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Detroit's Downtown Movie Palaces (MI) (Images of America) Paperback – October 30, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Title: Screen Gems
Author: K. Michelle Moran
Publisher: Grosse Pointe Times
Date: 10/16/2008


For Michael Hauser, it's no wonder why people still hold such fond memories of the grand movie theaters of yesteryear. "The minute you walked into one of these palatial venues, you immediately felt like royalty," said Hauser, a local movie theater expert who co-authored "Detroit's Downtown Movie Palaces" (Arcadia Publishing). "The themed architecture was spectacular; the colorful neon from the marquee made the street come alive; you were greeted by a doorman and then guided to your seat by a uniformed usher. At a number of the downtown theaters, besides a firstrun film, the bill of fare included an orchestra, dancers, a stage show, a serial, a cartoon and a newsreel - an entire evening's worth of entertainment."


Hauser will be sharing the fabled history of these entertainment venues during a Grosse Pointe Historical Society talk at 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms. Part of the Frank Bicknell lecture series, the free program will look at the downtown movie houses Grosse Pointers once frequented.


"Going downtown to the movies in the days before the multiplexes, cable TV, movies on demand, videotapes and DVDs, when only the Punch and Judy Theater existed in the Grosse Pointe community, was a very special occasion," said honorary GPHS Board member Mike Skinner, chair of the Bicknell Lecture Series Committee. "Entire families would plan such trips well in advance and often tie this to a trip to the downtown department stores. a] In the 1920s, the downtown area could be accessed from all of southeastern Michigan bya vast network of streetcars and interurban trains. Thus, when the Grand Circus Park section of Detroit - near present-day Comerica Park and Ford Field - contained a dozen theaters with 26,000 seats, it was one of the premier places in the world to go to see a first-run movie."


It's a subject Hauser knows well.


"Michael Hauser has been passionate about preservation in the city of Detroit for over 20 years," said GPHS Program Director Nancy Pacitto. "He was very instrumental in establishing the movie palace tours for Preservation Wayne in the early '80s. His mission was to make the public aware of how important it was to polish our magnificent architectural jewels, especially the Fox Theatre, the Gem and the Detroit Opera House."


Hauser is now the marketing manager of the Detroit Opera House, once known as the Capitol Theatre, a 1922 C. Howard Crane design inspired by European opera houses. He has long been fascinated by these remarkable buildings and the stories behind them.


"I worked in several downtown movie palaces in my hometown of Grand Rapids, creating and placing advertising for several local film exhibitors," Hauser said.


"I was curious about the history of these unique venues and was always exploring the inner depths of these unique structures, trying to learn more about the architecture, the actors who had performed on stage, the types of films presented through the decades. I was also inspired by the publication Marquee, a magazine published by the Theatre Historical Society of America. I first discovered this wonderful and insightful magazine in the undergraduate library while attending Michigan State University."


With MarianneWeldon - his "Movie Palaces" co-author - Hauser created "The Reel Story," an exhibit for the Detroit Historical Museum that examined the history of some of the region's most significant current and former movie houses. That exhibit led to "Movie Palaces," a photographic history of such venues as the Michigan, Capitol, Fox, United Artists and Gem theaters, among others.


"There has been so little printed about the subject of movie palaces and theaters in general," Hauser said. "We were able to include some wonderful images from a number of sources, many of which had not been seen by the public. a] We also felt that this was a way in which we could give back to the community and create public awareness of our restored jewels, since a portion of the book proceeds directly benefits the Detroit Historical Museum."


For his GPHS talk, Hauser plans to include discussion about neighborhood venues on the east side as well as downtown, along with a video and visuals, such as fliers, posters, architectural artifacts, concession items and photos.


"Grosse Pointers will gain a tremendous insight into the history of these theaters, as well as what it took to restore them to their former glory," Pacitto said.


Noting that Hauser spearheaded restoration efforts at the Redford Theatre, GPHS Board President Stuart Grigg said Hauser is "a Detroit gem" and "truly an under-sung hero of our local history and our built environment."


"He knows things about Detroit theater buildings and history that the people who were there didn't know," Grigg quipped. "The GPHS is privileged to have Mike Hauser speak for us.


This is a must-see, must-hear lecture, presented by the area'sforemost authority."


Hauser's talk is free and open to the public. For reservations or more information, visit www.gphistorical.org, send e-mail to gphistorical@aol.com or call (313) 884-7010.


You can reach Staff Writer K.


Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586) 498-1047.

Caption: Above: The 1946 Midwest premiere of "Centennial Summer" took place at the Fox Theatre, where stars Vivian Blaine and Phil Silvers traveled to the theater by motorcade from the Book Cadillac Hotel.

Left: "Gone With the Wind" premiered at the United Artists Theater to huge crowds in 1940.

About the Author

Utilizing exceptional images from several sources, including the wonderful Manning Brothers Historical Collection, the Walter Reuther Archives at Wayne State University, the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, the Fox Theater Archives, and the Theatre Historical Society of America Archives, Michael Hauser and Marianne Weldon have captured the excitement of what it was like to "go to the show." Hauser is marketing manager for the historic Detroit Opera House. Weldon is curator of collections for the Detroit Historical Society.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (October 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738541028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738541020
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John D. Thompson on March 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a joy. Before the '67 riot Detroit was always a big movie town. In the 40s there were more than 50 theatres in the city. A few of the neighbourhood theatres were quite extrodinary such as the Rivera or the Algiers but the downtown theatres were wonderful places to be. Back in the 40s, 50s & 60s just to go downtown was exciting with Hudson's & all the wonderful stores & restaurants & to top off the trip with a movie in one of the downtown theatres was, indeed, a treat. If the movie didn't please the theatre always did. The Fox, State, Music Hall, United Artist & Opera House (formerly Broadway Capitol/Grand Circus among other names) still stand. Some just barely. So it's wonderful to see photos of those that are gone. Photos which show just how lovely & unique they were. Each theatre had it's own character & aptmosphere. Most of all it's wonderful to see the Michigan Theatre in all its glory. She was the undisputed queen of the downtown movie theatres. She was the only place in Detroit where you could sit & actually feel you were in a real palace. It's lovely to have this book.
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I grew up near Detroit in the 1940's when those dazzling movie theatres exerted a magical allure on the streets, and inside were often a better show than what was on their screens. Authors Hauser and Weldon have done a wonderful job bringing it all back and I truly got lost in this book. Many thanks for this labor of love.
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When I reflect back on my years as a child growing up in marvelous Detroit, some of the strongest images are of the movie houses I used to frequent downtowm. This book evokes many of those sweet memories as it is loeaded with pictures, and written histories of those fabulous palaces. When it came to grandiouse movie houses Detroit was second to none. This book helps you trace the history of each theater from its building to - in some cases - it deomltion. Some of these grandious auditoriums were actually built by motion picture companies such as the Fox (Twentieth Century Fox) and the Untied Artist (United Artists), Many were not merely theaters but also were part of large office building housing industry related businesses such as booking agents and the likes. Many were build as vaudeville houses and later converted to movie theaters. Some have survived and hosts different venues today. Few are still showing first run movies as the characterless multi screen matchboxes of suburbia have taken over that venue.
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For some of Downtown Detroit's old theatres, thunderous applause is just a memory. For others, the ones which have been restored, it is still a reality. Also a reality is my applause for this book, and no, not just because I know co-author Mike Hauser personally. It is a thickly illustrated delightful read, a fun and informative way to spend an evening, and invites repeated referring-to. Having visited a number of these theatres myself in 1995, I may have an advantage, but even if you're not from Detroit or have never visited, here is a tasty introduction to one of the finest locations for surviving classic theatres anywhere.
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