Campus Theatre (1950—1988)
The Campus Theatre began its life in 1950 as the Lucon Theatre, built by the eponymous Lucon Corporation. The lobby entrance and marquee at 407 East Grand River Avenue were flanked by retail spaces on either side, making a single commercial block that reached the corner of Charles Street and extended about halfway to Division Street. The auditorium occupied the southeast corner of Charles and Albert Avenue, thus interrupting the alley established by the College Grove and Fairview subdivisions. Its first screening, on December 12, was The Glass Menagerie starring Jane Wyman and Kirk Douglas.
The 400 block of East Grand River Avenue with the Lucon Theatre in the month it opened, December 1950. The marquee advertises Halls of Montezuma, which had just been released. Photo Credit: M.S.U. Archives. Reprinted in Miller, p. 81.
When the theatre was sold to the Butterfield Theatre chain in 1962, it was renamed as the Campus. The neon-lit lettering on the marquee was changed, but the “Lucon” letters atop the building were eliminated without replacement. The theatre’s simple, modern style remained the same inside and out.
Like its smaller sibling, the State Theatre, the Campus gradually fell on hard times as it met with competition from shopping mall multiplexes. In the summer of 1980 the large auditorium was “twinned”—i.e., split into two smaller theatres. This was a poorly executed change, as the partition was never adequately insulated to prevent sound from bleeding through, and the seating rows remained curved to face the center of a movie screen that no longer existed. It was sold in 1984 to the George Kerasotes Corporation, as were most of the Butterfield Theatres. The theatre’s last screenings (of Beverly Hills Cop II and Blood Diner) took place on June 25, 1987.[Lansing State Journal, 26 June 1987]
The building was sold to the Student Book Store, which expanded into the theatre lobby and the storefronts to the east during the summer of 1988, accompanied by an overhaul of the interior and façade to unify the store’s appearance. Meanwhile, the auditorium portion of the space was demolished in the last week of April 1988. Its site is now occupied by the so-called “Habitrail” parking ramp.[Author’s notes, 1 May 1988]