Eastown Theatre

8041 Harper Avenue,
Detroit, MI 48213

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Eastown Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Eastown Theatre was one of Detroit’s great neighborhood theaters. It opened originally in 1930 for the Wisper-Wetsman Theaters circuit. It was mainly a movie house, though it did have a small stage and did occasionally host stage shows as well in its early years.

Its decor was a mixture of Renaissance Revival styles, including Spanish and Italian with Baroque and Neo-Classic elements as well. The auditorium, which included a large balcony, originally sat just under 2,500. It was designed by the firm of V.J. Waier & Co.

Though the Eastown Theatre closed as a movie house during the mid-1960’s, its second life was just beginning, for which it would be much better known, as one of Detroit’s premiere rock venues.

Beginning in 1969, the list of performers on the Eastown’s stage reads like a who’s-who of rock and roll of that era. Alice Cooper, the Doors, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Seger, Jethro Tull and the Grateful Dead are just a few of the bands who played here between 1969 and 1973.

It was forced to shut down in 1973 by the city of Detroit, cited for failing to meet health and safety codes. In 1975, it reopened as a jazz venue, which remained in operation for about a year. After this, it was used for a short time for performing arts and live theater, but again closed down.

In 1980, the Eastown Theatre began to show adult films under a new name, the Showcase Theatre, but closed again in 1984. From 1984 until 1990, the Eastown Theatre was again home to a performing arts group.

During the mid-90s, the Eastown Theatre hosted raves, and later housed a church. Today, the building is unused.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 38 comments)

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm

A picture from “Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins” by Dan Austin: View link

sdoerr
sdoerr on October 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I was the photographer for that shot (as well as the entire book)

The Eastown is quite beautiful and definitely restorable (but sadly the neighborhood dooms it)

The apartment section is what burned in the fire and thanks to great building practices when it was built, the fire wall stopped any damage from occurring to the theater section.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 11, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Great shot, SN. However, your picture of the auditorium of the United Artists brought tears to my eyes.

shadowsandrust
shadowsandrust on November 20, 2010 at 7:48 am

I was fortunate enough to get to see the Eastown in Spring, 2009. Unfortunately I only got a few good pictures, have left my tripod in the car. In front of the stage were several filthy mattresses, used by the local junkies when they shot up. There were rooms in the basement I would have liked to have seen, but an ignored broken pipe was dumping gallons of water down there and it was already several feet deep.

Climbing the stairs backstage, we found the dressing room, costumes still hanging and some old props, all covered in mildew and mold. Inside the projectionist booth there were still bits of spliced film on the floor. The ornate decorations were crumbling, much of the plaster damaged by water, part of the ceiling in the upper balcony had caved in, and it was obvious that it was not long for the world. The pictures I did get can be seen here: View link

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on November 22, 2010 at 10:56 am

Flickr photos. The future does not look bright:

View link

MiltonSmith
MiltonSmith on November 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Doesn’t look like there is anything there worth saving, unfortunately, its a gutted-out trash heap…

Morgan_White
Morgan_White on October 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Today I visited the Eastown with a friend. The theatre is wide open, and is easily accessible, though it does reside in a bit of a rough part of town. We took a chance and ventured in. Boy, what a sight! It’s in terrible shape, but has a very interesting aura to it. You can feel the space, and the people who went to it. I filmed a bunch of footage on my DSLR, and will cut together a piece to show.

Morgan_White
Morgan_White on October 11, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Hi All. Check out the footage I shot inside the Eastown on Oct. 9th, 2011. http://www.vimeo.com/30399224

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on March 25, 2013 at 6:45 am

I recently photographed the Eastown. Check out the images here.

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