Michigan Theatre

217 S. Washington Street,
Lansing, MI 48933

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Michigan Theatre, Lansing, august 1977

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Designed by architect John Eberson in 1920, the Strand Theatre was opened by Butterfield Theaters chain on April 21, 1921 with six acts of Keith Vaudeville headed by Herbert Clifton and a special presentation on the stage of the musical revue “My Soul Mate”. It was a vaudeville house for a while, but later started to screen movies as well, eventually switching to just movies.

It had a highly ornate terra cotta facade, and like many of John Eberson’s designed theatres, its auditorium was decorated with Neo-Classical touches.

The theatre was renamed Michigan Theatre on August 14, 1941. Still operated by the Butterfield Theatres chain, it closed as a movie house in the 1970’s. The theatre then sat vacant and decrepit until 1984, when the front section was brilliantly transformed into a mixed-use office and retail complex, the Atrium Center, by the firm of Hobbs and Black & Associates.

Although the auditorium could not be saved (only the floor of the balcony seating area remains), its grand lobby, ballroom and storefront areas were transformed to their 1920’s grandeur. The focal point of the office foyer space is now the large marble staircase.

The facade was also repaired after damage inflicted on it during a “modernization” years before. Limestone of the same shade as the original terra cotta was used to replace sections of the original terra cotta that were lost.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

TimP on September 4, 2006 at 10:59 pm

I’m looking for the date of a Louie Armstrong and The All Stars concert at the Michigan. Believe this would have been in 1950 or 51. Any resources for this type of info? There is an outside chance it might have been at the Gladmer but I doubt it. I was 8 or 9 at the time.

Patsy on July 20, 2007 at 1:13 pm

These photos of the original balcony now a roof that still shows the decor design are truly amazing to view, yet very sad!

thomgpd on December 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I did my Architectural Thesis on the Restoration of the Michigan Theatre in 1977-9. I also worked for a Not For Profit to raise the monies and had my office in the building. Lansing wasn’t up to the task to restore it. I remember we brought in Dave Brubeck in to perform to raise money, still no good. It had so much potential,and was in sound condition….now the auditorium is a parking lot….I still have 2 of the seats, carpet, etc…..sad.

Thom Greene, Architect-Chicago

Brotherwoo on August 19, 2011 at 2:23 pm

a little more history, and a few more photos: http://themichmashcenter.blogspot.com/2011/08/strand-theater.html.

moax429 on September 1, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Didn’t “Grease” first play here in 1978? And, if it did, what other Lansing area theater did it eventually move to? (I’m guessing the Meridian 8 in Okemos.)

My family and I moved to the Chicago suburb of Glenwood, Illinois on June 18, 1978 (we lived there until 1983, when we moved to New Jersey), and I do remember reading in the Lansing State Journal two weeks before we moved “Grease” was at the Michigan first (I first saw that movie at the Orland Square Cinemas in Orland Park, Illinois, on Friday, August 11, 1978; “Grease” was also the very first movie I ever heard in true Dolby Stereo, something very much taken for granted today).

rivest266 on September 5, 2016 at 4:05 pm

This opened as Strand on April 21st, 1921. Its grand opening ad can be found in the photo section for this theatre.

rivest266 on September 6, 2016 at 4:32 pm

August 14th, 1941 grand opening ad as Michigan in the photo section.

DavidZornig on August 8, 2017 at 8:32 am

Library Of Congress link with a 1980 photo of the closed Michigan Theater.


MSC77 on December 28, 2017 at 1:01 am

moax429…. Per a check of the Lansing State Journal newspaper, “Grease” 1978 first run in the Lansing area was:

Michigan 6/16-9/7
M78 Drive-In 8/30-9/19
Plaza (Mason) 9/13-10/3
Meridian East 9/20-11/2
Meridian West 11/3-12/5

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