State Theatre – Bay City, Michigan - Atlas Obscura
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State Theatre

Bay City, Michigan

This indie movie theater is one of only three surviving Mayan-themed theaters designed by “Detroit’s greatest theater architect.” 


The exterior of this indie theater is eye-catching enough, with a multicolored marquee to attract visitors, but it’s the inside that’s truly an exceptional work of art. The walls are decorated to resemble a Mayan temple, complete with glyphs and native-themed patterns as far as the eyes can see.

The State Theatre was constructed in 1908, but it wouldn’t be until the 1930s that the building got its current unique appearance. The theater was redesigned by Charles Howard Crane, a self-taught architect famous for creating lavish theaters. He has been heralded as “Detroit’s greatest theater architect” because of his buildings’ size, elegance, and detail.

Crane had no formal education in architecture, but he didn’t let that stop him from designing over 300 theaters across the United States during the early 1900s, including the Fox Theater in Detroit and the Detroit Opera House.

Bay City’s State Theatre, while nowhere near as large, is one of only three remaining Mayan-themed theatres designed by Crane. Today, the State Theatre continues to entertain the residents of Bay City, regularly hosting film screenings, concerts, comedy troupes, and more.

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