07 May, 2005

Penn Theater - Plymouth Michigan

It appears the days are numbered for a historical landmark of my hometown.

As a kid, I spent many Saturday afternoons going to the movies at the local theater, The Penn Theater. Time and progress have taken it's toll and now after almost 64 years, the end of this downtown centerpiece may be at hand.

The Penn Theater has been closed for a couple years now and ownership has changed hands a few times. Various owners have tried to breath life into the aging building by converting first to "dollar" movie fare, then added live comedy showcase in hopes of creating more interest and vitality. To no avail.
Recent community meetings and a group formed to save the old theater are considering several options. A group named "Friends Of The Penn" conducted an online survey of over 1000 respondents and reports that 99% expressed a desire to restore the theater and continue to offer film entertainment as the main function of the building.

The Penn Theater first opened on December 4, 1941, just three days before the bombing at Pearl Harbor. As the city of Plymouth grew, The Penn Theater represented a stabilizing element as the city landscape changed. Of the various edifices in the current downtown Plymouth area, there are only four or five structures with a longer history than the Penn Theater.

The city hosts many annual events that draw significant numbers of visitors each year such as the Fall Festival, The Ice Sculpting Festival, and Art In The Park. Years ago, I remember there was even a Chicken Flying Contest. (Anti-cruelty proponents successfully closed this event after about 5 years.) Plymouth Michigan has also been the site of Hot-Air Balloon Races in years passed.
Local businesses are joining in the effort to raising awareness and funding to restore the Penn Theater to previous glory but it remains to be seen whether they can be successful. Progress knows no patience and much of the "small town" historical "feel" of Plymouth has given way to a more upscale, trendy crowd.

I hope the Penn can be saved but it may be incongruent with the current development trends of the city.


photos from Detroit News archives


Blogger Jeff said...

I was talking to my son today about how my dads restaurant entered a chicken in a chicken flying contest back in probably the late 70's. Our family owned the only sit down Little Caesars which turned into Jimmies Joint. It was genius in my mind that our chicken was named Peeperoni. I didn't expect a google search to find any info on the event so your blog was a pleasant surprise.

Jeff Somers

5:45 PM  

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