The Bay Theatre at 100 Days

This morning’s Ticker has a great article by Craig Manning on the (New) Bay Theatre’s First 100 Days … And Its Future that follows the Suttons Bay anchor’s transition from ownership by the Bahle family to a nonprofit theater “by the people, for the people.” Read on & definitely head over to The Bay Theatre to see what’s playing!

“One of the things we said very early on – from that first forum, really – was that we wanted to keep the lights on [at the theater],” says Rick Andrews, president of The Bay Theatre’s new board. “So, we said, ‘Let’s see what we can do very, very quickly to keep this place going.’ We felt like, if we let the theater go dark, people would see that and say, ‘Oh, it’s closed,’ and the staff would start getting different jobs, and we’d lose all that institutional knowledge.”

The Bahles had planned for The Bay to go dark at the end of 2018, which didn’t leave much time for the new leadership to get a plan in place. In particular, Andrews says it was “impossible” for his team to set up accounts with Hollywood studios to get their hands on new films. “The Bahles were really helpful in working with us on a transition plan, so that we could keep things coming.” (The Bahles still own the building)

…For Denise Genoa, a member of the board and The Bay’s volunteer coordinator, the outpouring of support from community members has been heartwarming. In addition to the committees, which each include 4-6 volunteers, The Bay also relies on two volunteers to staff the theater during each film screening. Genoa says she has been working with “tons of people who are willing to sign up” for the three-hour volunteer shifts. Often, she says, local businesses like Bonek Insurance and Suttons Bay Dental will send over two-person teams to act as theater volunteer crews.

Since going nonprofit, the theater has raised nearly $45,000 in donations from community members alone; local businesses are also pitching in, sponsoring some theater programming.

While Andrews notes that films will likely always be the bread and butter of what The Bay offers – especially during the busier summer season – he also says to expect more live events in the future. That shift could include live music, comedy shows, plays, and events for local businesses and organizations. “We want to reach out to the community and offer ourselves as a venue,” Andrews says. “We need more reasons for people to come to the theater, and honestly, we really want to be a part of the community.”

There’s a whole lot more at the Ticker and great work by all the volunteers & donors who have pitched in!