Our History

Theatre History

The Village of Calumet was incorporated in 1875 when it was the center of the copper mining industry in North America. As the community grew, the Town Hall was built in 1886; and in 1898, with a huge surplus in the treasury, it was decided that an opera house was needed to serve the community. At that time the village had a population of approximately 4000 and more than 30,000 lived within walking distance.

The Theatre opened on March 20, 1900 with a touring Broadway production of Reginald DeKoven’s The Highwaymen. In the ensuing years, the Theatre’s marquee read like a Who’s Who of American Theatre: Madame Helena Modjeska, Lillian Russell, John Phillip Sousa, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Lon Chaney, Sr., Jason Robards, Sr., James O’Neill, William S. Hart, Frank Morgan, Wallace and Noah Beery.

With the decline of copper mining and the local economy, and the advent of motion pictures, stage productions became less common in the late 1920s. From the depression through the late 1950s, it was almost exclusively a movie theatre, operated by several different local interests over the years. Summer stock returned in 1958, ran for nearly 10 years, and then came back under the auspices of Michigan State University in 1972.

The auditorium was renovated for the village’s centennial in 1975, and the exterior was restored in 1988-89. The technical and code improvements and backstage reconstruction have just been completed.

The Calumet Theatre Company was incorporated in 1983 as an independent, non-profit cultural organization to program events and encourage continuing restoration. It is leased from the Village of Calumet. The Calumet Theatre Company assumes all operating costs for the facility. In the absence of local tax support, it is funded by ticket sales, user fees, the State of Michigan through the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, membership dues, and other in-house fund-raising activities. The Theatre Company is a member-supported volunteer-based organization (500-plus members) with a 16 member Board of Directors, 8 employees and over a hundred of volunteers.

The Theatre annually hosts 55-65 events with a total attendance of nearly 18,000. Nearly all of the performing arts disciplines are represented, including symphony, folk music, jazz, opera, theatre, dance, and community events, as well as public meetings and guided tours.

The Calumet Theatre is listed as a National Historic Landmark since 1971.  It is a Heritage Site of the Keweenaw National Historical Park since 1993 and is the only site that still serves its original function.