Detroit was in its golden period during the age of great movie palaces, with many built in the 1920s and fortunately still standing today. As well as showing the best arthouse, independent and foreign films, these historical and beautiful venues are worth a visit in themselves – here’s our pick of the best.
The Redford Theatre dates all the way back to 1928 and is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. When it opened as a neighborhood movie house, it was billed as “America’s Most Unique Suburban Playhouse”, featuring an ornate and vintage Japanese decor and a pipe organ that are still in place today. Its program includes classic and contemporary films, as well as special events and festivals.
Detroit Film Theatre
Located inside the DIA, the Detroit Film Theatre is another beautiful and historic place to experience the wonders of 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.
Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater was hailed as “a Shrine to the Arts” when it opened in 1928. It was saved from demolition in 1979 and has since been operated by the not-for-profit Michigan Theater Foundation. Alongside its diverse range of films, it is also the home of the premier regional film festival, the Cinetopia International Film Festival.
Main Art Theatre
Royal Oak’s Main Art Theatre promises an “eclectic mix of sophistication and fun”. It was built in the 1940s as a single screen theatre, but now has three screens showing a selection of independent film and foreign language cinema, as well as a popular summer series of midnight films. It has been operated by Landmark Theatres since the 1990s.
Another product of the 1920s, the Senate is an 800-seat theater located on Michigan Avenue in Southwest Detroit. It was closed briefly in the 1950s but was soon acquired by the Detroit Theater Organ Society, who still call it home today. It houses the original pipe organ from the Fisher Theater and they offer several silent films per season accompanied by the “Mighty Wurlitzer”.
The Maple in Bloomfield Hills has a number of inventive programs, including Secret Cinema, a classic film series where the audience doesn’t know what will be shown, followed by a Q&A with the local film professor, critic or enthusiast who chose the film, and Old Hollywood, showcasing films released prior to 1967. The theater lobby also has a coffee shop/bar/bistro.
Another former single-screen cinema built in the 1920s, the Birmingham 8 is half an hour north of the city in Birmingham, MI. In the 1990s it was rebuilt and restored as an eight-screen multiplex theatre, focusing on first run films and smaller independent productions. Each screen also now features luxury reclining chairs.