Discuss Detroit DISCUSS DETROIT! I worked at The Michigan Theater Previous Next
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Dfd
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Username: Dfd

Post Number: 1011
Registered: 09-2004
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 10:54 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The pictures of the auditorium turned parking garage make me wonder what it was like in the heyday. Any stories?
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Eastsideal
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Username: Eastsideal

Post Number: 422
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 12:24 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

My mother worked there briefly back when she was in college during WWII. Her father made her quit when he found out though (taking time away from her studies, not suitable for a proper young lady, etc...). But she went to many movies there, had very warm memories of it and always loved the place.

I remember going there with her many many years ago for a Carl Levin fundraiser (back when he was on the City Council). She took some of us kids on a tour of some of the little nooks and crannies of the theater. The lobbies, even the upper lobby, were unbelievably ornate with several sculptures. My parents also attended opening night there when it was turned into the Michigan Palace nightclub, and went a few other times during that short-lived effort.

I saw David Bowie there during the rock concert years, which was wonderful, but the place had already suffered pretty badly by then.
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Retroit
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Username: Retroit

Post Number: 1005
Registered: 04-2008
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 1:07 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Before and After photos:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F ile:MichiganTheaterlobbyDetroi t.jpg
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Dfd
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Post Number: 1012
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Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 3:31 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Wow! I was thinking it was nice inside but...palace is a good word for it. Those pictures are kinda hard to look at aren't they?
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Retroit
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Username: Retroit

Post Number: 1010
Registered: 04-2008
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 6:36 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

It amazes me how past generations made such great efforts at building beautiful buildings, and how little appreciation current generations have for them. Nowadays, they slap together flat, gray panels and everyone says "Oh, how beautiful!" I don't get it.
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Blueidone
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Username: Blueidone

Post Number: 517
Registered: 03-2007
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 7:02 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think my father worked there when he was young. I may be seeing him this weekend...I will ask him if he has any memories of it.
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56packman
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Username: 56packman

Post Number: 2434
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Thursday, March 19, 2009 - 7:30 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I was part of a crew that removed the projectors in March 1977, we were among the last to see the place whole, in the two days we worked bits left the building every hour. The interior goods had been sold to "the golden movement emporium" they bought the rights to take anything that wasn't holding the building up. The rock concert turds exacted a lot of damage to the place, I saw it before and after, four short, devistating years. It was still in better shape than the Boradway Capitol (Grand Circus--now Opera house) beofre MOT restored it. It was heartbreaking to see the Michigan that way. There is a whole crowd of baby boomers ( I am in that category too) who wax on about how great the rock concerts were there, how fun it was to work them, you can read a lot at www.cinematreasures.com.
I think that period was a sad end for a great building, and the crowds that caused all of that damage didn't deserve such a place.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 6236
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 12:47 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

56packman, I envy you for having seen the Michigan Theatre before it was disemboweled in early 1977 by previous building owners.

What is surprising is how much of the space is still there behind the sealed walls. The mezzanine and balcony were removed, as were the mezzanine foyer and 1st balcony foyer, as was the grand staircase and one wall of the grand lobby.

Here's a few areas that are off limits to tours that still survive in near total darkness...

The mezzanine rotunda, sealed off in the right from the former mezzanine foyer which was destroyed for the parking deck:






A photo taken from the landing staircase that went down to the mezzanine (ahead) and up to the 1st balcony level (to the immediate right) with the 1st balcony landing at the upper level of the pic:






A photo of the stairs going from the 1st balcony landing up to the 2nd balcony foyer (note the railings were removed in 1977):






Although most of the mezzanine and 1st balcony foyers were destroyed for the parking deck, the 2nd balcony foyer (over the grand lobby) and the 3rd balcony foyer (above the 2nd balcony foyer), as well as the projection room (above the 3rd balcony foyer) all still exist in semi-darkness.

Here is a pic of the 2nd balcony foyer curving along the back of where the balcony used to be:






And here is the 2nd balcony foyer rotunda:






The ceiling of the grand lobby still retains much of its' beauty:






4 of the 7 bays of the lobby still retain their mirrors, as viewed from the former auditorium:






The ceiling of the massive former auditorium. The auditorium of the Michigan was very tall, with plasterwork soaring 9 stories above:






The great window of the Michigan. The Michigan window soared 4 stories tall. It was a false window, since the grand lobby was actually located about 50 feet back from the actual window. So the great window chamber (shaped like a silo sliced in half down the middle) is a false window:






As a false window, it is the largest window of its' kind in the United States. The inside is laced with over 50 fancy mirrors and is a breathtaking space, that ironically was never meant to be viewed from this angle:



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1kielsondrive
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Username: 1kielsondrive

Post Number: 1073
Registered: 08-2008
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 12:52 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok, you should be conducting tours of the remnants of the Michigan. I was lucky enough to attend a few shows at the Michigan during it's Palace incarnation.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 6237
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 1:11 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks 1kielsondrive... but there are some serious liability issues that would have to be addressed first.

The building owners insurance company would have a fit if he permitted entry into the closed off areas. Not only were all railings removed back in 1977, but with the balcony removed, some hallways lead to openings 25 feet above the 3rd level of the parking deck.

Here's an example... the 2nd balcony foyers have 2 openings that used to go to balcony seating... now they are just openings into the vastness of the former auditorium interior (usually there's plywood across this particular opening, but it was moved so I could take this pic):





And having vertigo doesn't help! :-(
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Gsgeorge
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Username: Gsgeorge

Post Number: 771
Registered: 08-2006
Posted on Friday, March 20, 2009 - 1:33 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok, thanks for that, remarkable stuff! I am glad you went so we don't have to. Two stories up and a pissed-off building owner is too much hassle for me. ;-)

That false mirror is unreal. Are there more of those in the city?
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Dfd
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Username: Dfd

Post Number: 1014
Registered: 09-2004
Posted on Friday, March 27, 2009 - 9:01 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

bump
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Blueidone
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Username: Blueidone

Post Number: 528
Registered: 03-2007
Posted on Friday, March 27, 2009 - 9:27 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I talked to my father about this yesterday. He worked there as a teenager. He would walk from Highland Park High School to the Michigan Theatre to work as an usher. This would have been around 1930. He made just a few dollars a week to help support his family. He is about to turn 93 and I could tell by the look in his eyes as he was talking that he had very fond memories. He said there were times when the other theatres were so busy that the ushers from the Michigan were asked to work at the Fox or the others.
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Cman710
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Username: Cman710

Post Number: 618
Registered: 07-2006
Posted on Friday, March 27, 2009 - 10:53 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Last summer, I visited the Michigan Theater as part of the Preservation Wayne Theater tour. For anyone who wants to get as good a possible look at the theater as possible, I highly recommend it. Our on-site tour guide told us that he was looking around in between tours and found some tickets from the rock concert era.

The theater is both amazing and depressing, in a way, as it is a shame to see such an amazing theater become a parking lot. It is truly a unique Detroit sight, however.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 6282
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 1:32 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Cman710, it's too bad you didn't introduce yourself to me (State Theatre Guide). I asked each tour group if there were any DYES forumers. I was passing out a few Michigan Palace tickets to many of them.

It seems that theatre promoters/managers keep their old tickets just in case the IRS questions the sales counts. Unsold tickets were a way to show the IRS (if they should ask) that not all concerts were a sellout.

I found tickets strewn about in the Madison Theatre back before it was demolished, and again at the Michigan Theatre in the closed off theatre managers office.
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Artistic
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Username: Artistic

Post Number: 95
Registered: 09-2006
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 7:25 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Gistok, outside of just parking in the Michigan how does one go on tour? What exactly is the tour?
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Gary
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Username: Gary

Post Number: 290
Registered: 02-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 7:55 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember seeing "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" and "The Sword in the Stone" there as a kid. Years later, I saw Bob Seeger and the Silver Bullet Band perform there when it was the Michigan Palace.

Great pictures, Gistok.
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Cman710
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Username: Cman710

Post Number: 620
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Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 9:36 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hi Gistok, we came in late, as we hit traffic coming from the airport (and had to take a detour down Michigan Ave.), so we actually only caught the last few minutes of your talk at the Madison. Nonetheless, I should have still introduced myself. Sorry!
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 6285
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 12:13 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)













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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 6286
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 12:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Currently the only tour available is the Preservation Wayne tour which shows the grand lobby and the auditorium (from the top of the parking deck).

All the closed off theatre sections are not (yet) available for tour, but that day may come...
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Exmotowner
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Username: Exmotowner

Post Number: 481
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 12:40 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

its a darn shame that the michigan will never be restored. And didnt the owner say there wasnt enough money in the world to restore it?
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Michiman
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Username: Michiman

Post Number: 9
Registered: 02-2009
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 12:44 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Sad to see. They really built things back in the day. Too bad we knock it down and call it progress.
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Huraporta
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Username: Huraporta

Post Number: 11
Registered: 09-2008
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 12:56 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I saw several movies at the Michigan, I worked downtown at Hudsons and a small group would go there after work to see a movie...this was 1966, the theater was so beautiful and massive it was awe inspiring. I remember attendance being very low. I feel fortunate to have been inside and cried when I found out it had been gutted and turned into an ugly parking structure.
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Gistok
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 6287
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 7:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Huraporta, as beautiful as it was when you saw it in the 1960's, by then it had been painted some garish colors (such as that shade of orange in my pics above).

When it opened in 1926, it was full of lush colors befitting of a French royal palace (lots of gold and marble).

When the theatre opened on August 23 of that year, the Free Press mentioned that when the lights were dimmed the theatre had a glow of romantic sunset hues.

I was in there yesterday (showing it to out-of-towners), and I am always at a loss for words for the vastness of the auditorium remains, even from 3 stories up on the top level of the parking deck.





Exmotowner... yes building owner Anthony Pieroni said that there isn't enough to fix up the Michigan. (Note: the building was gutted in 1977, he became owner later, and he kicked out the company that demanded the parking responsible for its' current condition.)

Theatre guru Michael Hauser (who co-authored the Arcadia book on downtown movie palaces) once told me that it would cost about $60-75 million to bring it back to the way it was.

Although the architects (Rapp & Rapp) used many of the individual plaster mold designs for the Michigan Theatre in other theatres they designed, the Michigan is still unique in its' total layout and design.

There were rumors among some preservationists that the Michigan had a twin. But Theatre Historical Society denied that there is but one theatre of that design... namely The Michigan.

The late Ben Hall (founder of Theatre Historical Society) once stated that "although Rapp & Rapp built nearly 100 theatres in their prefered style (the glories of royal France, also known as Rapp & Rapp Versailles), it is doubtful that any were more opulent than The Michigan".

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