Goodrich Theaters Builds a Cinema Gem for the Tri-Cities

An Interview with Bob Goodrich on the Unveiling of Saginaw’s New Quality 10 GDX Theater

Posted In: Culture, Community Profiles,   From Issue 784   By: Mark Leffler

30th January, 2014     0

Cinema lovers, rejoice. No longer do we have to suffer from IMAX envy.

The Quality 10 GDX will offer a significantly improved movie going experience for Mid-Michigan movie fans, offering ten digital theaters, all capable of showing the increasingly popular 3D format. But the big news is that three of the screens are what the industry refers to as Premium Large Format (PLF).

Quality 10 GDX (the GDX stands for Giant Digital Experience) features a main GDX auditorium with a screen that is 70 feet wide and 38 feet tall. Two smaller PLF screens are 56 feet high and 30 feet tall. All three of the PLF theaters feature stadium seating and state of the art Dolby Atmos sound systems.  

According to Bob Goodrich, President and Owner of Goodrich Quality Theaters, Inc., the new theater isn’t just as good as any in Michigan. He considers them the equal of any movie facility anywhere.

“Our new theater isn’t just one of the best in Michigan. You couldn’t go to New York City or Sydney, Australia and find a better theater with the sound and size that we have here. We’re very excited about this. There are larger theaters, but we have 50,000 square feet and I think our sound is better than any other theater.”
Goodrich should know, since he is a second-generation theater owner, his father having entered the business by buying The Savoy Theater, which was a vaudeville theater in Grand Rapids back in 1930. He then added a movie screen and opened for business in 1931.

“My father was a salesman born in 1898,” explains Goodrich. “He sold corrugated boxes but he always loved movies and he bought a theater in Grand Rapids - actually he signed a thirty year lease. He opened in March of 1930 and opened with All Quiet on the Western Front. Sound was very, very new. There were 33 theaters in Grand Rapids, but he opened with fifteen cent admission,”

“At the time, the average ticket price was about a quarter. For that price, patrons got not just a main feature, but also a second B grade feature. The formula was successful,” Goodrich recalled.

“I grew up earning my allowance by working at the Grand Rapids Theater he bought,” Goodrich reflects. “The first movie theater we built was a single screen theater in 1968. We made it a success and we started buying drive in movie theaters. We found later that there were few theaters in Saginaw, so we bought some farm land in the summer of 1974 and opened in December of 1975.”

“Saginaw had a great economy back then with the auto industry and it was a great success.  We later expanded that theater into the Quad and it was the first 8 screen Cineplex in Michigan. That seemed humungous at the time, and later it was expanded to 12 screens.”

Having spent his adult life operating the Goodrich chain of theaters (the business has thirty theaters with almost 300 screens across the Midwest, primarily in Michigan) Goodrich has seen a big change in the theater business. And that big change largely had to do with screen size.

“In 1994 AMC Theaters built The Grand in Dallas which was the first theater with a forty foot wide screen. The Grand changed the game,” Goodrich said. With 24 screens, The Grand was like a movie theater city, and it became the prestige theater for film buffs to see new movies.

Also, in the Seventies, museums built IMAX theaters to show movies on a 70-foot wide screen. Soon movie theaters opened to show commercial movies in the larger format.

Goodrich eventually decided to go with the GDX format instead of IMAX, partly because of the million-dollar investment involved in the format.

“IMAX is a million dollar investment. This is the first PLF Theater for us and we hope to do more. I thought it was time to try the investment,” Goodrich said.

Deciding against renovating the existing Quad 12 theater, Goodrich opted to invest in a brand new facility in the same location. “We considered renovating the existing Quad building. We wanted to put in new seats and better sound. My trick was to buy existing theaters and fix them up,” Goodrich said.

“But we didn’t have the cubic space we needed. The facility worked for 30 years but we needed a new building. With new digital light and sound we could go bigger. We had a ten million dollar budget for the project. If I can get the audience of thirty years ago, we can be successful.”

Goodrich is generous about sharing the credit with his staff and the firm that designed the facility. “We’ve been working with the same architectural firm for a while. That’s Paradigm Design of Grand Rapids. Bill Brunner was their main person on the project. We’ve been extremely fortunate working with them.” Goodrich said.

“I understand the ambiance of the movie theater. That’s my input. I am fortunate to have a great team working for Goodrich Theaters. Martin Betts is our Chief Operating Officer. Brian Nuffer is our Concessions Manager who works on signage and equipment. Kelly Owen Nash is our Creative Marketing Director. Reed Simon is our Regional Manager.

 “Our large screens are phenomenally greater in scope than the theaters people have seen in Saginaw at this point. The smallest screen in this new 10-plex is going to be 36-feet wide, which is about the size of our third largest screen in the current Saginaw 12,” Goodrich explained.

Opening weekend, Review attended a late night screening of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which was shown in one of the PLF theaters. The first thing noteworthy, even before the movie started, was the luxurious seating in the stadium style auditorium. You have almost a foot more legroom and the reclining high back seats make you feel like you are sitting in a luxury car.

Even the smaller PLF screens seem to rival the IMAX experience, and the new Dolby Atmos sound system is fantastic. The stadium style seating will be a great advantage to shorter patrons who in the past had to avoid sitting behind taller people.

The Quality 10 GDX features a spacious lobby and one enjoyable new feature is the soft drink refill stations, which allow moviegoers to refill without going to the concession stand.

The 70-foot wide GDX screen will be the largest screen and auditorium north of Flint, MI with 400 seats. The GDX presentation provides stunning clarity and brightness with high-resolution Barco digital dual projectors. The large format auditorium will also offer Dolby Atmos for powerful and dramatic new cinema sound-listening experiences. Almost 50 discrete speakers will be configured for Dolby Atmos sound in the GDX environment.

The new larger screens and state of the art sound systems will offer a new experience for Mid-Michigan movie lovers. “Movies are now being made for the size and robust sound for IMAX and PLF theaters. We have three screens with Dolby Atmos sound in our new facility. Producers and directors are responding to this and the sound is extremely important to them. We’ve really changed the game in Saginaw with our sound systems.” Goodrich said.

Goodrich understands that he is not just competing with other movie theaters, but also with large screen digital surround sound home theater systems. His goal is to make the movie going experience special and pleasant.
“We’ve had to struggle to keep up with the homes. What you have at home is better than what I had here in the Seventies. So we’ve had to keep up. The whole environment of the seating, the sound, but there’s one caveat and that’s the cell phones,” Goodrich said.

“I’ve been in buildings were everyone is talking on cell phones. Most countries in the world they have a form of blocking, but in the US phone companies are so influential. You can use them in an operating room, a library…they’re disruptive. We really, really try to limit that.”


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