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Emagine is a word that most Michiganders know very well. They are the movie theaters that create a full immersive experience. Some have grand pianos, somen restaraunts, bowling alleys, and most notably, local art.
But have you ever wondered where the artwork came from? We caught up with Doug West, who was featured on our show back in season 4. Lately, he has been up to something pretty big, literally. Inside the Emagine Theaters in Rochester, Canton, and coming soon, Novi, are expansive murals painted by West. He worked with Paul Glantz, co-founder of the Emagine Theaters
to create an all encompassing “Story Of Emagine,” which will contribute to the magic of the buildings.
Paul Glantz has a lot of stories of the founding of the theater, and how certain movies helped make or break them in the beginning. Stories include how Titanic saved their theater after michiganders decided to watch hockey instead of movies, and how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles put the theater on the map.
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We asked Doug West a few questions pertaining to his artistic proccess, check it out!
1- What was your favorite part about painting the mural at Emagine?
Well there’s never been anything created like it, anywhere. Emagine has a reputation for being unique. They’ve always been on the cutting edge— the first theatre to have stadium seating— the first with the Super EMAX auditorium in Novi. I think the art mural is like that, it’s just another first for Emagine.
But my favorite thing is capturing the movement of the human body. I like to call it, “Lines of motion”. As the artist, I love the freedom of drawing or watching the expression on a face, and the flow of action. To see all the naturalness of life. The Canton art mural gave me all of that, with these moments in time and the feeling blockbuster movies!
Another personal favorite is my sense of accomplishment. I never gave up on the Emagine art mural idea. Paul Glantz originally inspired me, saying, “I have a large brick wall at the Rochester Hills Emagine, if you can create something that shows the timelessness of movies, I might agree to have you do it.” So over the course of a couple years, I would catch up with Paul to show him my ideas with these little sketch books I would create, Paul called them “Flip Books”. After about two years of seeing these things he finally agreed, saying, “Don’t bring me any more of those flip books of yours, You have the job!” From there we soared together and I think I even brought out a little of the artist in Paul.
In fact, I would say to any artist, or believer in anything, never give up! So my favorite part might be going from an idea to seeing that thing you imagined become a massive piece of art filling a wall-
2- Did Paul choose the characters that you used, or did you think of them on your own?
Well, for Emagine Canton, I felt like the images chose themselves. In our first meeting, Paul and I sat down to share a plate of nachos and discuss what the art might be. It was there, he told me his story, “Doug,” he said, “I want this art to be, The Story of Emagine, it’s my story, and the history of a movie chain. There are times when you are not sure you can make it, perhaps you’re not selling much popcorn or people aren’t coming in because of vacations or sporting events. You still work as hard as you can, but you wonder…? That’s when certain movies come along that are blockbusters. These movies go far beyond what you can imagine a movie can be. It’s those movies that make all the hard work that everyone puts in at Emagine, worth it. We had some of those surprise blockbusters in the early days of Emagine that encouraged me to bring Emagine to the highest level of ‘the movie experience,’ If these blockbusters can break all the boundaries, why can’t Emagine, with a movie experience like no other. I want you to paint that!” “What would that look like?” I asked.
He gave me some examples of teenage girls who came to see a movie, not one time, or two times, but fifteen times, because Titanic touched something deep inside their hearts. Now, that makes for a great movie experience— and that’s a whole lot of popcorn! Or kids dressed up as Ninja Turtles; waiting impatiently in line, to finally see their turtles up on the big screen. At the time, who knew what a Ninja turtle was?
That’s what we discussed over that first nacho tray— and from then on, the mural just got bigger and bigger.
For instance, I knew. “Home Alone” had to be the centerpiece with Macaulay Culkin and that “surprised look” on his face! It’s such an iconic image that everyone has a special memory of.
The art mural extends 80 feet long and almost 10 feet high! Just looking at it makes you feel like you’re in a blockbuster! So very cool.
3- What is your favorite part of the mural and why?
I personally loved the movie Batman. The original movie with Michael Keaton was such a trip— so artistic. I felt like Gotham City was a real place, so dark and moody and far removed from the campy 1960’s Batman. I’ll tell you a little secret— if you look closely over Batman’s left shoulder, you’ll see the Joker grinning at you. That was the very last image I painted… I think his grin, was my pride, in getting my art just right! There are so many interesting elements in this mural.
I like watching the crowds gaze up at the art. Once in a while, I sneak in and stand behind families in the lobby; I listen in on their comments. They never know that the artist is standing right behind them. When I have a chance, I tell them
Wild stories that I heard about the artist— how is so eccentric that he actually paints upside down, (which is true by the way) — and then, I just chuckle at the look on their face. Move over Macaulay Culkin!
I am also a huge fan of Time Travel, so Back to the Future is a personal favorite.
4- What next project are you looking forward to the most?
We are talking about displaying some of my impressionist paintings in the lobby of Emagine. Something very different than my traditional portraiture style. I have been studying Monet’ and Renoir in my studio for years so these would be Detroit Institute of Arts style. I can imagine a few paintings, sitting quietly next to the Grand piano in the lobby of Emagine. I think theater goers would enjoy that. After all, art, and music are married so well in a movie. It’s in a language we all understand.
5- Tell us a little about the “Story of Emagine”
It is the movies that came along and not only sustained Emagine in its early years, but it’s about surprises. Let me give you an example that Paul Glantz gave me. He said. “Sometime in the early 1990’s, his nephew came to him and asked,”Uncle Paul, Can you put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in your movie theater?” “What’s a Ninja Turtle?” he asked. His nephew went on to tell him the whole story of Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo. He said he would think about it. Day after day, he’d come back and ask him the same question. “Uncle Paul…” He had never heard of a Ninja Turtle, but finally he agreed.
At the time, New Line Cinema had just released the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, and was having difficulty getting any movie theater, anywhere to show it. Emagine was the first theater to put Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the
Big screen here in metro-Detroit. The moment it was up on the screen, lines wrapped around the theater for blocks. As quickly as tickets went on sale, the show sold out. “I quickly became a big Ninja Turtle fan!” Paul smiled— and that’s
The Story of Emagine! Surprising movie releases, and a willingness to risk to be the best. These were movies that left all of us changed! Needless to say, Paul always listens to his nephew now (Doug chuckles)
6- What was your favorite part about painting the mural at Emagine?
Seeing it go up on the wall. I was kind of in awe, because I had only been painting small sections at a time, and upside down at that. But to finally see it completed. The whole experience was a thrill for me! Art murals really need a big space to display properly, and that’s what I found at Emagine. I hope the art mural will inspire others to risk a little, and to create their own works of art and to do it right with everything they can muster. Because you never know when the artist might be standing behind you or when a Doc Brown might say, “Do it right or I’m sending YOU Back to the Future!”
To view more of his art or contact the artist, Doug West’s website goes online Friday, March 27th at: www.DouglasWest.art