“You’re going to need a bigger box.”
By Aubrey Ann Parker
Eight-year-old Luke Herberger got up on stage last night, seemingly without a speck of intimidation, despite the full house he faced. In his hands he held an old cigar box.
“I’ve got 20 bucks for you here, Luke,” came a friendly female voice from the front row of the State Theater.
Michael Moore took some time before the opening film of the 8th annual Traverse City Film Festival to remind the anticipatory audience that from sea to shining sea, beautiful American theaters are sitting boarded up and unused on Main Streets across the country. Dust in their windowsills. Cobwebs in their seats. Their roofs about to collapse upon themselves.
One such example is the 74-year-old Vogue Theater on River Street in downtown Manistee, Michigan.
“There are no working movie theaters in Manistee County,” Moore said. On a given Saturday evening, moviegoers have the option of driving a half hour south to Ludington, a half hour north to Frankfort, or an hour northwest to Traverse City if they want to see a film.
But the community of Manistee is rallying and has raised more than $1 million to reopen the Vogue. Renovations have already begun on the movie emporium, with hopes of opening by Christmas. Only $200,000 shy of their goal — perhaps through word of mouth and the goodwill of their neighbors to the northwest — Manistee might reach their goal.
At least, that’s what one young Manistee resident is hoping.
As a fundraiser for the Vogue, Luke has spent his summer away from the classroom selling lemonade, “with real lemon slices in it.” Luke told the audience how the collection of coins in the box that he carried with him on stage last night began as a lemonade stand at a garage sale. It then expanded as a “mobile” unit that could be moved to downtown Manistee, to the farmers’ market, and finally to a block party last Friday, where Luke’s mix of entrepreneurial spirit and philanthropical dedication caught the attention of Michael Moore, who invited the young boy to pitch the TCFF opening night audience.
The young boy explained that he lives just down the street from the Vogue Theater, and he’s excited for it to re-open. “I could ask my mom if I could go to the movies, and she would say, ‘Sure, Luke.’ And then I’d go.”
Luke added that he’ll be attending adventure movies, “not big, scary movies.”
Tim Ervin, interim executive director of Manistee’s Alliance for Economic Success, says that the Vogue has already received an outpouring of calls, emails, inquiries, and donations just in the past 18 hours since Luke took the stage last night.
To donate time or money and for more information, visit voguetheatremanistee.org.