THE TEMPLE THEATRE • 90 Years Young & More Vital than Ever

Rolling Out the Red Carpet for 90th Birthday Celebration with ‘Boston’ Tribute Band Bostyx

Posted In: Culture, ,   From Issue 860   By: Robert E Martin

12th April, 2018     0

These is little doubt that The Temple Theatre, known as the ‘Showplace of Northeastern Michigan’, and nestled in the heart of a renovated and resurgent Downtown Saginaw, enjoys a reputation extending beyond provincial boundaries as the most beautiful historic theatrical venue still standing in the state of Michigan north of Detroit. 

A beautiful movie palace built in 1926 after the city’s previous concert hall was lost to a fire, the new theatre was originally operated by the W.S. Butterfield movie chain, opened on July 28, 1927, and was a technological marvel featuring fireproof construction, geo-thermal cooling of the auditorium, spectacular acoustics, and state of the art stage rigging and dimming systems for the lights – not to mention its immaculate architecture.

Built by Osgood & Osgood, the same architectural firm that constructed the Fox Theatre in Detroit the next year, with a wonderful sound rising out of its Barton Butterfield Special Pit Theatre Organ, which is the only one in the world remaining intact in its original condition, The Temple Theatre carries a seating capacity for 1.750 and has been graced by legends ranging from B.B. King to George Carlin; and now on April 20th this storied palace is celebrating its 90th Anniversary with a special Benefit & Bash featuring Bostyx, a Boston Tribute Band featuring original member David Victor.

According to the Temple Theatre Foundation Director, Stacey Gannon, “One interesting thing I’ve noticed when traveling around the country and visiting various ‘Fox’ Theatres is that most were built from Shriners as Masonic Temples and all of them seem to follow the same pattern: they all have an adjoining space next to the theatre, which are typically three floors with a ballroom on the top, and the ballroom has a balcony”.

The programming of the theatre when it first opened was a combination of live Vaudeville acts and silent movies accompanied by a ten-piece orchestra. The theatre was also equipped with one of the 12 Butterfield Special Barton Pipe Organs; #195 was built specifically for this theatre. But as time passed, the theatre experienced a decline in the interest of vaudeville. Patrons tastes were changing to the sounds of big band, wide screen motion pictures, and live national appearances.

Several people tried to revive the facility but despite their efforts, the Temple was weakening at her 75th birthday thanks to a failing boiler system. The roof was deteriorating, crumbling plaster appeared along the stairways, and the seats and carpet were torn. The electrical system, from 1927, was not large enough to handle the amount of electricity required to operate the theatre. One more winter would have drained the Temple of its lifeblood.

Sadly, the theatre was facing demolition. But thankfully, in 2002, the family of Dr. Samuel Shaheen purchased the Temple Theatre and the adjoining three story building which contains a Grand Ballroom, Premier Room, Leopard Lounge and a commercial kitchen. After an investment of more than seven million dollars, the “Showplace of Northeastern Michigan” was returned to her original glory.

With their 90th Anniversary the Temple Theatre Arts Foundation has assembled both a fitting and innovative celebration. “We’ve never done grassroots fundraisers and people do not realize that we are a non-profit organization that like all non-profits is dependent upon donations, as ticket sales never cover the costs of operating such a large historic building,” explains Stacey. “The idea is to stage a fundraiser that appeals to lots of people with a relatively low cost and a high volume of participation, so we’ve decided that our last concert of every season will also serve as our annual fundraiser.”

With these goals in mind, The Temple is preparing a 90th Birthday Bash & Benefit with the Boston Tribute Band Bostyx featuring David Victor, former a member of Boston. Prior to the actual concert patrons can celebrate this special occasion with an actual Birthday Party, configured to be a memorable and top-flight affair.

“Patrons can either buy tickets for the concert starting at only $25, or for $125 they can enjoy the Birthday fundraiser party that will feature a wonderful top-notch buffet with shrimp and carved beef, some fun games that we’ve devised such as ‘Pin the Guitar on David Victor’, along with a Wheel of Fortune they can spin, a silent auction featuring some amazing prizes, band member appearances, and of course a most impressive birthday cake!”, exclaims Stacey.

“One thing we do at The Temple is help other non-profit organizations by giving them 10% of the proceeds from tickets they sell, so this year Major Chords for Minors is our non-profit partner, plus they will be the opening act for Bostyx. The concert will start at 7:30 pm and the birthday party will be prior to that, with doors opening at 5 pm.  Our goal is to make this a real fun high-energy celebration.”

With sponsorship tiers ranging from $125 to $5,000, each tier includes the gourmet buffet, tickets to the concert, 20% off tickets to all 2018-19 Temple produced shows, and a one-year membership to the Saginaw Art Museum.

Throughout its 90-year history the Temple Theatre has gone through many incarnations and also been on life-support a couple of times, according to Stacey. “The first savior originally was the Temple Organ Club, who stepped up and really did wonderful things to save the theatre. Because of that the Temple features the only Barton Organ in the world that’s in its original form, and they play for a number of our events and before all of our movies, and have become part of the Temple experience,” she explains.

In 2002 the Shaheen Family bought the theatre and completed renovations in 2009, gifting it to the community as a non-profit entity. “We’re in good standing now,” notes Gannon, who has served as the Director of the Non-Profit since January, 2015.  “I’ve learned a lot over these past three years and its very challenging to run an entertainment venue and one that’s more than just entertainment, but also includes rentals for weekend and serving as a hot for many varied events.”

“We’re always working to find the right mix of producing our own events and finding promoters to lease the space and keep a solid balance between the two. Plus, we started our Saginaw Silver Screen Film Series this season that has been fantastic. We all know how expensive it can be to go the movies and fir $5.00 admission and $3.00 for popcorn and pop, people can enjoy some wonderful and affordable entertainment on Sunday afternoons at 1:30 pm in a unique setting with the Barton Organ entertainment.”

When asked her biggest challenge overseeing the future of The Temple, Stacey points to the pivotal goal of “finding the audience.”  “It’s challenging in this environment and region because of so many choices. People often say there is nothing to do in Saginaw, but in a region of a half-million people just in this downtown one-block radius we have the Dow Event Center with 3 venues, Friday Night Live in the Summer, and the Temple; and then you have all the venues in Bay City and Midland, so we try to collaborate in order not to step on one another’s efforts.”

Gannon says the strongest selling shows are anything that has to do with dance, along with country music artists. “Many of our best-selling shows are not necessarily recognized names,” she notes. “Recently we did a show with the Tao Drum Heart that was most amazing because I’ve never seen an act that got a standing ovation during the performance, along with two encores. These are world class artistic presentations that we’ve never really presented in Saginaw before.”

“Recently we received funding to upgrade our lighting and sound this summer, so will be switching to more up-to-date and efficient LED lighting,” she adds. “Booking acts can be tricky because at 1750 seats we’re too big to be small and too small to be big, which can present difficulties; but many of the major artists that we’ve booked don’t want to perform for more than a thousand people and desire more intimate settings.”

Other successful events the Temple regularly produces are Dueling Pianos and Comedy shows in the Leopard Lounge; and Gannon says they are looking at doing some Karaoke in the Lounge in the future, and potentially craft brew and movie showings on the weekends. “We’re always finding a way not to have the theatre dark, although the summer months we intentionally reserve six weeks to handle upgrades and maintenance.”

“The most important thing for people to realize is that as a non-profit we provide a key role also providing subsidies within the community,” concludes Stacey. “We provide substantial funding for the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra and The Saginaw Choral Society and Youth Orchestra, and also provide in the neighborhood of $300,000 per year to help support other organizations, which is important for people to know.”

“As a non-profit and a foundation, the attraction for a donor that supports The Temple is the knowledge their gift goes to support several different organizations, not just one.  We have a great season planned for next year and I am excited about all that we have in store for the near future.”

Call 989.754.SHOW to RSVP or visit for sponsorship forms and more details.






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