Midtown Theater

123 Pearl Street NW,
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

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Midtown Theater

Opened on May 12, 1874 as Powers Opera House, it was designed by Chicago based architect Oscar Cobb. By the 1940’s it was screening movies, known as Powers Theater. In 1892 it was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt and re-opened in 1893. In 1895 it was renamed New Powers Theater. In November 1901 another fire badly damaged the building and it was rebuilt, to reopen in 1902. It operated successfully as a playhouse until the early-1940’s when it was more dark than open.

It was taken over by John D. Loeks and on November 1, 1944 it was renamed Foto News Theatre and began its career as a movie theatre, initially as a newsreel theatre. It was remodeled in 1948 and was renamed Midtown Theater. It closed on September 20, 1972 and was demolished in 1978 as part of a downtown redevelopment.

Contributed by Lost Memory, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on December 6, 2007 at 10:52 am

Here is a 19th century view of Powers Opera House:
http://tinyurl.com/2e9ysv

WinslowJR
WinslowJR on August 28, 2010 at 9:48 pm

“Here is a 19th century view of Powers Opera House: http://tinyurl.com/2e9ysv"
Actually the photo on that site is mislabeled. The facade shown was redesigned in 1914 and the photo should be noted circa 1915. By that date it was know as "Powers Theatre.”

The original building broke ground in 1873 and opened Tue 12 May 1874 as the Powers Grand Opera House.

In 1871 while Edwin Booth’s was playing Luce Hall, Grand Rapids, he learned William Thompson Powers was intending to build an opera house, and before leaving town he wrote a long letter which set forth what was desirable in erecting a structure of that kind. Edwin told him that particular attention should be paid to acoustics, that the seats should be that everyone in the house should have a complete view of the stage, and many other attention to details. Edwin referred Powers to the architect firm of Oscar Cobb and Son, leading architects in Chicago. Powers and the architect toured the great opera houses of Chicago and decided it should be patterned after the new (1871â€"72) McVicker’s Opera House.

WinslowJR
WinslowJR on August 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Midtown (Powers) Theatre Historical Timeline
1871 â€" Edwin Booth learns William T. Powers intends to build opera house and gives suggestions
1873 â€" Construction Begins designed by Oscar Cobb & Son of Chicago after McVicker’s Theatre

1874 â€" Tue 12 May the Grand Opening Celebration with McVicker’s Theatrical Company

1883 â€" The theatre floor is lowered, adding a third balcony gallery

1891 â€" A rounded front is added to the main entrance
1892 â€" Saturday 11 June fire engulfs the grand opera house. The business offices and residences are spared.
1893 â€" The theatre interior is entirely rebuilt
1895 â€" Name is advertised to New Powers Theatre
1901 â€" Wednesday 13 November a fire kills one man from smoke inhalation and overcomes a few others. The business offices and residences are once again spared.
1902 â€" The fire forced it’s rebuilding

1914 â€" Old facade is removed and a new facade and additional office space added. The entrance may have received a less rounded front.

1923 â€" Monday 23 April; William H. Wright’s Stock Company begins their 5 year Grand Rapids engagement at Powers Theatre as Broadway Players

1926 â€" William H. Wright returns with his stock company renaming it Wright Players
1928 â€" In the March 1928 Wright Players leave Grand Rapids after a 5 year engagement in Grand Rapids. They arrive in Flint, Michigan for an early Spring/Summer Stock.

1932 â€" William H. Wright returns with his stock company Wright Players after a 3 year absence
1944 â€" Jack Loeks leases the Powers and shows news reels renaming it; Foto News. He soon buys Powers Theatre.

1948 â€" Loeks renames it; Midtown Theatre, where first run feature films are shown, but he is sued by Hollyood Studios, and wins his case for all independent theatre owners.
1966 â€" Jack Loeks remodels the interior after 1890s with new red velvet chairs from American Seating and teardrop curtain.

1976 â€" The Midtown Theatre closes its doors for good.

1976 â€" The Civic Players considers buying the Powers Theatre for their home
1977 â€" The Civic Players settle on purchasing the Majestic Theatre on North Division Street.
1978 â€" mid-Dec the demolition had begun taking about three weeks to gut the interior.

1979 â€" The once great Powers Theatre experiences the wrecking ball

Still researching and adding to the timelime. I am a GG grandnephew of William Thompson Powers.

JAlex
JAlex on July 26, 2012 at 2:32 pm

“Blow Up” and “The Boston Strangler” were two films I saw here during my Michigan years.

Ron Pierce
Ron Pierce on October 24, 2019 at 11:29 pm

AKA Foto News. (See the news clip in the photo section from Film Daily noting the opening November 1, 1944, by John Loeks). The Midtown Theatre closed September 20, 1972.

Here is what Rapid Growth a local media outlet says:

”In 1944, Jack Loeks opened the Foto News Theatre at 123 Pearl St. NW in the former Powers Opera House. Showing only wartime newsreels due to a monopoly on film distribution, Loeks took part in a lawsuit that rendered this practice illegal by the Supreme Court in 1948. From 1948 to 1972, freed from this monopoly, the newly named Midtown Theatre was downtown GR’s destination for cinephiles".

According to HistoryGrandRapids.org., a site run by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission, it is ”Remembered for running The Sound of Music for over a year in the mid-1960’s, the theater closed Wednesday, September 20, 1972.’

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