Hollywood Theatre

4809 W. Fort Street,
Detroit, MI 48209

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Hollywood Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

When it opened September 23, 1927, the Hollywood Theatre was Detroit’s second-largest theatre seating well over 3,400 patrons. It was built for the Cohen Brothers at a cost of over $2 million and was situated nearly a mile west of the long-established downtown entertainment district, Grand Circus Park.

The architect, Charles N. Agree, together with associate architects Graven & Mayger, designed this huge theatre in the Spanish Renaissance style complete with a large balcony, stage, and orchestra pit, as well as a Barton organ which was opened by organist Bob Clarke. Its lobby was 60 feet tall, and the entire interior was full of multi-colored marble, gilded plasterwork, and valuable artwork.

Its facade, with twin minaret-looking towers, soared over Fort Street, and it originally had a large vertical marquee. Its standard original marquee was intricately decorated with a rainbow colored neon-lit swirling pattern.

The Hollywood Theatre opened with the picture "Alias the Deacon", and for its first few years of operation, featured the Hollywood-Sunnybrook Orchestra, led by Sammy Diebert.

Due to its somewhat out of the way location, as well as its never jumping on the widescreen boom of the 1950’s, the Hollywood Theatre really never was very popular. It turned to a double-feature program in the 1940’s and 1950’s, in order to stay afloat, but this still made little difference. Its last two films were "The Flesh is Weak" and "Blonde Bondage" in 1958.

Sadly, this largely forgotten treasure was razed in 1963 to make way for a parking lot.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

RobertR on December 2, 2004 at 4:44 am

So they never adapted for Cinemascope? Does this mean they only ran flat films?

johnlauter on December 2, 2004 at 6:15 am

Apparently—I trust Bryan Krefft, his information is usually solid. This would have limited the Hollwood to B-grade fare during the crucial post-television era where innovations like Widescreen (cinemascope) and 4 channel mag sound were in all the big houses—that showed all the big features. I still think that the Hollywood’s location was unfortunate, and that if they had built along Woodward, or perhaps Bagley they would have had so much more traffic. Given Detroit’s average, it might still be there if that were the case. There must have been a point reached sometime where the smaller audiences due to location affected the quality of product they could afford, which caused less attendance—a downward spiral.

sdoerr on December 13, 2004 at 1:05 pm

This link will take you to pictures of the Hollywood and some information too.

johnlauter on March 31, 2006 at 7:11 pm

I was wrong in the figure I quoted for what Henry Przybylski paid for the Hollywood Barton—It was $3,151.51, still a stragetic sum. Hank’s son Michael corrected me.

GWaterman on January 7, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Liz Goldwyn’s new book about burlesque mentions the Hollywood Theatre as the place where burlesque costume designer Rex Huntington got his start in the business as a chorus boy. The book includes backstage photos and ephemera of many of the theatres on the burlesque circuit. Great book! Amazing to see this fantastic theatre, and think about how it became a major burlesque house, and then vanished.

JohnMLauter on January 1, 2008 at 5:25 pm

GWaterman—there is no evidence that the DETROIT Hollywood theatre ever became a burlesque house. It was a movie palace, its days in the sun were very brief due to the misfortune of its location, and it settled into life as a movie house quicker than its downtown rivals. We had Burley-Q theaters in Detroit, the Gayety being the most notable, but not the Hollywood.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis on January 18, 2009 at 6:09 pm

A 1947 view of the Hollywood Theater in Detroit.

RDtoo on February 2, 2011 at 11:27 pm

My father, Howard Denial, told me he managed this theatre. I suppose this would have been in the 1940s or 1950s. He would later manage the Wyandotte and Southland theatres. If anyone has any info on him at the Hollywood, I would be interested.

rivest266 on November 3, 2015 at 5:16 pm

September 23rd grand opening ads for the Hollywood and Oriental theatres in photo section.

jamestv on November 4, 2015 at 9:59 am

The Arkansas Theatre in Little Rock also never remodeled for Cinemascope—-Cinemascope and Panavision films were run letterboxed!

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