The Varsity Theatre, 1936

THE WAY IT WAS
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Photograph courtesy of The Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

1936Workmen are prepping for the premiere of the varsity Theatre, at Livernois near McNichols (Six Mile Road), with the marquee promising a “big gala opening.” The Art Deco movie house was designed by Hector Payne, who also built the Norwest Theatre (which opened in 1936, too) on Grand River near Southfield, and, on the east side, the Ramona Theatre, at Gratiot and Six Mile, as well as the Alger Theatre, on East Warren and Outer Drive. Of these, only the Alger is still standing. For a neighborhood theater, the Varsity was quite large, seating just under 1,500. It was named, ostensibly, for its proximity to the University of Detroit campus. As was the similar fate of several other metro Detroit neighborhood theaters, the Varsity was demolished and replaced with a fast-food restaurant.


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