Adams Theater

44 Adams Avenue West,
Detroit, MI 48226

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Main Auditorium - 2007

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened in 1917 inside the Fine Arts Building, the Adams Theater was designed, like so many other Detroit theaters, by C. Howard Crane for the Kunsky circuit. It was a vaudeville house for a short time, but by 1918, was screening silent films.

Kunsky had Vitaphone installed in 1927 and the Adams Theater’s silent days were over. By the 1930’s, it was run by the Chicago-based H & E Balaban chain, and received a remodeling in 1935.

The Adams Theater was one of the earliest Detroit houses equipped for CinemaScope — installed for the 1953 feature “The Knights of the Round Table”. Five years later, MGM Camera65 was installed.

H & E Balaban sold the Adams Theater to Community Theatres in 1963, and it received a modernization at that time. In the late-1960’s and early-1970’s, the Adams Theater started to screen exploitation and adult films.

In 1988, hoping to bring new life to the aging theater, it was triplexed. However, outside forces would doom that strategy. In that same year, tragedy struck twice at the Adams Theater. First, a man was murdered in one of the auditoriums, and later that year, two teenagers were wounded during a shootout before a movie in front of the theater.

The Adams Theater was shuttered in November of 1988, with “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Meyers” and “Messenger of Death” being the last films on its marquee.

In 1999, the dangerously decrepit marquee was removed, leaving the vacant Fine Arts Building looking like any number of aging early 20th Century office buildings on Grand Circus Park, Detroit’s one-time entertainment district.

The Adams Theater was demolished in June 2009.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 34 comments)

kathy2trips
kathy2trips on January 18, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Evidently, Detroit had quite a flourishing and influential entertainment industry going in the early 1900s. A very interesting article on John Kunsky can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_H._Kunsky

drb
drb on April 9, 2009 at 4:20 am

Here’s a page of photos:
View link

sdoerr
sdoerr on April 30, 2009 at 9:38 pm

The Adams is coming down this month, followed by the Fine Arts Building.

sdoerr
sdoerr on June 2, 2009 at 7:57 am

It’s still unfortunate as this was a working theater when Ilitch acquired it

JohnMLauter
JohnMLauter on June 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm

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.

Twistr54
Twistr54 on November 15, 2009 at 2:57 pm

new scaffolding covering the theatre fascade
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11/14/09

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 26, 2010 at 11:01 am

Image showing just how far gone the theatre was:

View link

Twistr54
Twistr54 on June 10, 2010 at 5:05 am

View link

New photos I took on May 29 2010. of what was there, the empty lot across the alley, the supported front ofthe fine arts building…

AndrewBarrett
AndrewBarrett on June 14, 2014 at 3:06 pm

According to Mr. David Junchen’s “Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Pipe Organ”, pgs. 165 and 167, the Adams theatre had a 3 manual, 28 rank Hillgreen-Lane theatre pipe organ (opus 518) installed in 1918, at a cost of $5,400. This organ had a 5 horsepower blower, serial #9354. Does anyone know where this organ, or its parts, are located today, or what happened to it?

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