FIM Capitol Theatre – Rooted in Community
Even in its infancy, the Capitol Theatre hosted a bit of something for everyone, from a diverse array of national performing artists to local beauty contests, teen dance nights, and popular films.
The Theatre was completed in 1928 and purchased by W.S. Butterfield, who had worked for almost 20 years to open one of his Butterfield Theatres in Downtown Flint. The city’s population was booming at the time and demanded a focal point for all varieties of entertainment, events, and communal enjoyment.
Now, almost 100 years later, the Capitol Theatre has once again become the community’s theatre. With shows by world-class entertainers, fundraisers that support crucial civic services, and even a free concert series that presents and inspires local talent, the theatre is a vital organ in the city anatomy, sustaining its people with the power of performance, stewardship, and camaraderie.
Partnering in the Future of Flint
With its flashy marquee, vintage monikered blade and brightly colored up-lighting, the Capitol Theatre building shouts its enthusiasm to support the city it has inhabited for almost a century. As one of few locations in Downtown Flint that can accommodate hundreds of people, the theatre is an inviting space to host community partners in their efforts to promote our city, county and beyond.
In October, the theatre welcomed the Hurley Foundation’s Pink Night Palooza for the first time in the 15-year history of the event. The fundraiser is a pink-peppered, bra-bedazzled extravaganza, which directly supports breast cancer patients and their families. In its inaugural year at the Capitol Theatre, the event surpassed expectations.
“Changing the location of an annual event always means changing the format slightly,” says Karima Amlani, President of the Hurley Foundation. But the 2023 event “provided the foundation we needed for continued growth,” she says. And under Amlani’s watch, that growth will directly impact the patients served by Pink Night.
“A lot of people are contributing funds to a specific purpose,” says Amlani. “It is important to steward them appropriately. Holding the event at the Capitol allowed us to leverage our relationship with another nonprofit, so we could reduce costs and still put on a stellar event.” Reducing the bottom line allows more funds to go directly to patients, she notes, and the ambiance of the historic theatre helps tremendously toward that end. “It would be a shame to cover it up with too much décor,” says Amlani. “We were able to cut down on our budget by taking advantage of its natural beauty.”
Similarly, on February 14, the Capitol Theatre will support the upcoming launch party for the new Rx Kids program, founded by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. The program, officially kicked off in January, provides cash to new moms to eliminate the detrimental effects of infant poverty. Two-thirds of kids in Flint live with a severe lack of resources, which will set them back long into the future.
“Mothers are often at the peak of poverty and economic vulnerability during pregnancy and the infant’s first year,” says Hanna-Attisha. Unfortunately, this is also the most vital time in the child’s life to set them up for a healthy future, she notes.
But according to Hanna-Attisha, hundreds of studies show that unconditional cash-transfer programs, like Rx Kids, can be life-changing, and that potential is worth celebrating.
“There was nowhere else we wanted to have this event,” says Hanna-Attisha of the upcoming launch party for the program. “This iconic theatre in downtown Flint just has so much history. And Rx Kids is history in the making.”
It is no coincidence that the launch party, which will be the culmination of a full day of events throughout the city, is scheduled to take place on Valentine’s Day.
“We want to promote financial stability and economic equality, and we want to do it in a love-filled, celebratory way,” says Hanna-Attisha. “Folks in poverty are often stigmatized, and we want to share a different message.” So, her team filled the event with an array of special guests and entertainers. Local artist, Mama Sol, has even prepared a special song in honor of the new program.
Rx Kids, which is open to all pregnant moms in the city of Flint to support them through birth and the first year of their new child’s life, has no other restrictions. “We are just fundamentally supposed to care for each other in society in a dignified, inclusive way,” Hanna-Attisha says of attaching no income requirements or resource monitoring to the program. “The fact is that parenting is hard for everyone,” she says.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole community to lift up their caretakers. It serves us all to serve each other, and FIM is pleased to serve in support of projects like Rx Kids, Pink Night Palooza, and so many others that will impact the community long into the future.
Flint Under the Stars
Showcases Local Talent
When he designed the Capitol Theatre in 1928, John Eberson had already traveled the world building theatres with a particular flair. The Atmospheric Theatre is meant to create a specific ambiance, bringing the distinct feel of a time and place into the confines of the space, and the Capitol Theatre, with its lavish gold-paint, peacock embellishments and star-speckled ceiling, emulates a majestic Roman garden. Proud to be part of this unique period of movie-palace architecture, FIM was eager to draw on the lush beauty and history of the theatre to showcase future generations of talent through its new Flint Under the Stars concert series.
Launched in 2023 as part of the Music Around Town program, locally rooted artists are invited to perform in a monthly concert at the theatre, showcasing their artistry on the famed Capitol stage and raising funds for the new KidsTix program to support others in their own dreams of pursuing live performance opportunities.
The name, Flint Under the Stars, not only refers to the twinkling stars on the ceiling of the theatre, but implies the promise of eventual stardom for performers. From rock to country, to gospel, jazz and classical, the performances span genre and style, inviting new audiences each month to experience unique talent in the historic theatre space. Registration is required to attend each concert, and admission is collected on a “donate-what-you-wish” basis. While attendees are not obligated to donate, every dime of donation proceeds will benefit the KidsTix program, which lifts financial barriers for families to attend professional shows at FIM venues.
Ava Morris, who performed with her band, Frame 42, in October as part of the Flint Under the Stars series, understands the importance of exposing young people to performance, inspiring artistic inclinations of their own. She is herself only 20 years old and has been performing with her band for over five years.
“The Capitol was always a dream venue to play for us,” Morris says. “It’s so cool to now be able to say we played on the same stage as so many amazing musicians and talents.” But Morris didn’t just express her appreciation for the opportunity in words. She chose to pay the experience forward by donating proceeds from all Frame 42 merchandise sales that evening to KidsTix.
“It was always our intention to donate to KidsTix,” she says of the program that has the capacity to inspire young people in the arts. “We think it is an awesome [program] and we wanted to do anything we could to chip in!”
While the concert series is open to performers of all ages, Morris is not the only younger artist who will grace the Capitol stage as part of Flint Under the Stars. Lapeer County native, Waylon Hanel, who has already gathered a significant local fan-base, celebrated his 22nd birthday on the Capitol stage as he headlined the January concert, and on April 17, the series will feature another young band that’s making significant headway.
The members of Heat Above, an alternative pop-rock band, have their eyes on the prize of touring and hitting the big time.
Band member Eric Lott says that what makes Heat Above unique is its age and the energy it brings to the stage. They’re all under 21 years old but play and write “beyond our years.”
“We’re super excited to play the legendary Capitol Theatre. To play the same venue legends like Ray Charles, The Ramones, Black Sabbath and Rage Against the Machine have played will be an incredible experience. We’re excited to share the new music we’ve been writing and recording with everyone. In the near future, we hope to be established enough to book a headlining national tour.”
That is exactly the kind of momentum FIM hopes to create for artists by giving them the spotlight on the iconic stage. Though not all performers have “the big time” in mind.
Flint rock band WestFall will play alongside Heat Above at the concert in April. The group has been writing, recording and performing together for more than 17 years. They’ve released three albums, and while they’ve played to the sum of thousands in venues across Michigan – including Flint’s Machine Shop and Detroit’s Harpo’s Theatre – they still maintain the “local bar band” vibe.
“We just want to enjoy each other, our friends and fans, and not take one minute or song we play together for granted. It can end at any moment, so we would like to enjoy the ride,” he shares.
Whether the performers rise to stardom or prefer to stay part of the intimate local scene, these community spotlight performances will have long-lasting impact. Contributing to the revitalization of Downtown Flint and creating access to new performance experiences—both at the concerts and through KidsTix—this transformative series engages our community in a new way, allowing them to be celebrity, steward, and beneficiary all at once.
Want to be part of the transformation? Visit tickets.thefim.org to donate what you wish to KidsTix and attend an upcoming concert.
The Star-studded Lineup
The massive undertaking to restore the Capitol Theatre was begun in 2017 when the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (URC) purchased the historic building from the George Farah family, who had lovingly maintained the building since 1976. With generous support from the C.S. Mott Foundation, URC began to meticulously restore the monumental building and contracted Whiting to run it.
Though it had been shuttered for two decades, the theatre’s history of presenting top-notch entertainment promised the capacity to attract a variety of visitors to Flint, generating key revenue by fueling the downtown tourism economy.
FIM began managing the theatre in December 2019, just prior to the start of the pandemic, and almost immediately the future of performing arts was unclear across the globe. The newly restored odeum, which had already withstood the tests of time, was no exception to the collection of theatres nationwide who wondered what would happen when the world once again began to spin. FIM is delighted to report that three years later, thanks to the generous patronage and partnership of our community, it has the privilege to operate this communal nerve-center during its most robust season to date.
Sawyer Auger, Manager of Capitol Theatre Programming, began booking for the theatre during the 2023-24 season. Working remotely from his home in Connecticut, Auger has a unique perspective of the theatre and community it serves. He had some reservations about the city he’d never visited based on the national news coverage it earned in 2015. But after seeing the theatre for the first-time last year, Auger says it “exceeded my expectations. The historic charm and architectural grandeur of the venue left a lasting impression, and the warm reception from the community and dedication to preserving and promoting the arts in Flint were immediately apparent.”
The theatre is programmed on a rolling basis, meaning new shows are introduced year-round, as artists’ tours and schedules can accommodate a stop in Flint. This has afforded Auger the opportunity to program many new shows this Winter and Spring. The exciting new lineup includes the likes of 38 Special, Tower of Power, Jo Dee Messina, Diamond Rio, and a slew of others that will be added to the impressive roster of stars who’ve taken the Capitol stage in the last century.
Booking an opulent, historic theatre in a small city certainly brings with it some challenges, but Auger looks at these as opportunities to help enrich a community he is learning to embrace. “I’m excited about contributing to the arts scene in an area with such a rich history,” Auger says. “Ensuring a diverse lineup that appeals to Flint’s broad audience while accommodating varying tastes and preferences is a creative challenge, but the benefits include an opportunity to contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the community.”
A community that, like the Capitol Theatre building itself, has endured its fair share of trials and deserves just reward for its perseverance. A full lineup of world-class artists is a pretty good place to start.
Tower of Power• 8:00 PMLocation: Capitol Theatre
Blind Boys of Alabama• 8:00 PMLocation: Capitol Theatre
Diamond Rio• 8:00 PMLocation: Capitol Theatre
Homegrown Comedy with Jen Kober• 7:00 PMLocation: Capitol Theatre