GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A man is in the process of renovating a historical former movie theater that has sat vacant for over a decade, planning to have the building open and operating as a venue at some point in 2023.
The Four Star Theater originally opened on South Division Avenue in November of 1938. An article in The News-Palladium at the time of its opening said, "The theater will seat 900 with all seats on the lower floor. The architecture, interior design and furnishings are Swedish moderne."
Marcus Ringnalda began his journey with the building in 2015, when he toured it with another individual who was considering turning it into a church. When that fell through, he eventually began thinking about buying it himself.
"And then two years after that, in 2017, I bought this cool old building," he told FOX 17 Wednesday.
“There have been a lot of fun discoveries that are like, 'Wow, this still works.'”
In 2019, he started the Friends of Four Star 501.3c nonprofit to assist in the cleaning, renovating and fundraising efforts.
After the building was used as a movie house for several decades, it became a music venue, a night club and a youth center.
Unsure of what exactly he would do with the building at first, Ringnalda has decided to turn it into a venue.
"It started as just, you know, a real estate investment,” he explained Wednesday.
“This is really going to be built on partnerships. So even if it's kids looking for something to do after school, pushing a broom and a mop, and running a vacuum.”
Through a program run by the Burton Heights Business Association and the city's Corridor Improvement Authority, he has been able to invite groups of students in to help clean. All of the kids are paid $10 an hour via the collaborative program, which is funded by Fifth Third Bank.
“Meeting all those people is what really turned me onto this idea of a venue that can be community oriented,” Ringnalda said.
One of his most exciting discoveries inside the building so far?
“The marquee still lights up," Ringnalda said Wednesday.
"Despite that it's a home to a few dozen pigeons who have nests and homes there, it still works.”
He is now fundraising to continue pushing forward with the project, planning to have the space open to the public at some point in 2023.