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Sadly, the Quo Vadis is no more.
I see from the aerial photo that this DI was built in the less common style of double ramps.
While parking would be just one of many issues that the Uptown faces, the one that is probably the biggest is the the lack of dock space for the loading and unloading of shows. The stagehouse is parallel to Lawrence Ave, with only the sidewalk between the back wall of the theater and the street. Most traveling shows today travel with many, many semi trucks loaded with scenery, costumes etc. The street that runs behind the theater (N Magnolia) is just a residential side street and would be less than ideal to unload trucks on. And the parking lot behind, while it is fairly large, would be difficult to use during the winter months, imagine unloading “Phantom of the Opera” in a Chicago snowstorm and having to wheel everything across N Magnolia!
The Cinema theater across from the Fox has had many names and product:
The Little Theatre (1928 – 1932) Foreign Films
Rivoli (1932-1934) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Drury Lane (Jan 1935 – April 1935) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Europa (Sept 1935-Jan 1936) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Cinema (1936-1959) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Vanguard Playhouse (1960-1964) / Professional Live Theatre
Gem Theatre (1967 – 1978) Adult Movie Theatre
Closed 1978 – 1991
The Little Gem Theatre (1991 – Present) Professional Live Theatre
In 1997 the Gem theater was moved to make way for the construction of Comerica Park. The building was moved 1850 feet to the corner of Madison and Brush. It holds the Guiness Book of World Records for the heaviest building ever moved on wheels.
Let me update a couple of things, in the photo of the Masonic Temple Building and the Delaware Building, posted on 11/13/03 by Brian Krefft, the Delaware Building origianlly extended one window bay to the east. The Iroquois theater was then next to the Delaware. The Delaware lost that window bay when the Masonic Temple was built. Second, when the Oriental Theater was renovated in the 1990’s the stagehouse was expanded into the old Oliver Typewriter Building, which was behind the Oriental Theater and just to the north of the Delaware Building. Most of the Oliver Typewriter building was destroyed, the cast-iron facade was retained. Lastly, the chandliers that are currently in the lobby of the Oriental originally hung in front of the organ screens in the auditorium. During the Oriental’s renovation, I was working very near to the theater and used to sneak into the building during my lunch hour. (And usually got caught and ‘asked’ to leave.)
I was able to take a tour of the Lake Theater several years ago, and according to the owner of the theater, when the auditorium was triplexed; they did it in such a way that should they ever want to go back to a single screen it would be possible. All the Art Deco wall panels that were removed to for the two additional screens were carefully taken down and stored to future use. And very little damage was done to the plaster ceiling as well.
One other thing, if any has seen Home Alone 2, you might just recognize that the toy store in the film was actually the lobby of the Uptown!
While I agree that the Uptown is one of the most spectacular theaters ever built, there is one major obstacle(in addition to the above mentioned problems) to restoration of the theater. If, when you pass by the theater take just a moment and check out how the theater is sited on its lot. The back wall to the stagehouse is parallel to Lawrence Ave. There is not loading dock, nor anywhere to place one. This one detail is one of the major stumbling blocks to finding any use for the theater. Live theatrical performances (Phantom of the Opera travels with about 30 semis) or performers that would be able to fill a theater the size of the Uptown travel with large amount of sets, props, costumes, etc. The simple truth is that it would very difficult for any show coming in to park a number of semi trailers on either Lawrence or the street behind the theater(Magnolia?)and unload/load. Now if someone can solve that problem, the theater might just have a chance.
This theater was a single screen theater until 1982 when a second screen was added. There were plans to add a third screen that were never followed up on. The drive in was successful until the it closed in 1985. However as was the case with most drive ins the Algiers was originally built out in the country and the suburbs gradually expanded around it. As the area built up, property taxes also increased until the taxes on the 20+ acres that the drive in occupied were more than the net income the theater generated.
The Algiers Drive In was not the first drive in built by the Wayne Amusement Company. That honor goes to the Wayne Drive In, which opened in 1949. Also, the screen wasn’t 216'; it was 120' wide and from the ground to the top of the screen tower it was 80' high with the actual screen height of 60'. Lastly, the Quo Vadis was developed mostly on the land that the exit driveway for the drive occupied. A few spaces were lost on the western ends of the ramps for the theater also, but the drive in added 7 ramps in the back of the field to make up for the loss.