The Way It Was - The Michigan Theatre



1938 This bustling bagley streetscape encapsulates the vibrancy of downtown Detroit in the late 1930s. Shot from Grand River looking north, the photo shows the grand old Michigan Theatre on the immediate left. The other marquee in the background belongs to the United Artists Theatre; the Statler Hotel is on the right. The Michigan was showing Boy Meets Girl starring James Cagney and Secrets of an Actress with Kay Francis. Although the Michigan wasn’t the largest downtown theater, it was generally considered the most beautiful, with sculptures and paintings accentuating an interior rife with marble, gleaming brass, crystal chandeliers, acres of red velvet, and a sweeping main staircase. The Michigan, which originally seated more than 4,000, opened in August 1926. In addition to films, the theater through the years hosted vaudeville, big bands, and other entertainment. The downtown movie palaces were suffering from dwindling audiences by the late ’60s, and the Michigan rang down the curtain in 1967, only to be refurbished and reopened shortly afterward. Its renaissance didn’t last long, but the theater wasn’t ready to give up the ghost. It was transformed into a supper club called the Michigan Palace, but that experiment was short-lived. Music would be its temporary salvation in late 1972 when live bands, including Blue Oyster Cult, David Bowie, Iggy and the Stooges, Aerosmith, Rush, and The Doors rocked the rafters of the theater, which retained the name Michigan Palace. The music thumped on until 1976, when the venue shuttered for good. A year later, to the horror of preservationists and movie-theater buffs, the interior was gutted and turned into a parking garage, which ironically served as a scene in several films, most notably 8 Mile.


Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Mustang Fever!

The iconic 'pony car' marks its 50th anniversary

Earth Tones: Recycling Latex Paint

The Southeastern Oakland County Resource Recover Authority (SOCRRA) has teamed with Battle Creek-based ePaint Recycling to help divert latex paint from the waste stream.

Bigger Than Ever

Former 'underground party' now fills the Masonic Temple.

Is it Time for a New Nickname for 'The Wolverine State'?

Despite our moniker and U-M’s mascot, ‘The Wolverine State’ seems to be weasel words

Wall to Wall Art

Park West Gallery and Dearborn's The Henry team up to decorate a 'boutique' hotel
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. An Animated Life
    As Rob Paulsen prepares to publish his memoir, the Hollywood veteran and voice behind some of the...
  2. An Hour With ... Teddy Dorsette III
    President, Detroit Black Deaf Advocates
  3. State of the Arts
  4. A New Noodle Shop on the Block
    Midtown Detroit welcomes Urban Ramen
  5. Gold Standard
    Tucked into an industrial strip in Ann Arbor, a new restaurant offers French fare
  6. In Tune
    Influenced by its storied past, Willis Show Bar sets the tone for a nostalgic sound
  7. Drink Beer, Do Good
    Local breweries and pubs jump on the charity bandwagon
  8. Recipe: Roast Boneless Pork Loin With Tart Cherry Chutney
    Executive chef at Ford’s Garage, Darin Thompson’s boneless pork loin marvel
  9. Business Class
    Trim suits, creative layers, and crisp white shirts - Fall's wardrobe essentials are fitting for...
  10. Meet the Makers: Sydney James
    For muralist Sydney James, the city of Detroit is her canvas. Matters of the country are her muse