A Film Lover's Guide to Detroit

Michigan Theater
Michigan Theater | © PunkToad / Flickr
Photo of Tim Marklew
14 March 2018

From RoboCop and 8 Mile to Kathryn Bigelow’s 2017 drama Detroit, the Motor City has been the setting for a number of memorable moments across cinematic history. It’s also home to some delightful and historic movie palaces, and plays host to various film festivals throughout the year. Here’s what you need to know as a film fan in Detroit.

Cinetopia Film Festival

Cleverly conceived as a kind of round-up of the best films from the world’s best film festivals, Cinetopia takes place at a selection of theaters, predominantly in Detroit. Featuring a curated program of films and documentaries that have made an impact at Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto and more, it also includes discussion panels and Q&A sessions with filmmakers, writers and actors. Tickets are available for everything from a single film to the entire festival.

Various locations +1 734 668 8397

The Redford Theatre

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In continuous operation since its opening in January 1928, the Redford Theatre is an old-fashioned movie palace in every sense of the word. With an ornate and interesting Japanese decor and more than 1,500 seats, it can make any trip to the movies feel like a cinematic event. It shows a program of classic and contemporary films, as well as special events and festivals.

Arab Film Festival

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The Arab Film Festival has been held for over a decade by the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, and partnered with the Cinetopia Film Festival several years ago. A small program of Arabic-language movies from both the Arab world and Arab-American filmmakers are included, with most unlikely to be shown in commercial theaters. All films have English subtitles.

Freep Film Festival

The Freep Film Festival is organized by the Detroit Free Press and Michigan.com, and is dedicated to showcasing documentary films that are about or relevant to Detroit, as well as the surrounding region and Michigan. Almost all features are accompanied by related events and activities. Held across venues including the Detroit Film Theatre at the DIA, Cinema Detroit and the Fillmore Detroit, the fifth annual festival will take place between 11-15 April, 2018.

Detroit Film Theatre

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Located inside the DIA, the Detroit Film Theatre is another beautiful and historic place to experience some cinema. Dating all the way back to 1927, many of its original features have been lovingly restored. It promises “the best of contemporary and classic world cinema” through its eclectic program of independent films, foreign-language films, documentaries and classics, but its most popular series features the year’s Academy Award-nominated short films.

Media City Film Festival

Media City Film Festival is an annual international festival of film and digital art, held collaboratively in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. In 2017, the festival celebrated its 22nd edition, with over 35,000 film entries received from over 120 different nations during its history. Though the festival’s HQ is in Windsor, the DIA and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit also hold events.

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Michigan Theater

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Michigan Theater | © PunkToad/Flickr
Michigan Theater | Michigan Theater
In nearby Ann Arbor is yet another grand old movie palace dating back to the 1920s. The Michigan Theater was saved from demolition in 1979 by the not-for-profit Michigan Theater Foundation, and now shows a range of movies as well as hosting the Cinetopia Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and enjoying a relationship with the Sundance Film Festival through the “Direct From Sundance” program.