United Artists Theater

150 Bagley Street,
Detroit, MI 48226

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Showing 26 - 50 of 61 comments

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 17, 2006 at 1:40 pm

Great news about the Fox. Reading between the lines of that press release, I get the idea that the UA is going to come down but that they are considering reuse options for the Adams. SNWEB’s pictures seem to back that view up in that the Adams appears to be more substantially intact.

SNWEB: your pictures are fascinating. But you should think twice about going into these half-crumbled buildings. When I was younger I made trips like that and consider it only luck that I didn’t get my ass kicked any number of ways (homeless person, security guard, gang member with weapons, falling plaster, tripping and falling down a staircase in the dark, happening upon spilled hazardous materials and getting sick). There was a photographer like you in Chicago some years ago. I think his name was Richard Nickel but I am not sure. He went into the old stock exchange when it was in the process of being demolished. A wall must have collapsed on top of the guy because he was never seen again.

sdoerr on January 12, 2006 at 5:38 am

A gate has been put up around the building as well as two huge mutlistory banners advertising a development oppurtunity.

Today Ilitch had a press conference that included the United Artists, Fine Arts Building, Fox Theater, and former Madison-Lenox Site and Detroit Building.

Full press release here.

Pics are under Media Room>Photo Gallery

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 10, 2006 at 6:41 pm

SNWEB: you have balls for going into this building and taking pictures. I think you could have been killed…by crack heads if not the falling plaster.

sdoerr on January 3, 2006 at 7:28 am

Can’t forget about the Cinema Treasures book aslo, EdSolero!

The owner of the Michigan Theater was kind enough to give me a copy of the Theater Society Annual from 95'. It has some great pics never seen before.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 3, 2006 at 6:48 am

Thanks for following up on my query, guys! I’ll have to look for that Naylor book. For my X-mas present, my better half found a used copy of Hall’s out of print “Best Remaining Seats.” I’ll have to set my sights on the Naylor book next.

JimRankin on December 26, 2005 at 12:12 am

Yes, it certainly is the MICHIGAN in Detroit, for I doubt there is another theatre so desecrated in all the USA, in that it is now a parking structure, hence the ease of filming a chase scene there. It was a wonderful Rapp & Rapp design, and what you saw were just as you said, portions of the top of the proscenium and side walls; the lower portions were simply torn away to the outer brick walls, and parking decks poured to connect to the columns in the outer walls. On page 181 of “American Picture Palaces” by David Naylor is a photo of what you saw, with even a piece of the drapery still hanging in shreds in the stagehouse behind where the Grand Drape would have been. The sight almost makes you wish the structure had been razed.

sdoerr on December 25, 2005 at 1:53 pm

Indeed this is a location in Detroit, Ed.

This is the beautiful Michigan Theater here in Detroit. here is my My page and here is the cinema treasures page for it.

My favorite theater of all time, the Michigan has been a cameo for quite a few movies.

Also in “The Island,” right after the Michigan Theater part, Johnny Rockets, the car crash/msn lookup scene, and the clone shoot scene with the angel, were all shot here in Detroit.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 23, 2005 at 5:40 am

This theater has a cameo in the dreadful Michael Bay sci-fi action flick “The Island”, which I nearly fell asleep on last night. A large part of the film takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles that was apparently filmed in Detroit (with digital skyscrapers painted in later to give the appearance of a 22nd Century L.A.). There is a shot during a chase sequence where you can see the marquee and office building facade much as it appears in the photo at the top of this page, only more of a side angle looking straight down Bagley Street.

The chase ends with the vehicles running into what is absolutely an old decrepit theater where the floor looks to have been leveled and concrete poured for use as a parking lot or garage. The upper portion of the proscenium arch and side organ vents are clearly visible. Not sure if this is a location in Detroit… can anyone offer some help in identifying the place?

sdoerr on December 10, 2005 at 12:34 pm

Something is definately going on. Several doors have been installed on Bagley & Clifford to allow contractors through.

The marquee shown in the photo above was dismantled and demolished earlier today.

sdoerr on November 13, 2005 at 6:40 pm

Rumor has it that the UA will be torn down sometime this year. I’ve heard contractors have been in the building in the past month. Time will tell what will happen.

chconnol on June 30, 2005 at 9:37 am

All things change. And in the constant battle for real estate, even a former slum or an area that’s fallen on hard times can be brought back to life.

NYC is a perfect example. There are places now in all five boroughs that 10, 15, 20 years ago were some of the most vile places in the U.S. Now? They’re filled with boutiques, restaurants and sky high rents. It hasn’t been good for the movie palaces though.

sdoerr on June 29, 2005 at 10:52 pm

The theater is located in Downtown Detroit, and basically the area is dead but is slowly being brought back, many nice historical office buildings have been restored into lofts.

The area isn’t bad and it wasn’t in the past. It wasn’t filled with lots of businesses but that is chaning. Crime in the area is not bad, chanced of getting a crime done to you is 1.5 in 10,000

chconnol on June 28, 2005 at 6:35 am

That picture collection is something like a work of photographic art that illustrates not only the demise of a once grand movie palace but of the urban decay and ruin that accompanied it’s demise.

I’ve heard Detroit is bad but my God, it looks like a ghost town. Was/is the theater in a bad neighborhood now? The surrounding areas look completely abandoned. Could be used for a movie about a nuclear war or something.

Very, very sad indeed.

RobertR on June 26, 2005 at 3:36 pm

How sad those pictures are. It does not seem like there is anything to restore even if a proposal came along.

dghmac on June 26, 2005 at 2:19 pm

I am greatly saddened in reading about the current condition of the once magnificent United Artists Theatre in downtown Detroit. I spent hours and hours in my youth there enjoying many 70MM roadshow presentations with family and friends.
Each performance was breathtaking as the house lights would dim while the overture would play and finally, what seemed like miles of gold curtains would open wider and wider always giving a perfect presentation complete with intermission and exit music as we would leave the theatre. No previews of coming attractions, no commericals, just an entire evening (or matinee) of wonderful family entertainment in one of the finest movie palaces ever built. I live in Los Angeles now but some of my most precious memories are of that magnificant movie palace in the great city of Detroit. I only wish I had interior photos as I never did take any….they are all still in my head……but I can still see what a treature the United Artists was and will always be to me.
Douglas Hupp – Los Angeles

sdoerr on April 25, 2005 at 2:57 pm

I now have my pictures of the interior of the UA located here

sdoerr on April 17, 2005 at 2:10 pm

I finally got in to explore the United Artists yesterday,
the auditorium is in a state of ruin. Sadly the theater will be demolished, I’m 99% sure. The office tower is in great shape though.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 7, 2005 at 3:11 pm

Wow…the LA theater is in great shape, judging by the photos on the official web site. Glad to know that one of the three met with a decent fate. I have always thought that the City of Chicago made a mistake in tearing their UA theater down. It was in decent shape, had a great interior, and was of managable size.

sdoerr on February 28, 2005 at 1:34 pm

Ideed there is still the UA located in LA, but sadly Detroit’s was the best of the others including the LA.

My UA Page: http://www.snweb.org

kimel0001 on February 24, 2005 at 10:38 pm

I almost hate to read these sad stories, but fantastic link with interior pics. Thanks Ken.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on February 24, 2005 at 4:55 pm

The link to the United Artists Theatre pages on the Forgotten Detroit website is http://www.forgottendetroit.com/uat/index/html where there are many photos of the sad state this of this once magnificent theatre.

Thankfully, the very similar designed United Artists Theatre in downtown Los Angeles is kept in immaculate condition by the church which operates from it.

kimel0001 on February 24, 2005 at 3:59 pm

Just finished reading about this theatre. What a sad story. Never been to this theatre, but the exterior looks great with nice signage. Am I correct in understanding that it was left unsealed for years before being sealed. What a waste. Sorry to here about this one. Hopefully it’s not lost forever.

JimRankin on February 24, 2005 at 3:55 pm

Mr. Illitch can no doubt afford many, many thousands of dollars in fines, as he awaits the propitious moment to stop paying property taxes if no buyer of the land has stepped forward, and then, like many tens of thousands of other landlords before him, he will abandon the property and let the taxpayers pay for emergency demolition. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will then be spent by the city for a safe demolition, and placed on the property tax bill as a lein upon the next buyer of the land. Then, years from now, when a new land broker is interested, he will seidel up to the politicians and offer to purchse the land from the city provided they give him tax moratoriums, credits for site improvements, waivers of environmental regulations, and forgiveness of any and all leins on the property — and the city will desperately and cravenly agree to all this, thus making the taxpayrs pay twice over for the sins of the previous owners! It’s all called Free Enterprise or what our grandfathers would have called Corruption.

sdoerr on February 24, 2005 at 3:39 pm

4 tickets have appeared on the UA Doors! It’s about time Ilitch is finded for the damage he’s done to the poor thing!
I heard the tickets total a few thousand $$

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 19, 2005 at 5:16 pm

I have seen interior pictures of this theater on a site called Forgotten Detroit. It is in ruins…and the term is not used lightly. I cannot believe that anyone will put forth the gigantic investment necessary to restore it.

Sad to say…I think this one is a lost cause.

That being the case, a city with something like the Fox Theater can only complain so much.