Discuss Detroit Archives - January 2008 Majestic Theatre & Widening of Woodward Ave in 1930's Previous Next
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Username: Gistok

Post Number: 6244
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2008 - 2:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

One of Detroit's own architect C. Howard Cranes earliest movie theatres was the 1915 Majestic Theatre. The Majestic is located on the east side of Woodward Ave. in Midtown, and originally had 1,651 seats.

When it was first constructed, it had a fancy Venetian Gothic facade with many detailed arches and columns. The theatre exterior was reminiscent of the Regent Theatre in New York of the same era.

This photo was likely taked after 1929. The "VITAPHONE" sign over the marquee sort of gives that away. Vitaphone was Warner Brothers successful process of adding sound to motion pictures, and was developed in 1927-28. Note also the rather narrow sidewalk between the building and Woodward.

Then in 1934-35 Woodward Avenue was in the process of being widened, and the Majestic Theatre was a casualty of that widening.

The ornate terra cotta facade was removed, the front wall of the lobby as well as the storefronts on either side had their fronts shorn off, making for a smaller lobby, and shallower storefronts. New Art Deco metal panels were attached to the setback front of the building in an assortment of garish colors and designs.

Also a nice streamlined moderne marquee was added that complemented the new facade, which included 4 zig-zag gables that matched the top of the updated building design. This rather attractive marquee probably only lasted about 2 decades, and when the theatre was gutted for other uses (such as a photography studio) the marquee was removed, and the first floor store fronts and their surrounds were covered over in a new yellow bricklike "veneer".

This photograph likely dates from 1935 just as the new building facade was completed, and before Woodward was actually widened. The street curb is quite a distance from the building facade, and gives one an idea of just how much of the old theatre front was hacked off.

Today the upper portions of the Majestic still retains much of the look it had after the 1935 reconstruction. But sadly the 1st floor veneer covering, and lack of a marquee gives the Majestic a rather unattractive remodeled look.

This relatively modern color photo of the theatre shows the widened Woodward, and rather narrow sidewalk. It also shows the unattractive remodeling of the first floor storefronts, as well as the removal of the theatre marquee and row of theatre entrance doors.

Perhaps a future rehabilitation of the Majestic will restore the 1st floor appearance (if it still exists behind the more modern veneer), and perhaps add an attractive Deco style marquee and theatre doors to what was once (and still is) a very unique building.

Note: Photo's Courtesy of "Cinema Treasures".

(Message edited by Gistok on February 01, 2008)
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Username: Mwilbert

Post Number: 83
Registered: 11-2007
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2008 - 6:39 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks for the info on the Majestic--I had always wondered why that building looked like that!
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Username: Dannaroo

Post Number: 186
Registered: 05-2006
Posted on Friday, February 01, 2008 - 9:00 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I don't mind the renovation too much but I always hope they will put an old style marquee up... but oh well.
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Username: Detroitplanner

Post Number: 1531
Registered: 04-2006
Posted on Saturday, February 02, 2008 - 1:54 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

If you think that first floor is ugly, you should have seen it when it was the Gnome!

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