George Burns Theatre

33330 Plymouth Road,
Livonia, MI 48150

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One of the last Detroit-area theaters built with a full stage and orchestra pit, the Mai Kai was built for Nicholas George in 1963 at a cost of over $1.5 million. It could seat 1,396 and decorated in Polynesian style, as its name would imply, though it had all the most up-to-date amenities of a 1960’s-era movie house, including both 35mm and 70mm projectors, a huge 60' by 27'; screen, and comfortable seating.

On opening night, the stars of the first movie to play the Mai Kai, “Son of Flubber”, Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello, were in attendance. Also, the Mai Kai Orchestra performed, for the first and last time.

The theatre’s management claimed that the Mai Kai’s parking lot could hold more than 3,000 cars, but the true number was closer to 500.

Though several times throughout the 1970’s there was talk of dividing the auditorium into a twin or more screens, the Mai Kai Theatre remained a single screen until it closed, in 1987, a year after the theatre was acquired by AMC. During the 1970’s and into the 1980’s, the Mai Kai Theatre was one of the more popular area venues to see “event” films like “Superman” or the original “Star Wars” trilogy, in large part due to its vast screen.

The Mai Kai Theatre was reopened in 1988 as the Omni Star Theatre, after close to half a million dollars was said to have been spent remodeling the former movie theater into a live performance venue. However, in less than two months after it opened, the Omni Star Theatre was closed down, due to its owner’s illegal activities.

In 1992, the Omni Star Theatre reopened as the George Burns Theatre, after a $1 million face lift, with the theatre’s namesake being present at the opening festivities. However, despite high hopes for the George Burns Theatre, the theatre was shuttered after a little more than a year in operation.

After sitting vacant for almost a decade, the George Burns Theatre was demolished in 2003 for new town homes and a Walgreens.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, Sean Doerr

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

sdoerr
sdoerr on March 22, 2004 at 8:14 pm

I wonder how the much the theater could have been bought for and used again, I think it would have worked this time. Wayne Theatre Corp. could have bought it and raised funds for the Historic Wayne Theatre(which I am a volunteer at btw). Sub feel free to send me your pictures to and I’ll upload them and link them here for you. Thanks for more info!

dwnrvrguy
dwnrvrguy on September 27, 2004 at 7:32 am

There are a few pictures of the Mai Kai facade and George Burns marquee on this site: View link

dmac
dmac on December 1, 2004 at 7:52 am

If anyone has photos of either the Mai-Kai or the Terrace I would greatly appreciate it if you could send them to me at .com I am working on a photographic history of Livonia for a book to be published in 2005 and I would like to be able to use the best photographs available. Any and all help would be very welcome, and of course I would be happy to give appropriate credit for any photographs that are used. Many thanks.

JimRankin
JimRankin on January 6, 2005 at 7:23 am

Information about the kindred Polynesian themed KON-TIKI theatre along with photos is found here: http://cinematreasures.org/news/12583_0_1_0_C/
Such a pity that both of these unique designs are lost to us, apparently with no photos of thier interiors at opening.

kak
kak on May 7, 2005 at 1:11 pm

I remember the night the world premier of the movie “The War Lord” was shown at the Mai Kai. I was a member of the Franklin High School marching band, and we performed at the theater before the film. Charleton Heston and Rosemary Forsyth were there and spoke breifly just prior to showtime.

Cathie
Cathie on June 1, 2007 at 7:53 pm

Does anyone know the name of the play at the George Burns Theatre with Julie Harris?

scottymac
scottymac on May 25, 2008 at 9:06 pm

I am looking for any photos anyone might have of the mai kai, my father was an usher there and he took my mother there on a few dates.
If anyone has any ideas please email me at

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 21, 2012 at 7:36 am

The “modified Polynesian” theme is described in this 1964 trade article: Boxoffice

JulieL
JulieL on August 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

Cathie—I believe it was Lettice and Lovage.

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