Traverse City Record-Eagle

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September 5, 2013

Film Fest wants flashing marquee at movie house

TRAVERSE CITY — Flashing lights designed to awe tourists and make a statement about the city could become part of Clinch Park if city commissioners agree to accommodate Traverse City Film Festival officials.

Film festival president Michael Moore and executive director Deb Lake want to put a three-sided, illuminated marquee with brilliant chase lights on the converted Con Foster Museum building in the city’s remodeled bayfront park.

The city’s sign ordinance bans blinking or moving lights, but festival officials want the city commission to grant an exception for theaters.

“It’s a movie theater and we want it to look authentic,” Moore said. “If you turned off all of the lights on the State Theatre, how would it look?”

Many city officials don’t appear overly star-struck and voiced concern, if not outright disapproval over the flashing marquee proposal. They plan to consider the request at the Sept. 9 city commission meeting.

The Film Festival raised funds to renovate the dilapidated, city-owned Con Foster building into a small, modern movie house. Festival officials rent the building from the city for $1 a year, and they contend they need flashing lights to attract people to the theater’s unusual location and create a total movie experience.

The Bijou temporarily opened during the Film Festival last month and is expected to go into full-time service in October.

The proposed marquee would stretch almost 15 feet across the building, is over 10 feet deep and stands about 8 feet tall. The city board of zoning appeals approved a variance to allow the marquee to extend about a foot higher than the building, but unanimously rejected the request for dazzling, flashing lights after Lake refused to offer any compromise.

“It doesn’t fit with the character of a bayfront park,” said Margaret Szajner, who sits on both the zoning board and city parks and recreation commission. “Are we going to change the rules every time one person wants something different?”

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