Majestic Theater

4120 Woodward Avenue,
Detroit, MI 48201

Unfavorite 2 people favorited this theater

Majestic Theatre, Detroit, MI in 1915

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Majestic Theater was opened on April 1, 1915 as a legitimate playhouse with 1,651 seats. By the late-1920’s had switched to films. It was designed by C. Howard Crane.

An interesting early feature of the Majestic Theater was its lighting system which could simulate dawn or dusk in the auditorium before the show. It also had an early air-conditioning system where huge blocks of ice in the basement were blown on by large fans and the air circulated throughout the theater.

In the early-1930’s, when Woodward Avenue was being widened, Crane’s original facade was remodeled by the firm of Bennett & Straight who created a colorful, soaring terra cotta-clad Art Deco style facade for the Majestic Theater.

Eventually, the Majestic Theater became a second and third-run house, then, after the theater closed in the 1950’s, it housed at various times a church, phototography studio, and, later, a trophy store.

Finally, in 1987, it was restored and reopened as a concert hall. The Majestic Theater has since become one of Detroit’s premiere concert venues for rock, blues, reggae, and world music performers.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

sdoerr
sdoerr on March 13, 2005 at 6:52 am

This link will take you to a photo of the old exterior.
This link will take you to a photo of the remodeled art deco exterior.

JohnMLauter
JohnMLauter on January 2, 2008 at 11:13 am

Are all photo links on this website dead ends? I have tried to look at several over the past few days and they are all dead ends. The only useful entries in Michigan and Detroit are the links to Winterwaterwonderland.com, a site I support with pictures. At least on that site you can post pictures!

kathy2trips
kathy2trips on July 25, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Hi, John: You can try the WSU Virtual Motor City Site. Here’s the link for the Majestic: View link

You can also look at the archives of the DetroitYes.com website. The threads include lots of photos…some of them personal vintage shots.

JohnMLauter
JohnMLauter on July 27, 2008 at 1:16 pm

I know all about those sites, and I contribute to waterwinterwonderland when I have something that can be shared.
What I was and am saying is that all this site has is dead links, from people who gave up on their photobucket accounts.

Oh, and I might know one of the posters over on Detroit yes.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 15, 2010 at 5:08 am

The Internet Archive has available a most interesting document. It is the Masters thesis of Lisa Maria DiChiera, and it is titled The Theater Designs of C. Howard Crane. Though the photos in the document were reproduced on the copying equipment available in 1992, they are clear enough to provide decent views. Beginning on page 80, there is a floor plan of the Majestic, a longitudinal section, two interior photos, and an exterior photo.

What amazed me about the photos of the auditorium is that the Majestic had only nine rows of seats in its orchestra section, and behind those were more than twice as many rows of stadium seating. So not only did Detroit get one of the world’s first twin theaters (the Duplex, also opened in 1915) but it also apparently got one of the first indoor theaters in the world that featured predominantly stadium seating.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 15, 2010 at 6:25 am

I should add that the photos I mentioned in my previous comment show the original architectural style of the Majestic to have been Italian Renaissance.

I’ve also had a chance to check the list of Crane’s theater projects that is included in Ms. DiChiera’s thesis, and it now seems very likely that C. Howard Crane was also the architect of the Duplex Theatre which I mentioned above. Crane was truly ahead of his time.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 11, 2011 at 12:06 am

You’re right, Kewpie. The 1915 Majestic always had a wide frontage, so the LoC photo depicts a different theater. Shorpy has the story on the photo you found (and includes a bonus photo of the original facade of the 1915 Majestic.) The earlier Majestic was a combination house (movies and vaudeville) opened at 231 Woodward in 1908.

I don’t know if the older Majestic is listed at Cinema Treasures under a later name, or is still missing from the database. If it’s listed under another name it would also have a different address, as Detroit changed its numbering system on January 1, 1921. I’m not positive, but I think that old address 231 Woodward ended up in the 1400 block under the new system. Here’s a page with links to information about Detroit’s 1921 renumbering.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 14, 2012 at 5:45 am

Described in this 1915 trade article, which continues on the next page: archive

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 14, 2012 at 8:09 am

The article Tinseltoes linked to notes that the Majestic was equipped with “…a 14 by 18 foot gold fibre screen which can be seen from every seat in the house….” The article also says that the Majestic’s projection booth was equipped with two Powers 6-A machines.

Although the Majestic had full stage facilities, it was clearly intended to operate primarily as a movie theater from the day it opened. The Moving Picture World article doesn’t even mention vaudeville, saying only that the house was presenting three shows of V-L-S-E productions on weekdays and four shows on Saturdays and holidays (V-L-S-E was a short-lived distribution combine made up of the Vitagraph, Lubin, Selig, and Essanay film production companies.)

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater