.

Russ Collins, Executive Director and CEO of the Michigan Theater, said the Theater’s ties with local businesses help foster the culture Ann Arbor is known for.

Emily Mathews, Marketing Manager of he Theater said she believes the relationship plays a large role in the Theater’s success.

“Our community loves us, and that enables us to do what we do.”