So the other week a real estate dude called our Clarkston News office and talked to one of our reporters (Jessica, I believe). The breaking news tip was, “Ye olde’ Clarkston Cinema building is for sale!”
For those in Goodrich, Ortonville, Oxford and Lake Orion, the cinema selling really, sorta’, is big news. The building on Dixie Highway has pretty much sat vacant since 1999 — and since then locals in the Clarkston community have wanted to buy it.
I say “pretty much vacant” because if you hop on the worldwide web and type in “Clarkston Cinema” in your favorite search engine, chances are you will scroll on down and discover at least one entity still resides at the old movie theater. Yup, Michigan ghost hunting types say the theater is haunted by a little girl. That’s it, that is all I know.
The real estate dude gave reporter Jessica the okay to tour the vacant building. Of course, when I heard this news I wanted to be in on the tour as I had spent many hours at the theater as a kid in the 1970s and ‘80s. And, of course editor (Phil) wanted to go on the tour and the other reporter, Wendy wanted to go, too.
So, we all followed the real estate dude around the dark, dank and icky shell of a building. It’s a good thing no news emergencies happened during the 30-minute tour because we would not have been able to cover them. And, if I extrapolate that thought bubble out a wee bit further, it’s a good thing a meteorite did not crash into the old Clarkston Cinema while the entire editorial staff of The Clarkston News was there — nobody would have been able to cover the story for us.
Inside the building was kinda’ cool in an abandoned building kinda’ way. It was also sad in a very real way. Years of vandals have taken their toll: lights, windows and other glass things smashed; paper work strewn everywhere; images filled with graffiti, dust and dirt and destruction have now pushed out memories of flashing lights, candy displays, the popcorn machine and lots of smiling people lined up to watch the movie of the week.
I recall we watched for the weekly Clarkston Cinema ad in The Clarkston News and Penny Stretcher publications to see if we were gonna’ spend $2 on a ticket.
My memories of the theater are scant. I remembered the theater entrance as it was for so many years of my youth. Not sure what movies we saw there, Rocky was one; maybe Cannonball Run, Grease, The Outlaw Jose Wales and a number of Disney-type movies kinda’ tingle the synapses inside my skull. I think I saw that “awesome” movie Xanadu there.
One of the special memories I have there — and even this is a little fuzzy — I remember when I was about 12 or 13, a 14-or 15-year-old girl kissed me in the cinema parking lot.
I didn’t know her, I think she may have come on up from Waterford. Never saw her again. And, know what? I didn’t think of that first kiss from a girl (who wasn’t my mom or any of my grandmothers or aunts), until waiting to climb inside the old theater a few weeks ago.
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Back to the tour . . . do you know there were still some un-opened bags of candy behind the counter. Nope, I had no desire to taste-test said candy to see if it was still good.
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According to a Clarkston News article written by Eileen McCarville and published on November 17, 1999, “The fact that Stigmata has been on the marquee for about two months now is a sign Clarkston Cinema has closed.”
From the archived article, I learned the theater seated 266 people and was sold in 1997, before closing for good in 1999. From the current article written by Jessica Steeley, I learned the cinema opened in 1970 and that the property’s asking price was $1.259 million.
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Once news of the building was for sale, people on social media chimed in on what they would like to see there.
“Live music venue!”
“ A restaurant and specialty theater would be nice.”
“ I’d love to see it used by Clarkston Village Players and the youth theater.”
“A restaurant/comedy club would be awesome.”
“ . . . Make a cool brew and view . . . a cool venue with some great … eats and wine and beer, etc. And show indie films or themed evenings…Bollywood… silent films ….Westerns . . .”
“ . . a place to go and LISTEN to good live local and touring musicians …”
“ . . . make it a live dinner theater.”
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One last tour comment: No. I did not hear any disembodied little girl voice, nor did I see a shadowy little girl ghost anywhere in the building.
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Oh, okay . . . one final tour comment. No. I did not care to look in the old bathrooms. I passed on that opportunity.
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