Emagine buys iconic Birmingham 8, plans to maintain charm

Movie theaters have suffered major revenue losses throughout the pandemic but Emagine Theaters is breathing new life into one local gem with the purchase of the historic Birmingham Theater.

The corn is popping once again at movie theaters in Michigan and optimism is in the air, at least for Paul Glanz. His Emagine Entertainment is adding new theaters to its already impressive empire.

"We'll be anxious to throw those doors back open and welcome folks to the Birmingham 8," he said.

The Birmingham 8 is an iconic landmark in quaint downtown Birmingham. Built in the 1920s, it's been a vaudeville theater, a movie house, a live theater, and then rescued from financial ruin and demolition before becoming a cinema. And now, it has new owners.

"We're going to truly respect that type of history and the legend it has in the community and the beauty of the marquee," Glanz said.

The plan is for the theater to still show art-house and first-run films with the state-of-the-art quality and concessions Emagine is known for. 

"We're hoping to open around April 1st, subject to product availability. You know, one of the challenges that our industry has faced is that Hollywood has not been releasing much in the way of big blockbuster films," Glanz said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit movie theaters especially hard.

"Our revenue was down actually 90 percent in 2020 compared to 2019," Glanz said.

So many movies are now going straight to streaming services and many are wondering what the future of movies will be. Glanz believes the movie theater experience will survive.

"There are probably some of your viewers watching me right now who say 'this guy's nuts, you know, nobody's going back to the theatres' but I truly believe we all need that break, that respite from reality," Glanz said. 

The plan is for the Birmingham 8 to do exactly that and he's so confident in the future of the business, that Emagine is also working on acquiring four other theatres in Saginaw, Illinois, and two in Indiana.

"It makes it more important for us to remain relevant by offering our guests a great experience and that's what we're in the business to do," Glanz said.