GROSSE POINTE PARK — Movie buffs will soon have more to love about Windmill Pointe Park.
The nonprofit Grosse Pointe Park Foundation has decided to add a second screen to the Okulski Family Theater, part of the Lavins Center at the park. During a meeting Jan. 27, City Manager Dale Krajniak said the City Council unanimously approved the new project, for which the foundation has pledged $300,000 to undertake the exterior improvements, as three new walls are added to the existing building to make way for the second screening room and about 60-65 seats. He said the existing theater would remain open throughout construction.
“The primary reason for the second theater is it will allow us to show a greater variety of films, and as the other theater has been very popular, it limits our ability to have a new release frequently,” explained Grosse Pointe Park Foundation President Barbara Detwiler by email. “The theater continues to attract full houses, but the studios supplying the movies require us to retain the same movie for two to three weeks.”
The Okulski Family Theater has become known for showing family fare, Detwiler said, but that’s sometimes been at the expense of more serious films for adult audiences.
“The second screen will allow us to show more mature films, as requested by Park residents,” she said. That includes films with an R rating, she said.
The total project is expected to cost about $450,000, and Detwiler said the foundation has agreed to raise $300,000 toward that total. Because the single existing screen already generates annual profits of around $75,000 and “the new theater (is expected) to generate similar profits,” those monies will be used to pay for the remaining costs, she said.
Because they plan to stagger show times, Krajniak said the city anticipates being able to maintain the same staffing levels it currently has at the theater. But with a likely increase in concession and ticket sales, he said theater profits are expected to climb with the second screen.
“The current theater has been very successful,” Krajniak said. “Even if we just break even, it’s a matter of offering more to the community.”
The foundation has raised 70 percent of the pledge amount, but Detwiler said they are still seeking a naming donor.
“We expect to have fully raised the balance of our pledge after our summer fundraising party at the home of Dr. David and Shery Cotton this summer,” she said.
Because the Windmill Pointe Park marina is slated for dredging this spring, in anticipation of the summer boating season, Krajniak said they decided to start movie theater construction in the spring, as well, to prevent the park from being torn up during two seasons, spring and fall. The new screening room footings and exterior shell will be put up before May 15, with interior work to continue after that time, he said. The second screening room is expected to be finished by this December, Detwiler said.
Krajniak said this project has been in the works since last year, when the foundation began reviewing concepts.
By email, Parks and Recreation Director Terry Solomon praised the foundation for its generosity and having “built so many wonderful additions in the parks that benefit everyone who uses them.”
The movie theater has been an especially popular attraction, no doubt due to the lack of other movie theaters on the east side of town.
“Our theater will be 11 years old this May and has really been a successful foundation project,” Solomon said. “With the long, cold winter we have had and the movie selections, the theater has been busier than ever.”
Anyone interested in becoming a naming donor or in giving a donation of any amount toward the project can send contributions to the Grosse Pointe Park Foundation, 15115 E. Jefferson Ave., Grosse Pointe Park, MI 48230. For more information about donating or the foundation, contact Kathy Wilmer of the Parks and Recreation Department at (313) 822-4379 or Detwiler at (313) 881-0500.
The Okulski Family Theater is open to Park residents with valid park passes and their guests. For tickets, showtimes and more information, visit www.grossepointepark.org.