MC History Spotlight: The Wallace family’s theaters.

January 23, 2019

4-Star Theater in downtown Scottville, 1952.

Star Lite Drive-in

MC History Spotlight: The Wallace family’s theaters.

MC History Spotlight is a weekly history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Living and Memory Care. Each week this column will feature a story from our county’s past.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

There was a time when Mason County was home to several movie theaters. Today’s story, though, is about the legacy of the Wallace family, who owned the 4-Star Theater in downtown Scottville and also the Star-Lite Drive-in in Pere Marquette Township.

The first and only movie theater in Scottville was located at 111 S. Main St. The 400-seat cinema opened in 1914 as the A-Muz-U Theater. At some point the name was changed to Star Theater.

In 1932, Glenn and Jessie Wallace, who moved to Scottville from Muskegon, began operating the theater. In 1936, the Wallaces purchased it and and renamed it the 4-Star Theater, in honor of their four children.

A Muz U Theater and Hunters Inn, downtown Scottville.

Glenn owned the 4-Star until 1975. In 1955, he had shut down the theater due to a decrease in ticket sales because of television. His son, Chuck, re-opened it that year and managed it.

“With my promotional efforts it was back to pre-TV business in two years,” Chuck wrote in his memoirs. “I even won $600 from Paramount for my efforts on building business for “We’re No Angels.”

In 1953, Glenn built the Star-Lite Drive-in Theater at the corner of present day US 10 and South Pere Marquette Highway (then US 31). He operated the drive-in until 1958 when he decided to slow down, so he turned operations over to Chuck, while he returned to the 4-Star.

Chuck stayed at the drive-in until 1967 when he moved to Florida. The next year, Chuck purchased the drive-in from his father and hired a manager. He returned to Michigan in 1970 and continued to operate the drive-in until he sold it in 1975.

4-Star Theater 1952

“I saw the coming demise of the drive-ins due to satellite and video taped movies for the home,” he stated in his memoirs. Chuck sold the drive-in on a land contract in 1975.

“The coming of satellites and home movie tapes was not the total cause of the decline in drive-ins. Most of them were built on prime real estate, junctions of major highways, etc. About the time attendance started falling off, the big shopping malls started to pop up and guess where they wanted to be located? Right near major highways and near family housing. So, the drive-in land became worth more than the drive-in business. Presto, goodbye drive-ins.”

Both theaters closed in the early ‘80s. 

The 4-Star was then, ironically, turned into a video rental store and has gone through several changes since. Its marque was restored a few years ago with a modern LED lighting system, but is rarely used. Second floor apartments were added to the building. The main floor currently sits empty. The drive-in was torn down sometime in the ‘80s. Some of the land is occupied by McDonald’s and the Comfort Inn. A short access road, Wallace Lane, that leads from Pere Marquette Highway to Poncho’s Pond is named in honor of the family.

Glenn Wallace clearly believed in giving back to his community and he instilled those values into his children and grandchildren. He served as mayor of Scottville (1937-1942), a Mason County commissioner, and a member of the Scottville School (now Mason County Central) board of education.

Glenn’s daughter, Glenna Anderson, also served as mayor and also interim city manager. Her daughter, Jill Parsons, served on the city commission.

Glenn Wallace Sr.

Glenn died on July 25, 1986 at the age of 86. Jessie died May 13, 1992 at the age of 88.

Chuck Wallace.

Chuck was a diverse business man. He started working as an advertising salesman for Ludington Daily News in the mid-50s, eventually becoming sales manager. While in Florida, he was the advertising director for All Florida Magazine. In 1972, he purchased the Dairy Queen, located on present-day Pere Marquette Highway, and directly outside the drive-in. He also operated a Dairy Queen franchise at Stearns Park in Ludington. By 1974, he had sold Dairy Queen. He then ventured into the music business, purchasing a record shop on Ludington Avenue and renaming it Sounds Good. Chuck also was involved in many local organizations.

Chuck died on Aug. 24, 2015 at the age of 84.

To this day, family members still own the house that Jessie and Glenn lived in on North Columbia Street.

Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

 

 

4-Star Theater 1955

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