The Punch and Judy

2697
Photograph courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

1966

If it hadn’t had a marquee, the Punch and Judy wouldn’t even resemble a movie theater. Blending in demurely with the Colonial style shared by a stretch of businesses on Kercheval in Grosse Pointe Farms, the theater even had shutters on its windows. But then “the Punch,” as locals called it, was a different breed of theater. In a time of ostentatious movie palaces seating several thousand, the Punch and Judy — named for the puppet-show characters — opened in 1930, revealing an understatedly elegant interior with only 600 seats (later expanded to 740 when the orchestra pit was appropriated for seating). A distinguishing feature was the smoking loge, which made it the only movie theater in Michigan where it was legal to light up. It also had its own tune. On opening night, the organist played “The Punch and Judy March” on the Wurlitzer, which was written expressly for the occasion. Architecturally, the Punch and Judy was a kissing cousin to the theater in Dearborn’s Henry Ford Museum, which isn’t surprising, considering that Robert O. Derrick designed both — and in the same year. The Punch was still going strong in 1966, evidenced by this queue of patrons snaking down Kercheval. But by the late ’70s, attendance had ebbed, and the theater closed. It soon had a rebirth with midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and live performances by new-wavers Devo, the Ramones, and Patti Smith. By the early ’80s, classic and art films graced the screen, but the lights dimmed for good in 1984. The theater was gutted, and the structure reopened in 1987 for office/retail use.

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