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The resident orchestra of any movie palace was just that, they had no civic affiliation, it was a work-a-day job, and a good paying one at that.
Oops, forgot the link:
Just a note of correction about the identity of the organist in the photo that appears in Ben Hall’s “Best Remaining Seats” Ben had that photo, really wanted to use it for the book, but had no idea who that was seated at the Kilgen console. At the time the book was published there were two LPs released of a mysterious organist “Georges Montalba” “recorded in Nice France”. These records were made by Pianist/Organist/Arranger Bob Hunter, and were recorded at the Lorin Whitney Studios in Glendale California. I suspect Hunter was under contract with some other label and could not record under his own name, the record company put a little ballywho and BS into the labeling and marketing of the discs and off to market they went.
Ben was a pretty witty guy, loved jokes and couldn’t resist using that name for this unidentified organist from long ago.
Here is a great article about Bob Hunter, and the whole “Georges Montalba” mystery.
it is no secret that the chains overbuilt in the 1920s and as soon as the depression happened the market started sorting out which theatres were truly needed, by virtue of placement (location) and which were superfluous. In Detroit the number of theatres that closed in 1949-‘51 was very telling, I’m sure a similar shakedown occurred in Chicago.
Terry, I don’t know if you knew this, but the Indiana was gutted and turned into two black-box nothingness auditoriums by a community thee-ahhh-tah group about 30 years ago. The exterior of the building still is impressive, and the ballroom is still nice, but the auditorium is history, gone.
Hey, I just found this again, sorry for the long lag—Thank you for your kind words re: my performance on “Prairie Home Companion”, it was a blast to be a part of, even if I didn’t get the gig until Friday morning! I work well under pressure, and Mr. Keillor, Rich Dworsky and the staff were wonderful to work for. To answer some questions, Bob Jensen, good info there, mostly accurate. It had been a habit to call those 4-36 organs either “Fox specials” or “Crawford specials” and it turns out that those terms are nomenclature that organ enthusiasts developed, the factory referred to them as “4-36 specials” The first one went to the Paramount theatre in NYC, they weren’t called “Paramount specials”. Crawford himself refuted the claim that he designed that model, he stated that it was designed by someone at the factory and that he simply asked for certain stops, which they obliged. I played that performance on PHC from the slave console, which is located in the balcony colonnade, a half a city block and 35 feet up from center stage, where the guy’s all-star shoe band was playing! thanks to a wireless headset feeding me the show mix, we were all together. The Detroit Fox Wurlitzer is remarkably unchanged and intact, not visited by “Midnight Organ supply” in the least. The Moller lobby organ gets used far more often than the Wurlitzer in the auditorium, we play that for a lot of shows. It is in great condition, thanks to roger Mumbrue and Dick Smith, the men who care for both organs. In terms of recordings made on the Detroit Fox Wurlitzer, There is the Reginald Foort 10" disc on the Cook label from 1952, Ed Gress on the Prescott(?-senior moment)label from 1957, Ray Shelley 1960 Columbia LP, Don Thompson’s Pipe organ presentations LP from the 1980s and Simon Gledhill’s CD from 1995.
I am contemplating making a CD there, possibly this summer.
The P&A (as originally built) had a Wurlitzer theater pipe organ built in North Tonawanda, New York (USA), their opus #1205, not Germany as written above. The theatre was not built as an Opera house, it was a common, run of the mill Movie/Vaudeville house very common in the pre-talking picture days. The Wurlitzer was bought and removed in the early 50s by Jack Domer, parts of it are still playing
in a local (Detroit area) home installation. The console is currently for sale by the Detroit Theatre Organ Society, although it has been extensively modified to be a three manual console of unusually ugly proportions and appearance.
the boards covering the marquee attraction panels have some off, you can see the later enameled panels from when the building was a bowling alley now. It’s abandoned, and like everything else in the area, is probably picked clean of any metal.
Great news, My wife and i like taking our kids there.
Movie posters are sought-after collector’s items. I suggest you search Ebay.
Correction to the above misstatements: The theater was built as the Baldwin in 1922, it opened and held that name until 1936, when it was renamed the Washington, for the street the entrance was located on.
The lobby was a long, narrow “shooting gallery” sort of room that went from the entrance on Washington street and went and went until you entered the back of the auditorium half a block later.
The theater was in imminent danger of being demolished in the early 80s, it had closed after an independent operator shut down a very nicely programmed classic movie schedule there and several fires of suspicious origin occurred within the theater. The former Kresge store to the north of the lobby space caught fire as well, the store and lobby were demolished around 1984.
Enter Stagecrafters, a local drama group. They convinced the city officials to back off of their pro-demolition stance and allow Stagecrafters to purchase the theater. This happened in 1985, the group restored/remodeled the interior of the theater to meet their needs. It was renamed the Baldwin again at that time. The rear of the main floor has two raised areas as lobby space,this was a big job using poured concrete. Two additions were built onto the building along the north side, a workshop at the west end, a three story addition on the est side that contains a social kitchen, offices and rehearsal space, a stairwell feeding those floors as well as a handicapped accessible elevator.
The main auditorium is much smaller in seating area, them auditorium now seats around 375 people. The balcony has been re-purposed into a smaller “black box” theater where the group performs plays that are more contemporary or experimental in nature.
another addition was built along the north side of the building, connecting the earlier additions, an office and box office occupies the entrance level of this structure, another construction shop that also is storage for set pieces is above that.
The Wurlitzer (4 manual 26 rank)that was in the Metropolitan was removed in the early 70s, it was purchased by a group from Portand Oregon who operated a theatre organ-equipped pizza parlor there, the “Organ Grinder”. The Boston Met console was added to their existing organ, the core of which came from the Portland Oriental theatre (3-13 Wurlitzer), as did select ranks of pipes, the remaining pipes were sold off piecemeal, breaking up the original organ. After the restaurant closed in 1996 the 44 rank colossus was sold to a Chicago interest who broke it up for parts, the console is now back in the Boston area controlling a fine instrument at the Shanklin conference center, adjacent to the Shanklin Corporation’s plant.
Royal Oak would be a good location for this, but parking is always a problem there, I wonder if they have addressed that in their planning?
Bob was a treasure to our community of theatre organists. One correction however: Rosa Rio is still wonderfully active playing for silent films, mainly in Tampa FL. She celebrated her 106th birthday reciently.
the forces of development usually find a way around these things, if they want something gone, it usually happens. These things are passed, but rarely have any teeth, a building is demo'ed against a court-ordered stay and no one goes to jail, or has a day in court.
The Indiana was always Known as the Indiana theatre, the name “Publix” refers to the Paramount-Publix franchise, which this theatre was a part of. This was before the federal government anti-trust action, which eneded the studios' ability to own the theatres in which their products were shown. Several theatres in Detroit were Publix houses, the local franchise there was owned by the Kunsky chain. Another local firm in Indy no doubt held the franchise for that city/area.
well, I’m going to go ahead and disagree with that statement, the theatre was last used in 1988, and sat vacant and unused. Ilitch bought it in the mid 90s, and it was probably well on its way to being a wreck by then. I have said repeatedly that if you are going to save a theatre you have to use a theatre, and in our city, with all of the fine theatres that have been saved there was no obvious market for the Adams. The place was kind of plain when new, cobbled in the 1940s in an attempt to modernize, the exterior got the Community theatres “shiny stone wall” treatment like they gave the Redford, both in 1963 and I’m afraid that If an old theatre was going to go, this one was the best candidate. I fear the United Artists is next, and there isn’t enough money anywhere to save that one, and again, how is it going to be used, to earn its way. The UA was much more impressive than the Adams, but that poor place never stood a chance after AAA (auto insurance co.) stripped the theatre as they were building their surburban office center the would move to, vacating the UA building.
The Grand River Drive in was run by the Goldberg family’s Community theatres chain. I had my first job at the Grand River DI, at which I failed misrably!
The Towne had a very unusual archetectural feature- there were steel beams that formed a sort of “Y” shape on the exterior of the building, with common brick inbetwwen and surrounding the steel “y"s. I saw several movies there, "Big top Pee Wee” being very memorable. I was one of three people in the theatre!
I believe the Towne was built by the Sloan family for their Suburban Detroit chain, AMC bought them out in the 80s.
I worked as a projectionist at the summit in 1977 for the retro showing of 2001. Some of my fellow projectionist friends and I went to see the showing, were not impressed with the projection quality, the picture went off screen three times, there were sound system issues and the there were pieces of electrician’s tape on the film to mark splices. We talked to the entrepreneur who was subletting the theatre for this showing and ended up with the job! We were able to present seamless shows, in focus, with good sound in short order. The run was from mid July to late August that summer. The guy we worked for would come into the booth at intermission and smoke a joint then go sit in the seats to watch the light show sequence.
Near the end of the run it was announced that the building was going to be demolished that fall, the owners wanted to take down the theatre and leave the attached office building, a consulting engineer told them that wasn’t feasible, that the office building north wall would collapse when the theatre was taken down. The building (Commerce building) was full of quality tenants; UPI and AP had their Detroit offices there, as did “Kelley girl” and other good firms. They were all sent elsewhere and the building was demoed. During the demo process they discovered that the consulting engineer was wrong, the office building stood on its own just fine after the theatre came down, but it was too late. We began negotiating the acquisition of the Norelco AA-II projectors in the Summit for the Redford theatre in northwest Detroit. During that negation period the Star Wars 70 MM mini-renaissance began, making the booth more valuable. It looked like a guy from California was going to get the booth, but the owners stayed in negations for so long they were up against the demolition of the building and the party from California couldn’t get back to take the booth out. We got it, and removed it in early October 1977. We were allowed to take anything else we wanted in the building, we took new electrical service panels that had been recently installed in the UPI offices, and a new suspended ceiling from the Kelley Girl offices. All of these items went into the re-working of the Redford booth. Our only real expense was wire to hook everything up.
The Summit was a classy house, it had been built and used as the Cass theatre, one of Detroit’s legitimate stage houses, and it lost that honor with the reopening of the remodeled Fisher in the new center area. Even after it was converted to Cinerama the wood paneled lobbies and marble foyer were beautiful. The auditorium was covered in Pepto-Bismol pink drapes and the woodwork was painted to match. I was at the DuMochelle auction; the big chandelier went for $6,000.
The DTOS has listed the Senate theatre for sale with a commercial realtor. The group is looking for a new home for the Fisher Wurlitzer in the Detroit area.
that should read “last” depression!
Just like the lsdt depression
I played a concert on the RKO Palace Wurlitzer in the Auditorium theatre last December. It is one of the best wurlitzer theatre organs you will ever hear.
That would be about right. It was a small single screen theatre.