The Last Picture Show: Howell Theater gets lovely final screenings and send-off

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harry potterSince his birthday comes smack dab in the middle of the summer, when it’s (usually) nice and warm, my kid and his pals camp out on our screened porch to mark the occasion. As part of the birthday festivities, they’ve walked to the Howell Theater for a movie.

The most memorable movie trip was two years ago. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was on the bill, the final installment of the book series that debuted just before my son was born.

My kid (in the sunglasses) and his pals celebrating his birthday with a trip to the Howell Theater to see “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

During the matinee, a man sitting near the front of the theater, apparently drunk, yelling loudly, leapt out of his seat and flopped over into the aisle.

The movie stopped as the man lay on the floor, moaning. A nurse in the audience tended to him as someone summoned the police and ambulance. The man got up and left the theater, refusing treatment, and the movie resumed.

final line
People line up outside the Howell Theater on Tuesday, Aug. 13, for the final screenings before renovations begin to transform it into The Root Restaurant Bar & Grill.

While I worried what their parents might think, the kids thought the incident quite interesting.

The past couple years, sans chaperone, the boys have walked to the theater and back, building up an appetite for birthday cake. The last movie they saw was “Despicable Me 2.”

The birthday movie trip has been a fun tradition, especially for the boys who don’t live within walking distance of the theater. That my kid and his buddies in the neighborhood could walk to the show whenever they liked was part of the charm of living in the city of Howell.

But the theater’s struggled for years, and last month, when it finally closed, my kid was a little sad.

“I wish I could see one more movie there,” he said.

His wish came true last night, as the theater’s new owner, The Root Restaurant & Bar, held one final screening of two classic movies, complete with food, concession items, and, of course, popcorn.

For those of you who don’t know the charming backstory, the Howell Theater has a starring role in The Root buying it. Executive Chef James Rigato, a Howell High School grad, could see the Howell Theater’s marquee as a kid from the window of his bedroom in his mom’s Clinton Street home.

waitingNow, Rigato’s opening a gourmet dining destination in Howell, a wonderfully creative reinvention of the small town theater that was past its prime.

Tuesday’s final screenings were a lovely send-off for the theater, and my kid is now a huge fan of “Back to the Future.”

I told my kid that instead of walking to the movies, he just might be able to walk to a job at The Root.

About Maria Stuart 86 Articles
Journalist Maria Stuart lives in Howell. She worked at The Livingston County Press/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus as reporter, editor and managing editor from 1990-2009. She is often spotted holding court at Uptown Coffeehouse.