Monday, March 24, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
A marque-worthy return Sunday, March 09, 2008
For example, a mural painted on the lobby wall recreates the long lines waiting to see its first feature, Barbara Stanwyck in ''Stella Dallas.'' Flood waters in 1986 reached more than halfway up the movie screen in the theater dubbed ''The Jewel of the Thumb,'' though you wouldn't guess it today.
''I asked why anyone would build a theater at the lowest point of a town known to flood, and people told me that in 1937, that's where everything was happening,'' said owner Tim O'Brien. ''That was the place to be.''
And in 2005, about 15 years after he purchased the movie house at 104 E. Huron, O'Brien opened the doors on a fully renovated theater with the Tom Cruise sci-fi adventure, ''War of the Worlds.''
But for The Process' David Asher, the defining moment was a night in 1990 -- or was it 1991? -- when the newly formed rock-reggae band took its show to the Vassar Theatre stage.
On Saturday, March 22, he and bandmates Garrick Owen, Bill Heffelfinger and Gabe Gonzalez will return, with psychedelic films, more than 30 music-synchronized lasers, a pig head and lots of music. The band Stamp'd, along with Aaron Link and Jim Perkins, will open the show, which begins at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $6.
''We've stayed in touch, and it was over a few beers that we thought it would be fun to do again after all these years,'' O'Brien said of the homecoming. ''And this was one of those rare beer discussions where it still sounds good the next day. We're welcoming our hometown guys back to where it all began.''
The theater was built by Howard and Stanley Smith for $50,000, though most people today remember Harry Smith as the man who kept it in operation.
''When I was a kid, coming here for movies, the film would keep breaking, and we'd yell, 'Pedal faster, Harry, pedal faster,''' Asher remembered. ''It was 'Battle for the Planet of the Apes,' and the place was dingier, but it had the same clock and the same look.''
The theater, sitting at the very bottom of the hill in downtown Vassar, has gone through a number of changes since then, not all for the good. At one point, an owner even sold it to the city of Vassar for $1, long before it came into O'Brien's possession. O'Brien scheduled a few events, such as The Process concert 18 years ago, after buying it in 1990, but his Green Acres Cinema in Saginaw and the State Theatre in Bay City took up more of his attention.
Ultimately, it was the Vassar house that paid off, though he says he still regrets not bringing the State to its full potential. While not as opulent as the Temple or as versatile as the State, the 371-seat Vassar Theatre does have its own charm, from the vintage feel of the women's bathroom to Jerry Ragg's towering murals.
''Old theaters are always a work in progress,'' O'Brien said. ''Even when you're finished redoing everything, there's something that's ready to be done over again. It's a long and exhaustive process.'' The Process' show isn't likely to launch a string of live performances -- ''First-run films are our bread and butter,'' O'Brien said -- but it is part of a trend among theater owners, of finding ways to reach new audiences.
The Saginaw 8 in Kochville Township tapped into live broadcasts of performances from the Metropolitan Opera. Fashion Square Cinemas kept the box office hopping with concert films featuring Hannah Montana and U2. Cinema Hollywood in Birch Run hosts Battle-of-the-Bands competitions, coupled with first-run movies.
On the live front, Pit and Balcony Community Theatre is looking for ways to build on the recent crowd-pleasing tribute to ''The Last Waltz,'' featuring mid-Michigan musicians.
And the Temple Theatre in Saginaw and the State in Bay City have filled schedules with a blend of live performances and films both art and classic.
''It's the first time since we reopened that we've done anything like this,'' O'Brien said. ''We're not making any money on it, of course, but if the demand is there, the potential to do more is, too. This is a good way for us to gauge the interest.''
The Process comes with a long history as well.
''Bill, Garrick and I grew up together right on top of the hill in Vassar,'' Asher said. ''Bill and I used to play in a crib together, that's how far back we go. Garrick lived around the corner; he was seven years younger, but he had a sister, Patty, who was really good-looking, so we knew the family.''
The band, with its Rastafarian roots, soon emerged from its small-town beginnings, building an audience around mid-Michigan, and in time around the country and most recently in Europe. Gonzalez replaced original drummer Arik Aneszko, who moved to Chicago, but The Process is working its way toward its 20th anniversary relatively intact.
Seth Payton from Stamp'd is one watching The Process closely, hoping to achieve the same with his own band.
''We started so young, we never took our music seriously until we were too caught up in other things to pursue it,'' said Seth Payton from Stamp'd. ''We were 14; we were just bouncing around.'' ''Life happens,'' Asher agreed. ''You can't put your life on hold. The power will take you where you should be, the power that comes from God.
''We had a showcase once with Virgin Records, and I think today, the way a major label redesigns you, that we probably wouldn't be here today if we had signed.
''The Internet has been very good for us. It's made the world smaller. We can record from all over the globe, we can write music with people in London, we can get our music to people everywhere.''
And sometimes, Payton added, it's good to get back to your roots.
''I have the greatest admiration for The Process and the way the guys are sticking it out, doing things their way,'' O'Brien said. ''I'm glad they're coming back to where it began, too. They've really pulled it all together.''
Sue White covers entertainment for The Saginaw News. You may reach her at 776-9601.
Friday, March 07, 2008
Tim O'Brien and The Process Roll Out the Red Carpet at THE VASSAR THEATRE
A former owner of The State Theatre in Bay City and Green Acres Cinema in Saginaw, O'Brien purchased The Vassar Theatre back in 1990 with a dream of restoring it to its former glory.
After investing over $500,000 and well over 13 years of his life, O'Brien executed the restoration almost single-handedly and re-opened the theatre in November 2005, where it continues to run feature films weekly.
O'Brien believes that where you see a film is as important as the movie itself and apart from the restoration, he has seen that the venue is equipped with professional 35 mm film projection and premium Dolby Digital sound enhanced by four 18 inch JBL subwoofers and 14 surround speakers.
On Saturday, March 22nd, O'Brien will be hosting a different type of entertainment at the restored venue when he brings fellow Vassarites The Process into the theatre for a Live Concert at 7:00 PM with special guests Stamp'd for an 'all ages' show.
The Process will be filming their next live DVD 'Urban Guerrillas' at the venue and encourage everyone to become a part of history and experience the unique fusion of a 'Rock Reggae Implosion' and laser light show within the walls of this historic venue.
Recently I caught up with both Tim O'Brien and The Process' David Asher to discuss the significance of this unique fusion of performer, venue, and artistic vision.
I'm now consumed with the day-to-day operations of the theatre, which doesn't leave much time to continue the restoration details that still need be addressed. When I walk through the doors on any give day, I see more work than time will allow. Of course at this point, I'd rather be selling movie tickets than sanding drywall.
Review: What is the most challenging component of keeping an entity like the Vassar Theatre going?
Unlike a restaurant whose menu may cater to many different tastes, a single screen movie theatre lives or dies according to the movie du jour. It is essential to offer a breadth of programming that is embraced by the community. It's always a challenge.
Receintly, we started out own pre-production studio and we will finish the tracks up with Gee Pierce in Saginaw. We have been working with a couple of different artists in London as well.
We also wrote another song for the single with an incredible singer from London named Ghetto Priest. That man Ghetto Priest is so much what music needs right now to me. He does very diverse styles of music, from reggae to rock to hip hop and he tours all over Europe.We actually wrote a song together online, a duet called "The Lion Of Judah". It really turned out great. I had never worked in that way before and it felt very natural.
This is a different type of movie experience than can be had at the multiplex. People largely come here because of that difference. It is very gratifying when a customer returns to the theatre after many years and lights up when they describe their first date or first kiss here. One guy told me a childhood story about how the movie he was watching was interrupted so that the management could announce the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I guess it is that history - that place in the local heritage that makes these theatres special.
I have an immense respect for David Asher and The Process for their passion and dedication to their music. Theirs has not been an easy road to travel, but their fresh original work continues to be recognized and appreciated in ever-larger circles. I hope that this event will help to advance that.
If this event is well received, I would certainly like to continue to explore the potential for more live entertainment and alternative programming in addition to film.
Most of the old theatres are now transitioning into the public sector where they are "saved" by a 501c3 corporation comprised of people who know as much about restoring and running theatres as the local bump shop. These groups are often able to access millions in public and private monies, which finance huge restoration projects that would not be possible or practical in the private sector.
Volunteers and boards of directors who do not have a vested interest in the operation run these "community" theatres. In many cases, the theatres do not generate revenues sufficient to meet their overhead (especially where paid staff is employed) and continue to be dependent on private donations and tax dollars in the form of grants.
While none of this is a bad thing (and certainly better than the wrecking ball), it is vastly different operating a classic historic theatre in the private sector where those few that continue to exist, do so only because the owner/operator is willing to give much more than take. When people wax nostalgic about their childhood experiences seeing movies in their hometown theatre, I think this is what they have in mind.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
THE PROCESS IN THE METRO TIMES
03/07/2008 08:00 PM - Hamtramck BLOWOUT ’08 Motor City Sports Bar 9122 Jos Campau Hamtramck, US
THE PROCESS takes the stage with Gabe Gonzalez’s Old School Detroit Funk D&B Ghetto Metal Unit ENEMY SQUAD celebrating a ten year re-union performing "The Blowout" also 2007 D.M.A. winner The Process which also features Gabe Gonzalez.The performance will be dedicated to Sean Tonak a.k.a.Ojibiwa