Historic Movie Theatres of Michigan, The Sequel

Just like any other financially successful movie, here comes a sequel. This sequel however, will not have the same characters. It will have the same plot (historic movie theatres) and a new setting (new theatres). Before the corona crisis I was planning on going to more theatres, so there will be another sequel in the pipeline eventually. Many of the historic theatres in this sequel have taken on a new life as something else, an interesting twist for any sequel. Leave your house virtually and take a break from Netflix.

Phoenix Theatres, State Wayne

Back in February I saw my last movie in a theatre at the State Theater in downtown Wayne before the Corona Crisis. I made the trip to see Sonic the Hedgehog. After seeing the historic marquee, the next thing you will notice as you park your car, there is a large mural of the history of the city of Wayne on the side of the building. Come in under the lights of the marquee and buy your ticket at the concession stand. The concession prices are the same as any modern movie theatre. Find your seat, a large, leather, heated power recliner chair and enjoy the show. In front of the screen, is a small stage and one wall of the theatre has a large dragon painted on it in glow-in-the-dark paint. The State Theatre opened in 1946 as a single theatre but was later broken up into 4 theatres. See first run movies with a mid-20th century flair.

Lobby Mural
Mural of the History of Wayne, Michigan

Harpos Concert Theatre

When driving on Detroit’s eastside on I-94, it is hard to miss Harpo’s iconic 80-foot-tall vertical marquee. Today, Harpo’s is a concert venue for heavy metal and hip-hop that has seen many icons come through its doors, like; Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Snoop Dogg and LL Cool J. Opened in 1939 as the Harper Theatre it was transformed into a nightclub in 1974. The Art Moderne style is still preserved today.

Alger Theater

            Located at the corner of Warren and Outer Drive on Detroit’s east side, not too far from Harpos. the Alger Theater is one of two intact and unchanged neighborhood movie theatres in Detroit (the other being the Redford Theatre). Built in 1935 in the Art Moderne style, the theatre originally held 1182 movie goers. The theatre closed for the first time in 1981 as the neighborhood around it declined. It reopened in 1984 to show B movies but was closed within a year. In 1986 the theater was purchased by The Friends of the Alger Theater organization, who have since been working to restore it. In 2005, the Alger Theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it is used for community events and people can pay to put messages on the marquee. It appears the theater needs some work to return it to its former glory.

Clawson Theatre

Opened in 1941, the Clawson Theatre had a 20-year run as a movie theater. Since 1961, the building has had numerous uses. It has been used for light industry, a café, a custom frame shop, and a furniture showroom. Because of these different uses, the original marquee has since been removed. However, in 2015 an exact replica of the marquee was installed on the building. Today the theatre is home to the Three Cats restaurant.

Berkley Theatre

            The Berkley Theatre opened in 1940 with its iconic tall vertical marquee. It was designed in the Art Moderne style with 851 seats. In the 1970’s the theatre switched to second-run films. The theatre closed for good in 1999. Today the marquee remains on the building, but the interior of the building has been absorbed into the neighboring stores.  


Telenews Theatre

            Located in downtown Detroit, the Telenews Theatre opened in 1942, this theatre would show newsreels, especially updates from World War II during the first few years of its existence. The theatre was designed in the Streamline style and included a large globe on top of the theatre (no longer there). With the rise of television news, news-reel theatres were no longer needed and the theatre closed for the first time in the 1960’s. Reopening in 1971 as the Plaza Theatre, the theater showed mostly adult films until its close in 1987. The theatre opened again in 1988 as the Tele-arts Theater, showing art and foreign films until its close in 1991. Since 2000, the theatre has been home to the nightclub Bleu. Today, the Streamline style is still visible after all these years.  

Categories: UncategorizedTags: , , , , , ,


  1. This post has such a nostalgic feel! I really like it 🙂 Thanks for sharing.


  2. Great post! I didn’t know about most of these theatres . When I was a kid , we used to see movies at the Berkley .


  3. Great article . I didn’t know about most of these theatres. As kids we used to see movies at the Berkley.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: