For over thirty years, local arts groups worked to acquire the Bohm Theatre, but the cost of the project was prohibitive due to the acquisition costs, combined with the necessary renovations. Since the late 1990s the theater has struggled, changing ownership several times through various land deals, and with the building’s continued deterioration, in November 2008 the theater ceased operations and on March 31, 2010 , the property tax returned to the county. .
Around this time, the Albion Community Foundation and the Albion Downtown Development Authority joined forces and formed the Friends of the Bohm Theatre, as an advisory board, to determine how to save this historic landmark and the theater arts in downtown Albion. By September 2010, it was apparent that there was enough community support to restore and revitalize the historic theater, so Friends of the Bohm Theater was incorporated as a Michigan nonprofit corporation. By October 2012, the Friends had received their 501 C3 status and began efforts to spin off from the Foundation so they could independently operate the theater once it opened.
Restoration began in September 2011, immediately after Friends of the Bohm Theater acquired the building from the county. Throughout the restoration, the Friends have partnered with the Albion Community Foundation to provide financial management for the fundraising campaign and have used its 40-year history and track record to help raise funds that are not generally not available to start-up organizations. Originally planned for Christmas 2014, the theater actually opened three months earlier.
In May 2015, the Bohm Theater was one of the recipients of the prestigious
Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.
BUD DAVIS REMEMBERS OPENING DAY AT THE BOHM THEATER
George Bohm opened his new theater on Superior Street on Christmas Day 1929. It was truly a gem and particularly grand given that the Great Depression had just set in. And one of its biggest features was the Barton Theater organ, with all the bells. and whistles needed to accompany silent films of the time.
Early that Christmas morning, before the opening of the first public movie, Mr. Bohm invited a small group of friends to see the new theater and its organ. This group included Bud’s mother, stepfather, 2 sisters, and his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. John Osborn of River Rouge. The Osborns were teachers and Mrs. Osborn, Lillian, also played the organ at the River Rouge Theater and at their church. Mr. and Mrs. Osborn were both graduates of Albion College. John was also a classmate of George Bohm in high school, and George was delighted that John’s wife, Lillian, played Bohm’s organ. Bud, who was only seven years old at the time, was amazed to see his aunt sitting in front of the magnificent organ as it rose from the hidden depths. His other early memories of The Bohm include memories of Helen Sharp, the ticket seller,
Bud Davis grew up in Albion and has lived in the area most of his life. After graduating from Albion High School, he first worked in commercial and savings banking. During World War II he served in the US Air Force. While at home on leave, he began dating Olivia (Ruby) whom he had known in high school, she being a year behind him. At the time, Olivia was serving in the United States Navy WAVES and she was also on home leave. They married in 1947. (Sadly, Olivia passed away in 2019). After the war, Mr. Davis was employed as city clerk and city treasurer. His next career move was to Albion Industries, where he later became co-owner, vice president and treasurer.
Mr Davis recently said: “Albion has always been good to me. And, indeed, he expressed his appreciation for Albion through numerous donations supporting the City and the College on various projects. Most notably, he was instrumental in the historic renovation of the Bohm Theatre, also known as the Davis Center for Film and the Performing Arts. He also made it possible for the Davis Gallery to exhibit the works of local artists in the Bohm II.
The Bohm is truly a centerpiece of the town of Albion. It hosts many activities in addition to cinema, including musical and cultural events. As a non-profit organization, it always needs the support of the community.
Thank you, Mr. Davis, and to the whole community.
1929 – 1951
- George Bohm owned the theater from the day it opened, Christmas Day in 1929, until his death in 1951
1951 – 1976
- During this period the theater was owned first by Albert Bohm, then by George and Jack Ryser (Bohm’s nephews)
- Albert Bohm took possession of it in 1951
- He was followed by George and Jack Ryser
1976 – 1981
- During this period, the Bohm Theater was owned by Mid-State Theaters
- The Rysers sold the Bohm Theater to Mid-State Theaters in 1976
1981 – 1990
- The Bohm Theater was purchased by Arnold and David Simmons of Lake Orion in 1981
- R-Joy Theatres, Inc., owned by Arnold Simmons, acquired ownership in 1990
1990 – 1994
- Michigan Theaters Inc. of Dearborn took over in 1990
- They closed the Bohm Theater in December 1991
1994 – 1995
- David Nelson bought the Bohm Theater in 1994
1995 – 1998
- Enter-Plex Entertainment took ownership in 1995
1995 – 2010
- Bohm Theater, LLC purchased the theater in 1998
- During this period, there were several land contracts in default
- Friends of the Bohm Theater was formed and purchased the theater in 2011 with the aim of restoring it
- The Bohm reopens three months earlier in October 2014
- In May 2015, the Bohm Theater receives the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation
- Added Bohm II, 38-seat second screen
From the first vaudeville shows and silent films, to the first color film, Gone with the Wind, to the incredible Star Wars special effects, the Bohm Theater has held a special place in the hearts of local theatergoers. of Albion. The following are just a few stories we have collected:
- Dating back to the 1930s, Katie Masternak recalls children could attend for 10 cents; she remembers that her mother would give her the money.
- In 1945, Jim Garrison remembers celebrating his birthday there, although he doesn’t remember the film.
- Mary Lou Carbonneau (Bearman) recalls that during the Second World War, if you brought objects for the war effort to the theater, your entry would be free. She brought an old tire, which allowed her and her cousin free entry.
- Beverly Robinson remembers sitting on the balcony in the 1940s was great fun because you could see better from there. She remembers going to the first show with her father and siblings and seeing two performances.
- Marie Stevens (Miller) went to the Bohm Theater in the 1950s. She remembers seeing a movie that scared her so much she screamed out loud, but she can’t remember the name of the movie. She remembers that she was not allowed to see Peyton Place.
- Pat Smith remembers seeing Gone with the Wind and was shocked when Rhett Butler said “damn.”
- Mike Martin remembers going to the movies while his parents were shopping in town. He saw Tarzan and Ben Hur. Albion College students in the 1960s remember walking to the Bohm from campus.
- Wendy Fershee said it was very exciting when someone invited you to see the movie, but you had to watch the time. If you were stopped by the train and were late to get back to the dorm, you were assessed as “minutes late” and if the students accumulated too many “minutes late”, they had to be back even earlier the next time. time.
- Barbara and William Rafail had their first date at the Bohm Theater when they were students; they saw The Night they Raided Minskys and were married three years later.
- Bob Mahaney recalls his entire fraternity going to watch Animal House in the mid-’70s.
- Margaret Dever remembers seeing Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Midway through Episode 1, a pigeon flew into the theater and across the movie screen.
Please contact us if you have a story to share.
THE PURPLE GANG
It is well known that two members of the infamous Purple Gang, Sam Bernstein and Louis Fleischer, lived in Albion during Prohibition and after. The “west” Michigan gangs were all able to brew their own tub beer and gin, but were unable to make “labeled” liquor. The Detroit-based Purple Gang had a corner in this market by smuggling “tagged” alcohol across the Detroit River and distributing it “for a price”. Western gangs had a choice: they could go to war with the Purple Gang to take over the business, or “do” business with the Purples. In truth, none of them wanted anything to do with the war – the Violets were so bad!
So why did Sam Bernstein and Louis Fleischer live in Albion? Their main objective was to meet with gangsters from Chicago, St. Louis, and all points “west” to negotiate the delivery of contraband “tagged” liquor from Canada via Detroit. Albion’s location between Chicago and Detroit made it a logical meeting place. While in Albion, they ran a junkyard called Riverside Metal which they used as a front for their real business, theft. They had an armored and armored car that they used and kept hidden in Albion. They wouldn’t try to “break the safe” in a robbery. Instead, they would take the entire safe to their metal yard where they would open it on fire and then melt it down into slag metal. Poof, more security.
Helen Sharp, the longtime box office of the Bohm Theatre, was still alive when Mary and I moved to Albion in 2004. As I began to learn more about the history of Albion and the Purple Gang, she told me the following story:
Western gang members took the train from Chicago and stayed at the Parker House Inn on Michigan Ave. when they came to Albion to do business with the Purples. The negotiations took place on Sunday evening during the evening performance at the Bohm. They bought tickets, went up to the balcony and sat right in front of the projection booth and directly under the projector window. Noise from the film itself was used to drown out their conversation which involved negotiations over delivery dates, volume, brand and price. Of course, the sound of the projector itself also helped drown out their conversation.
I am truly convinced that the story is true, as Helen knew everything there was to know about the Bohm Theater and the townspeople. She “knew” all the kids in town, especially their birthdays, so on the day they turned 12, she automatically charged them the higher rate. And, people who were those children told me that she didn’t make fun of any of them. Hold on tight, or it was the road!
The purple seats in the first row of the balcony are reminiscent of the Purple Gang and its history with the Bohm Theatre.
– Dick Lewin, October 2014