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Performing arts in Detroit facts for kids

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A National Historic Landmark, the Detroit Fox Theatre lights up Foxtown at night.

The performing arts in Detroit include orchestra, live music, and theater, with more than a dozen performing arts venues. 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. Many of the city's significant historic theaters have been revitalized.


The Fillmore Detroit is located beside the Fox Theatre along Detroit's Woodward Ave.
An example of a Barton theatre organ—Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor

Detroit has a long theatrical history, with many venues dating back to the 1920s. 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. 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. 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.

Detroit operaHouse side view
The Detroit Opera House's backhouse extends along Madison Ave.
Old Detroit Opera House on Campus Martius in 1907

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).

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.

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. The 2,200 seat National Theatre is the oldest surviving theater from the city's first theater district. The futuristic Cadillac Centre begins construction on Detroit's historic Monroe block, once a collection of eight antebellum commercial buildings demolished in 1990. 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. When the historic Hollywood opened, it was the city's second largest with 3,400 seats. The Hollywood Barton theatre organ was saved and awaits restoration. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

Performing arts venues

Name Image Built Location Capacity Organization Style Architect
Fox Theatre FoxD Sunset Marguee Hockeytown Cafe.jpg 1928 2211 Woodward Ave.
42°20′18″N 83°3′9″W / 42.33833°N 83.05250°W / 42.33833; -83.05250 (Fox Theater Building)
5,174 Olympia Entertainment Neo-Gothic Art Deco facade,
Burmese, Chinese
C. Howard Crane
Detroit Masonic Temple Theatre Detroit Masonic Temple - Detroit Michigan.jpg 1922 500 Temple Ave.
42°20′30″N 83°3′37″W / 42.34167°N 83.06028°W / 42.34167; -83.06028 (Detroit Masonic Temple)
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 DetroitOperaHouse.jpg 1922 1526 Broadway St. 2,700 Michigan Opera Theater,
Italian Renaissance C. Howard Crane
The Fillmore Detroit Fillmore Detroit marquee.jpg 1925 2115 Woodward Ave.
42°20′16″N 83°3′7″W / 42.33778°N 83.05194°W / 42.33778; -83.05194 (The Fillmore Detroit Theatre)
2,200 Live Nation Neo-Renaissance C. Howard Crane
Fisher Theatre GrandBoulevardNewCenterDetroit.jpg 1927 3011 West Grand Blvd.
42°22′8.5″N 83°4′36.92″W / 42.369028°N 83.0769222°W / 42.369028; -83.0769222 (Fisher Building)
2,089 Nederlander Art Deco Albert Kahn
Orchestra Hall Max M Fisher Music Center.jpg 1919 3711 Woodward Ave.
42°20′55″N 83°3′33″W / 42.34861°N 83.05917°W / 42.34861; -83.05917 (Orchestra Hall)
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 Motorcitycasinodetroit.jpg 2007 2901 Grand River Ave. 1,800 Novelty, Modern Giffels Inc., NORR Limited
Wilson Theatre Music Hall Detroit.jpg 1928 350 Madison Ave.
42°20′14″N 83°2′46″W / 42.33722°N 83.04611°W / 42.33722; -83.04611 (Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts)
1,700 Kresge Foundation Art Deco facade,
Spanish Renaissance
William E. Kapp, Smith, Hinchman & Grylls
Redford Theatre RedfordTheatreMarquee.jpg 1928 17354 Lahser Ave.
42°25′2″N 83°15′27″W / 42.41722°N 83.25750°W / 42.41722; -83.25750 (Redford Theatre Building)
1,571 Motor City Theater Organ Society Exotic Revival, Japanese motifs Ralph F. Shreive with Verner, Wilheim, and Molby
Majestic Theatre MajesticTheaterDetroit.jpg 1915 4140 Woodward Ave.
42°21′11″N 83°03′37″W / 42.35301°N 83.06031°W / 42.35301; -83.06031 (Majestic Theater)
1,260 Art Deco C. Howard Crane
Riverfront 4 Movie Theatres Rencenwintergarden.jpg 1978 Renaissance Center
42°19′44.38″N 83°2′22.95″W / 42.3289944°N 83.0397083°W / 42.3289944; -83.0397083 (Riverfront 4 Movie Theatres)
1,250 Modern John Portman
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Greektown Casino Theatre Greektownnew2.jpg 2009 555 East Lafayette St. 1,200 Novelty, Modern Rossetti
MGM Grand Detroit Theatre MGMGrand Detroit1.jpg 2007 1777 Third St. 1,200 MGM Mirage Modern SmithGroupJJR
Bonstelle Theatre Temple Beth-El Bonstelle Theater.jpg 1903 3424 Woodward Ave.
42°20′46″N 83°3′25″W / 42.34611°N 83.05694°W / 42.34611; -83.05694 (Bonstelle Theatre)
1,173 Wayne State University Neoclassical Albert Kahn,
C. Howard Crane
Detroit Film Theatre DetroitInstituteoftheArts2010B.jpg 1927 5201 Woodward Ave.
42°21′31″N 83°3′57″W / 42.35861°N 83.06583°W / 42.35861; -83.06583 (Detroit Film Theatre)
1,150 Detroit Institute of Arts Neo-Renaissance Paul Philippe Cret
Senate Theatre Detroit Senate Theater Night.jpg 1926 6424 Michigan Ave.
42°19′52.57″N 83°7′22.02″W / 42.3312694°N 83.1227833°W / 42.3312694; -83.1227833 (Senate Theater)
900 Detroit Theater Organ Society Art Deco Christian W. Brandt
Hilberry Theatre Hilberry Theatre WSU - Detroit Michigan.jpg 1916 4743 Cass Ave. 532 Wayne State University Neoclassical Field, Hinchman and Smith
City Theatre Entrance And Marquee.jpg 2004 2301 Woodward Ave. 500 Olympia Entertainment
Gem Theatre Gem Theatre - Detroit Michigan.jpg 1927 333 Madison St.
42°20′15″N 83°2′47″W / 42.33750°N 83.04639°W / 42.33750; -83.04639 (Century Building and Little Gem Theatre)
450 Italian Renaissance George D. Mason
Century Theatre 1903 333 Madison St.
42°20′15″N 83°2′47″W / 42.33750°N 83.04639°W / 42.33750; -83.04639 (Century Building and Little Gem Theatre)
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 The Players Detroit MI.jpg 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 Bohemian National Home Detroit Michigan.jpg 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
118monroedetroit.jpg 1911 118 Monroe St.
42°19′58″N 83°2′45″W / 42.33278°N 83.04583°W / 42.33278; -83.04583 (National Theatre)
800 Phoenix Properties LLC Baroque-Beaux Arts-Moorish Albert Kahn
United Artists Theatre Building
United Artists Theatre Building.jpg 1928 150 Bagley St. 2,070 Ilitch Holdings Spanish Gothic C. Howard Crane
Vanity Ballroom
Vanity Ballroom Detroit 2010.jpg 1929 1024 Newport St. 2,000 Art Deco Charles N. Agree
Grande Ballroom
Grande Ballroom Detroit 2009.jpg 1928 8952 Grand River Ave. 1,500 Art Deco, Moorish Revival Charles N. Agree
Alger Theater
Alger Theater Detroit.jpg 1935 16541 East Warren Avenue
1,500 Friends of the Alger Theater Art Deco

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