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When you think of theaters, what comes to mind? The Avengers? Long lines? Expensive popcorn? Community?
You probably associate theaters with big-budget blockbusters, with endless sequels and huge amounts of special effects. Theaters can and should be so much more than simply a place where we take in multi-million dollar studio productions. They are a place for people to gather and rejoice in a fun and artistic medium.
There is a reason why theaters are built with so many rows of seats. Films are meant to be viewed by many people at once, promoting a feeling of community. Wealthy Theater, located at 1130 Wealthy St. SE, has been more than an ordinary theater for over a century. It began as a humble live theater in 1911, later becoming a movie house. During World War I, it housed aircrafts instead of films. In the 1970s the theater was abandoned, but it saw its return in 1998 as a community arts center. This colorful history has only made the allure of Wealthy Street greater.
Wealthy Theatre is the venue for not only popular movies such as “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Die Hard,” and “Elf,” but also hosts improv groups such as River City Improv and the Pop Scholars. Also, it welcomes musical guests such as Joshua Davis and concert series from the Grand River Folk Arts Society.
We spoke with Sarah Vesely, the Theatre Director for Wealthy Theatre, and she had nothing but positive things to say about the Theatre. “Wealthy Theatre is unique in that it is a community venue. What that means is that our staff doesn’t curate the programming; the public does. Anyone can rent the theatre as a benefit of a
Community Media Center membership.” She said when asked what made the Theatre unique. Sarah is also concerned with issues of free speech and intends the Theatre to be used as a platform to increase people’s voices. She says: “Our goal as a collective with our parent nonprofit organization, the Community Media Center, is to continue to raise awareness of our various free speech platforms. We want our community and neighbors to know that if they have a message, we can help get it out there.”
Wealthy Theatre is a valuable part of Grand Rapids society and strives for excellence in achieving its goals of broadening the voices of its patrons. The work that Wealthy Theatre does is very important to the community because it is rooted in the community and shares the same values.