Performing arts in Detroit

The performing arts in Detroit include orchestra, live music, and theater, with more than a dozen performing arts venues.[1] The stages and old time film palaces are generally located along Woodward Avenue, the city's central thoroughfare, in the Downtown, Midtown, and New Center areas. Some additional venues are located in neighborhood areas of the city.[2][3] Many of the city's significant historic theaters have been revitalized.[3][4][5][6]


Detroit has a long theatrical history, with many venues dating back to the 1920s.[7] The Detroit Fox Theatre (1928) was the first theater ever constructed with built-in film sound equipment. Commissioned by William Fox and built by architect C. Howard Crane, the ornate Detroit Fox was fully restored in 1988. It is the largest of the nation's Fox Theatres with 5,045 seats.[8][9] The city has been a place for operatic, symphonic, musical and popular acts since the first part of the twentieth century. Portions of Leonard Bernstein's music for West Side Story, produced by Detroit's Nederlander Organization, were composed on the piano that resides in the library at Cranbrook in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. David T. Nederlander's career began after purchasing a 99-year lease on the Detroit Opera House. His son, the organization's chairman, James M. Nederlander, also a Detroit native, coproduced over one hundred famous theatrical classics, including West Side Story, Hello, Dolly!, The King and I, and Fiddler on the Roof.[10] Today, the Nederlander Organization operates Detroit's Fisher Theatre, the Detroit Opera House, and several theaters in other major cities on the Broadway theatre circuit. Organizations such as the Mosaic Youth Theatre support the city's theater community.[11]

During the late 1980s the great old motion picture screens and live performance stages began to be restored. The Fox Theatre, Detroit Opera House (formerly the Grand Circus Theatre; Broadway Capitol Theatre; Paramount Theatre; Capital Theatre), and The Fillmore Detroit (formerly the State Theater; Palms Theater) are notable restorations. The Fillmore Detroit is the site of the annual Detroit Music Awards held in April. Other venues were modernized and expanded such as Orchestra Hall, the home of the world-renowned Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Next to the Detroit Opera House is the restored 1,700-seat Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts (1928) at 350 Madison Avenue, designed by William Kapp and developed by Matilda Dodge Wilson. The Detroit Institute of Arts contains the renovated 1,150-seat Detroit Film Theatre. Smaller sites with long histories in the city were preserved by physically moving the entire structure. In a notable preservation, the Gem Theatre and Century Theatre were moved (off their foundation) to a new address across from the Music Hall Center in order to construct Comerica Park. Detroit's 1,571-seat Redford Theatre (1928), with its Japanese motifs, is home to the Motor City Theatre Organ Society (MCTOS).[12][13]

Along with Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre (Wayne State University) in Midtown, the only graduate repertory theater in the nation, Detroit has enjoyed a resurgence in theatrical productions and attendance. In the 2000s, shows ranging from touring musicals to local theater happen nightly and the theaters have sparked a significant increase in nightlife; hospitality ventures serving the area have increased accordingly. With its sports venues and casinos, the Detroit Theater District has helped revitalized high rise residential areas like those surrounding Grand Circus Park and its nearby Foxtown, Greektown, the Cultural Center and New Center area anchored by the 2,089-seat Fisher Theatre.[2]

The city has some surviving historic theaters which have been converted to other uses while others await redevelopment. Albert Kahn and Ernest Wilby designed the Beaux Arts styled National Theatre (1911) with its Moorish entry at 118 Monroe Street which also awaits redevelopment.[2] The 2,200 seat National Theatre is the oldest surviving theater from the city's first theater district.[14] The futuristic Cadillac Centre begins construction on Detroit's historic Monroe block, once a collection of eight antebellum commercial buildings demolished in 1990.[15] C. Howard Crane designed the Neo-Renaissance styled United Artists Theatre Building at 150 Bagley Street slated to become a residential high rise. The 600-seat Stratford Theatre at 4751 W. Vernor Hwy., designed by Joseph P. Jogerst, seated 1,137 when it opened in 1916. The Art Deco styled Stratford Theatre in the West Vernor-Junction Historic District has operated as a retail store since 1985. The ornate Spanish styled Hollywood Theatre (1927) at the corner of Ferdinand and Fort St. was demolished in 1963.[16] When the historic Hollywood opened, it was the city's second largest with 3,400 seats.[16] The Hollywood Barton theatre organ was saved and awaits restoration.[17] There were over 7,000 such organs installed in American theaters from 1915 to 1933, but fewer than forty remain in their original location such as the Barton theater organ in Ann Arbor's Michigan Theatre.[18]

Detroit's performance centers and theaters emanate from the Grand Circus Park Historic District and continue along Woodward Avenue toward the Fisher Theatre in the city's New Center.[2] The Detroit Opera House is located at Broadway and Grand Circus. The east necklace of downtown links Grand Circus and the stadium area to Greektown along Broadway.[2] The east necklace contains a sub-district sometimes called the Harmonie Park District in the Broadway Avenue Historic District which has taken on the renowned legacy of Detroit's music from the 1930s through the 1950s and into the present.[19] Near the Opera House, and emanating from Grand Circus along the east necklace, are other venues including the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts and the Gem Theatre and Century Club. The historic Harmonie Club and Harmonie Centre are located along Broadway. The Harmonie Park area ends near Gratiot and Randolph.[2]

Performing arts venues

Name Image Built Location Capacity Organization Style Architect
Fox Theatre 1928 2211 Woodward Ave.
42°20′18″N 83°3′9″W
5,174 Olympia Entertainment Neo-Gothic Art Deco facade,
Burmese, Chinese
C. Howard Crane
Detroit Masonic Temple Theatre 1922 500 Temple Ave.
42°20′30″N 83°3′37″W
4,404 Olympia Entertainment Neo-Gothic George D. Mason
Bert's Warehouse Theatre 2739 Russell St. 3,000 Bert's Entertainment Bohemian warehouse
Detroit Opera House 1922 1526 Broadway St. 2,700 Michigan Opera Theater,
Italian Renaissance C. Howard Crane
The Fillmore Detroit 1925 2115 Woodward Ave.
42°20′16″N 83°3′7″W
2,200 Live Nation Neo-Renaissance C. Howard Crane
Fisher Theatre 1927 3011 West Grand Blvd.
42°22′8.5″N 83°4′36.92″W
2,089 Nederlander Art Deco Albert Kahn
Orchestra Hall[20] 1919 3711 Woodward Ave.
42°20′55″N 83°3′33″W
2,014 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Neo-Renaissance C. Howard Crane
Harpos Concert Theatre 1939 1315 Broadway St. 1,975 Wisper & Wetsman Art moderne Charles N. Agree
MotorCity Casino Theatre 2007 2901 Grand River Ave. 1,800 Novelty, Modern Giffels Inc., NORR Limited
Wilson Theatre 1928 350 Madison Ave.
42°20′14″N 83°2′46″W
1,700 Kresge Foundation Art Deco facade,
Spanish Renaissance
William E. Kapp, Smith, Hinchman & Grylls
Redford Theatre 1928 17354 Lahser Ave.
42°25′2″N 83°15′27″W
1,571 Motor City Theater Organ Society Exotic Revival, Japanese motifs Ralph F. Shreive with Verner, Wilheim, and Molby[13]
Majestic Theatre 1915 4140 Woodward Ave.
42.35301°N 83.06031°W / 42.35301; -83.06031 (Majestic Theater)
1,260 Art Deco C. Howard Crane
Riverfront 4 Movie Theatres 1978 Renaissance Center
42°19′44.38″N 83°2′22.95″W
1,250 Modern John Portman
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Greektown Casino Theatre 2009 555 East Lafayette St. 1,200 Novelty, Modern Rossetti
MGM Grand Detroit Theatre 2007 1777 Third St. 1,200 MGM Mirage Modern SmithGroupJJR
Bonstelle Theatre 1903 3424 Woodward Ave.
42°20′46″N 83°3′25″W
1,173 Wayne State University Neoclassical Albert Kahn,
C. Howard Crane
Detroit Film Theatre 1927 5201 Woodward Ave.
42°21′31″N 83°3′57″W
1,150 Detroit Institute of Arts Neo-Renaissance Paul Philippe Cret
Senate Theatre 1926 6424 Michigan Ave.
42°19′52.57″N 83°7′22.02″W
900 Detroit Theater Organ Society Art Deco Christian W. Brandt
Hilberry Theatre 1916 4743 Cass Ave. 532 Wayne State University Neoclassical Field, Hinchman and Smith
City Theatre 2004 2301 Woodward Ave. 500 Olympia Entertainment
Gem Theatre 1927 333 Madison St.
42°20′15″N 83°2′47″W
450 Italian Renaissance George D. Mason
Century Theatre 1903 333 Madison St.
42°20′15″N 83°2′47″W
250 Italian Renaissance George D. Mason
Chrysler IMAX Dome Theatre 2001 5020 John R. St. 230 Detroit Science Center Postmodern BEI Associates, Neumann/Smith, William Kessler Associates
Detroit Repertory Theatre 1963 13103 Woodrow Wilson St. 194 Detroit Repertory Theatre
The Players 1925 3321 East Jefferson Ave. The Players Club Florentine Renaissance, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco murals. William E. Kapp, Smith, Hinchman & Grylls
Bohemian National Home 1914 3009 Tillman St.
Studio Theatre 112 Wayne State University Black box
Boll Family YMCA Theatre 1401 Broadway St. YMCA,
Plowshares Theatre Company

Historic venues awaiting restoration

Name Image Built Location Capacity Organization Style Architect
National Theatre[14]
1911 118 Monroe St.
42°19′58″N 83°2′45″W
800 Phoenix Properties LLC Baroque-Beaux Arts-Moorish Albert Kahn
United Artists Theatre Building
1928 150 Bagley St. 2,070 Ilitch Holdings Spanish Gothic C. Howard Crane
Vanity Ballroom
1929 1024 Newport St. 2,000 Art Deco Charles N. Agree
Grande Ballroom
1928 8952 Grand River Ave. 1,500 Art Deco, Moorish Revival Charles N. Agree
Alger Theater
1935 16541 East Warren Avenue
1,500 Friends of the Alger Theater[21][22] Art Deco

See also


  1. "Arts & Culture". Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. Archived from the original on October 9, 2013. Retrieved July 24, 2008. Detroit is home to the second largest theatre district in the United States.
  2. Hill, Eric J. & Gallagher, John (2002). AIA Detroit: The American Institute of Architects Guide to Detroit Architecture. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3120-3.
  3. Martone, L. (2011). Moon Spotlight Detroit & Ann Arbor. Avalon Travel Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 9781598809398. Retrieved March 3, 2017 via Google Books.
  4. Poremba, D.L. (2001). Detroit in Its World Setting: A Three Hundred Year Chronology, 1701-2001. Wayne State University Press. p. 363. ISBN 9780814328705. Retrieved March 3, 2017 via Google Books.
  5. Detroit... City of Detroit. 1990. Retrieved March 3, 2017 via Google Books.
  6. City of Detroit (1997). City of Detroit, Michigan Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30. City of Detoirt. Retrieved March 3, 2017 via Google Books.
  7. Hauser, Michael & Weldon, Marianne (2006). Downtown Detroit's Movie Palaces. Images of America. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-4102-8.
  8. Hodges, Michael H. (September 8, 2003). "Fox Theater's Rebirth Ushered in City's Renewal". Michigan History. The Detroit News. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2007.
  9. Marzejka, Laurie J. (January 25, 1998). "Detroit's Historic Fox Theatre". Michigan History. The Detroit News. Retrieved July 9, 2009.
  10. "James M. Nederlander biography". Film Reference. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2008.
  11. "Mosaic Youth Theatre". Archived from the original on April 18, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2009.
  12. AIA Detroit Urban Priorities Committee (January 10, 2006). "Top 10 Detroit Interiors". Model D Media. Archived from the original on July 23, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2007.
  13. "Redford Theatre Building". Michigan State Historic Preservation Office. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2008.
  14. "National Theatre". Buildings of Detroit. Archived from the original on December 13, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2009.
  15. Hyde, Charles (May–June 1991). "Demolition by Neglect: The Failure to Save the Monroe Block" (PDF). Michigan History Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 14, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2008.
  16. "The Hollywood Theatre, Detroit, MI". The Detroit News. March 17, 1963. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2008 via
  17. "Hooray for Hollywood". Journal of the American Theatre Organ Society. November–December 1998. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved January 14, 2008 via
  18. Aldridge, Henry B. (September–October 1998). "The Michigan Theatre Celebrates Twenty-Five Years of Organ Overtures". Journal of the American Theatre Organ Society. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved January 14, 2008 via
  19. "Harmonie Park District". Archived from the original on May 9, 2015. Retrieved January 31, 2010.
  20. "Orchestra Hall restoration" (PDF). Michigan State Historic Preservation Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 21, 2007. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  21. "algertheater". Archived from the original on March 4, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  22. "Alger Theater". Buildings of Detroit. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved July 16, 2009.

Further reading

  • Cantor, George (2005). Detroit: An Insiders Guide to Michigan. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-03092-2.
  • Eisenstein, Paul (February 1997). "Relighting the Footlights: The Detroit Opera House Renovation Recaptures the Golden Age of the American stage". Popular Mechanics.
  • Hauser, Michael & Weldon, Marianne (2006). Downtown Detroit's Movie Palaces. Images of America. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-4102-8.
  • Meyer, Katherine Mattingly; McElroy, Martin C.P. (1980). Detroit Architecture A.I.A. Guide Revised Edition. Introduction by W. Hawkins Ferry. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-1651-4.
  • Sharoff, Robert (2005). American City: Detroit Architecture. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-3270-6.
  • Sobocinski, Melanie Grunow (2005). Detroit and Rome: Building on the Past. Ann Arbor: Regents of the University of Michigan. ISBN 0-933691-09-2.
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