June 30, 2013
By Frank Witsil Detroit Free Press Business writer
Mike Mihalich, the founder and CEO of MJR Digital Cinemas, recently celebrated his 66th birthday but is far from retiring, he said.
In addition to moving his headquarters from Oak Park to Bloomfield Hills, he is adding an even larger screen at the MJR complex in Southgate, and he’s building a new, $16-million theater complex in Troy, scheduled to open next April.
“We’ve gotten more response to that announcement than any announcement we’ve made,” he said, estimating the 500-employee company has received hundreds of e-mails from residents. It will be MJR’s ninth theater location. “They all say, ‘We’re glad you’re coming.’ ”
Still, as he reflects on his career, there’s one point early on that he goes back to — and wonders. What if he had taken the position he also interviewed for as a drugstore department manager trainee instead of the movie booker trainee job he accepted with Warner Bros. more than 40 years ago?
“When your bus comes, knowing when to get on is as much luck as anything,” he said Monday in his corner office with huge glass windows that look out onto a wooded area. “You need to be smart — and lucky — in business to be successful.”
A native of Alton, Ill., Mihalich earned a football scholarship to Arizona State, but a knee injury kept him from playing.
Instead, of school, he went to work welding in a Missouri plant until he took the job with Warner Bros. He rose through the ranks. The company moved him to Minneapolis, then Detroit. In the 1970s, he left for other movie-business ventures, which took him back to Minneapolis and then to Cleveland.
In 1980, he moved back to the Detroit area and started MJR Theatre Service in Oak Park. MJR, which was an easier name to say than Mihalich, is a combination of family member initials, he said. It also could stand for “movies just right,” he said.
The theater chain is known for its catchy advertising jingle, “More fun at MJR,” which plays before every showing and moviegoers have spontaneously started clapping to the beat. The song, Mihalich said, was the best $5,700 he ever spent.
He spends time in his theaters — and those owned by others — to check out how they are being run, but not so much to watch movies, he said. His favorite flicks are action films — and throughout his career he’s met a few movie stars. One of his most memorable meetings, he said, was with John Wayne.
Mihalich’s advice for others is to pick a job they feel passionate about — and to be persistent.
“There will be good times and bad times,” he said. “But don’t ever give up.”
Contact Frank Witsil: 313-222-5022 or email@example.com
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