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I believe this to be a picture of the Wurlitzer style “H” organ in the United Artists Theatre.
I was in the theatre in 1979, it really had the appearance of a reto-fit. It was a grind house at the time, the manager humored us and let us see the auditorium.
I have often thought the Chicago Paradise would be a great (digitally created) backdrop for an american version of “Cinema Paradiso”. Film in another Eberson atmospheric and digitally fake the Chicago Paradise proscenium detail.
Brian’s photo link from the chicago historical society is great! My late friend John Seng is playing the Wurlitzer console in That 1960 photo, He told me of that picture—he was engaged to play for a fashon show there, and went to practice, when that photo was taken. John was one of the very best who chose to make music on the Wurlitzer.
I was in the Beacon in 1979, and we were able to play the mighty Wurlitzer, which I found to be the best theatre organ in manhattan—fantastic. The entire console was coated in coca-cola, a horrible sticky mess. The week before a dance troupe was performing there, They came in, “tested” the floor and pronounced it “too slippery”. They sent a lackey out to get 64 oz. (they weren’t 2 liter bottles then)bottles of coke, which they poured out on the stage and raised pit apron. The coke rained on the Wurlitzer console and everything was sticky. I sat on a paper grocery bag so that my pants wouldn’t stick to the bench. Some cretin had climbed down into the large ceiling centerpiece with a white spray bomb (aersol spray paint can) and painted some very rude, large grafitti on the ceiling. I have a photo of that I’ll post someday.
I worked as projectionist at the Studio 4 from 1975-77. It was a small art house that showed mainly foreign films. It’s business went to the newly constructed Maple theatres nearby. The owner/operators also ran the studio north theatre in Ferndale, an adult theatre. The coup-de-grace to the Four was their attempt to change the bill of fare at the Four to porn, something the city of Birmingham would not tolerate (Birmingham is a very upscale community).
The Royal Oak theatre was designed by Rapp and Rapp, it is an excellent example of true art deco (an often mis-used description), with stylized floral relief work and geometric shapes. It is of the “shallow balcony” that many late R&R houses featured. Built for the Knusky Chain, it was part of a suburban Detroit “holy trinity” of like-sized houses, the Birimingham, the Royal Oak and the Redford. They all had identically equipped Barton 3-10 organs, the consoles varied to match the theatre interoirs, and they were sold on the same contract, and had sequential opus numbers. The Royal Oak was operated by the community theatre chain until the mid 70’s. The lobbies suffered from dropped ceilings during this time. The fisrt concert held at the newly re-christened “Royal Oak music theatre” was Maria Muildar, in 1975. Various promoters have operated the theatre as a mainly rock concert venue for the last 30 years. The Barton organ was brought back from the brink of death (it was badly water damaged and thought by some to be beyond salvage) by the local ATOS chapter in 1968, led by crew chief Mert Harris. Many organ/silent film concerts were presented in the Royal Oak by the Motor City ATOS, including two performances of “Queen Kelly” with a personal appearance by it’s star, Gloria Swanson. The theatre changed hands again, and in the early 90’s the organ was “evicted” by the owners, who felt it didn’t fit in to what they want to do. The outer lobby was wonderfully restored, and the Royal Oak area today is a thriving area of clubs,restaurants, galleries and shops.
The theatre was gutted and remodeled into medical suites. The fire was suspicious in origin, and was thought to have something to do with the labor situation in the booth.
The Center theatre listed above at 6540 Woodward was located South of the Boulevard (west-east grand blvd), and was converted to retail space in the late 40’s. The Regent theatre @ 7314 Woodward was renamed the “Center” in 1961, and retained that name until it was demolished in 1975. The two theatres were only a few blocks apart, and both were named “center” as they were located in what is still called the new center area of Detroit.
The fires that doomed the Calvin were very suspicious in nature, and there was rumor that the city wasn’t exactly disinterested in the theatre’s demise. I was in the Calvin in ‘78, it was a nice house, a little dirty and funky (they all were back then) but the building was all there.
The Six mile (aka RKO uptown, six-mile uptown) was nothing like the Oriental/RKO downtown. The Oriental was an atmospheric and the Six mile was a hardtop, somewhat plain “classical” styling. The Six-mile was HUGE, and had fantastic acoustics. John Muri recorded a landmark album on the Six mile Wurlitzer.
I was wrong in the figure I quoted for what Henry Przybylski paid for the Hollywood Barton—It was $3,151.51, still a stragetic sum. Hank’s son Michael corrected me.
The Gem looks so much better over on Madison since the move. It looks like it’s always been there. Chuck did the city a huge favor in saving the State, and Gem, and kept the Fox intact during his ownership.
The Alhambra WAS, and had been a recording studio (Artie Fields productions) when I was there in 1975 (the mid 70’s) I would guess the studio took over the theatre in the mid to late 60’s. There were stud frame walls dividing the lobby areas into the studios, and the auditorium was one huge echo chamber and tape library. The place was positively ancient backstage—the switchboard looked like 1900, not 1915, and the rigging was a true all-rope pinrail. All gone now.
SNWEB-we did indeed take two Simplex XL projection and sound heads from the Michigan booth in March of 1977. We also took a very large DC arc rectifier. We left everything else. the Brenkert spotlights, the simplex bases, all of the audio and changeover gear, the Paramount television reproducer—we left all of that, and only took what was of value, the Simplex heads. That in essence is the booth. The Michigan has enjoyed much chat on Detroityes.com of late, many dreamers wanting to “put it all back”, a project so unrealistic in scope that you couldn’t print enough money to contemplate it.
The Civic is the nearest “real theatre” near my home (3 miles) and is a treasure the city of Farmington had the foresight to step in and save. My wife and I like to take our kids there and see second run fare at reasonable prices. Long may her neon marquee blaze!
Buster, You probably heard me playing before “Lawrence of Arabia” that was the summer of ‘89 and I was playing 4-5 nights a week. We set a retro house record of 4880 patrons for one show!. The projectors are still very much in place at the Fox, although not much in the way of films is going on. They are used for the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show, to project the “One solitary life” text on the scrim, and a hokey “Santa flying over Manhattan” thing. The machines at the Fox are Cinemamechanica 35/70’s, they were installed in '89 right before the “Lawrence” showings. They replaced Simplex XL’s. The Fox booth is so huge it defies description. I played for many “Ben Hur” shows, but my good friend Tony O'Brien played the night of the Charlton Heston premier.
The Graduate screened exclusively at the Redford Theater in Detroit for the first several weeks. I don’t know of any pics that are as you wish, but can look around town.
Now this is a travesty on par with the gutting of the Michigan in Detroit. The amateur Thee-ahhh-tahhh wonks who did this should have put up a bunch of metal studs and drywall in some old warehouse, painted it black, put in some seats, hang lighting instruments everywhere and called it good rather than what they did to the Indiana. I drove by during the carnage, and was appalled to see the wonderful Peter Clark pit lift mechanisims torn out, laying on the ground, about to converted into $17/ton scrap. I hope there is a special community theater in Hell for these folks, and they have to rehearse and perform Rogers and Hammerstein for eternity.
I was in the Fischer in 1979, passing through town, A friend and I talked our way in. Nice small town theatre. 2 manual Robert Morton theatre pipe organ was still there, We did not see the chambers to know if it was complete.
The Center theatre had a single console Wurlitzer organ of 4 manuals, 34 ranks. Radio City Music Hall has the two-console organ. The Center Wurlitzer had an Art Deco style console, not unlike RCMH, but had a rosewood veneer natural finish rather than the “Steinway Black” of RCMH. The organ was removed in the early 1950’s and was installed in a roller skating rink in Alexandra, VA, where it remained for years. It was installed “unenclosed”, meaning the pipes were out in the open, not enclosed in a chamber as is normal theatre organ practice. This made it LOUD for the skaters. It was removed in the late 70’s-early 80’s and sold to a collector in Phoenix, AZ. The instrument was broken up some time after that, and the console is now in the Berkley community auditorium, in Berkley, CA—controling a spectacular instrument based on the Toledo, OH, Paramount Wurlitzer, with choice Wurlitzer ranks added. The BCH is a “depression modern” auditorium, and the Center console fits that interior to a “T”.
Keith, that record is a real collectors item today. It was on a private label (I don’t even remember what the label name was) but it was Ed Gress' own label. He was from Detroit, moved to Boston in the late 50’s and became a respected builder/designer of church and concert organs. Funny thing about that album—he was young when he recorded that disc, and played every song in the key of C! nice arrangements, though. After he moved to Boston an eminent professor of organ (who was a theatre organist in the 20’s) heard him play, and Ed wanted to know what he thought of his playing. He replied that his style was good, but that there were 11 other keys that a song could be played in, and it might make his playing more enjoyable. Ed dug right in and studied all twelve keys, modulations between them, etc. and became very proficient in them.
I have only ever seen one copy of that album, a friend lent it to me in 1975, I made a really bad cassette copy and returned it. Good luck. John
It was no big deal—a short in the neon secondary started a small smoldering fire. DFD came right away and took care of it.
Apparently—I trust Bryan Krefft, his information is usually solid. This would have limited the Hollwood to B-grade fare during the crucial post-television era where innovations like Widescreen (cinemascope) and 4 channel mag sound were in all the big houses—that showed all the big features. I still think that the Hollywood’s location was unfortunate, and that if they had built along Woodward, or perhaps Bagley they would have had so much more traffic. Given Detroit’s average, it might still be there if that were the case. There must have been a point reached sometime where the smaller audiences due to location affected the quality of product they could afford, which caused less attendance—a downward spiral.
The Hollywood was a fantastic theatre built in the wrong part of town. The developers (Ben & Lou Cohen) obviously were trying to escape high land costs in the central downtown area (where all the people and theatres are!) and instead built west of downtown in a highly industrial area. The business there never was what they had hoped, and the Hollwood limped along until the late 50’s. I'ts Barton organ was thought by the 20’s organists to be the second best theatre organ in Detroit, behind the Wurlitzer in the Broadway-Capitol. It is one of three of the largest “stock model” Bartons. Detroit theatre organ enthusast Roger Mumbrue played the Hollywood Barton many times over a 4 year period, and attests to it’s quality. The Late Henry Przybylski purchased the organ in a sealed bid auction (for $3551.51—a stratigic sum) before the theatre was demolished. It sat in storage in his basement, attic and garage for decades before being purchased from his widow. It is now owned by a private individual who wants to restore it and install it into a public venue. Henry took an amazing set of slides of the demolition of the Hollywood. I have seen his narrated show twice, and almost feel as though I have been there. The demolition was so problem ridden that it drove the first two contractors broke.