Admiral Theatre

11205 Mack Avenue,
Detroit, MI 48214

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Admiral Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened as the Harmony Theatre on December 12, 1921, this theater was completely remodeled in 1941 by C. Howard Crane in Art Moderne style. It not only received a new look, but a new name, as well, the Admiral Theatre.

The theater was shuttered by the mid-1970’s and was reopened as a church called Brown’s Chapel, but that was also eventually shuttered. The former theater building has since been converted into office and retail space.

Cinema Treasures user ‘bizzzyb’ shares this memory:

“My mother said she can remember seeing first-run hollywood movies there in the early to mid 60s, but when I started going there in the 70s it became the east-side’s kung-fu/blaxploitation and low-budget action and horror movie place! It was funny because I remember half the time you couldnt hear the movie because people would yell and curse at the screen! Movies like ‘Shaft’, ‘Superfly’, ‘The Mack’, ‘Blacula’, ‘Coffy’ and ‘Foxy Brown’ were usually shown there as well as the latest hong kong chop-sockeys like ‘5 Fingers Of Death’, ‘Kung-Fu The Invisible Fist’, ‘Duel Of The Iron Fist’, and of course all of Bruce Lee’s movies:‘Fists of Fury’, ‘Chinese Connection’, ‘Return Of The Dragon’ and ‘Enter The Dragon’. Also, movies like ‘Walking Tall’, ‘Billy Jack’, ‘Death Race 2000’, ‘Devil’s Rain’ and ‘Dirty Harry’ played there too.

There was always a double feature and matinees were like 75 cents or something I think. A lot of people would go there in the summertime just to sit in the air conditioning!"

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, bizzzyb

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

sdoerr
sdoerr on January 11, 2004 at 4:53 pm

Some kind of restoration must be occuring: View link

sdoerr
sdoerr on January 21, 2004 at 5:58 pm

Well I think you might as well say there is no theater well not for $30,000 dollers… View link That is extremely cheap for a theater’s value to be that low…..Bryan must be right

bizzzyb
bizzzyb on January 26, 2004 at 6:16 pm

Sean,

I looked at those pictures and I have to question how recent (or old) they are, because I was just over in the old neighborhood about 3 weeks ago and drove past the old Admiral and the right half of the building is down and the marquee is gone. As a matter of fact, back when the Admiral closed in the late 70s, it re-opened as a church called Brown’s Chapel. I’m not sure how long the church was open, but it clearly isn’t there anymore and looks like it hasnt been for a while. I don’t know if those pictures are pre or post Brown’s Chapel.

That whole area of Mack Ave. from Beniteau St. down to Connor Ave is being bought up by Chrysler and at least 3 to 5 blocks of businesses and residences that were there when I was a kid are now gone and replaced by auto plant parking lots. It’s pretty sad to see what that neighborhood has become now. It used to be a thriving strip when I was a kid, a drug store, a bakery, restaurants, a bank, a gas station, convenience stores, you name it! But the Admiral Theater was a very popular spot for people in our neighborhood because you could walk to the movies instead of having to drive or ride the bus downtown or to the suburbs.

As far as memories, my mother said she can remember seeing first-run hollywood movies there in the early to mid 60s, but when I started going there in the 70s it became the east-side’s kung-fu/blaxploitation and low-budget action and horror movie place! It was funny because I remember half the time you couldnt hear the movie because people would yell and curse at the screen! Movies like ‘Shaft’, ‘Superfly’, ‘The Mack’, ‘Blacula’, ‘Coffy’ and ‘Foxy Brown’ were usually shown there as well as the latest hong kong chop-sockeys like ‘5 Fingers Of Death’, ‘Kung-Fu The Invisible Fist’, ‘Duel Of The Iron Fist’, and of course all of Bruce Lee’s movies:‘Fists of Fury’, ‘Chinese Connection’, ‘Return Of The Dragon’ and ‘Enter The Dragon’. Also, movies like ‘Walking Tall’, ‘Billy Jack’, ‘Death Race 2000’, ‘Devil’s Rain’ and ‘Dirty Harry’ played there too. There was always a double feature and matinees were like 75 cents or something I think. A lot of people would go there in the summertime just to sit in the air conditioning!

In later years the place was pretty run-down and the movies got worse. There were gang fights, rats and roaches and anything else that could run a theater into the ground.

It’s too bad that neighborhood movie theaters have all been replaced by mega-multi screen cineplexes. I’m glad I got to experience going to them as a kid, but I wish my kids would be able to know what that was like.

DonFoshey
DonFoshey on March 1, 2004 at 11:06 am

I still drive by this theatre on my way home. The current renovation has done a lot to stabilize the exterior, and it seems to be on the way to some new life/purpose.
But I also watched what they were doing with the interior. Basically, they gutted it to the walls and I’m not sure what (if any) vestige of this old movie house exist other than the shell of the building itself.
Still it’s nice to see the building have a new life.

sdoerr
sdoerr on March 1, 2004 at 12:12 pm

Yeah, it would be very very very hard to save the interior, it is very dilapidated, sadly I didnt think the interior would ever survive, even though I have never seen the interior I heard it is real bad. Its great its coming to life though

eal711
eal711 on May 17, 2004 at 10:39 pm

I was looking for pics for when the admiral theater was first built.
any feed back would be great!

thanks!
Eric

sdoerr
sdoerr on February 12, 2006 at 6:54 pm

I have a scan of the entrance to the theater when it was Brown’s Chapel. I will upload it soon when I get some time.

The marquee reads “Brown’s Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
Office No. 331-2510 11205 Fr. Brown Pastor”

sdoerr
sdoerr on February 12, 2006 at 7:20 pm

It also appears the mystery as to what is happening to the Admiral has been solved:

View link
This redevelopment site is anchored by a market with 11,000 sf of newly remodeled office on 2nd floor offers a unique
opportunity for a variety of retail/office users. There are 4 storefronts that offer excellent accessibility to Detroit’s eastside.

So it appears that the building is office and retail now.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 30, 2008 at 9:14 pm

I think status should be closed, as opposed to unknown.

Iamgodree
Iamgodree on October 8, 2009 at 2:09 pm

My mother was born just a year after the Harmony Theater opened in 1921. She was born above the bakery (which her father owned) down the block from the Harmony — on the NW corner of Mack and St. Jean. She went to the Harmony as a child and saw 1st run movies for 5 cents. By the way, my mom was named Jean. She attended St. Clair Elementary School (as did I in the 50’s), Foch Jr. High, and Southeastern High.
Later, in the 1950’s, we moved back to that neighborhood and lived on a street called Hart (it ran from Mack Ave. south to Jefferson). As you went east from St. Jean, Hart was the last street with homes on it before getting to Conner. As a matter of fact, there were only factories and parking lots on the east side of Hart. When one of the factories closed across the street from us, they opened an Atlantic Mills department store there in the abandoned factory. Last time I was there, Hart was gone completely and a parking lot was in its place. I think all the homes are gone south of Mack from St. Jean east to Conner.
When I was a kid in 50’s we went to the Admiral Theater and saw Saturday matinees for 15 cents. Fifteen cents got you three movies and a cartoon. Big candy bars like MilkyWays, Snickers and 3 Musketeers were five cents apiece and a box of buttered popcorn was 10 cents. Boxes of JuJyFruits, Raisinets, or Goobers were also just 5 cents. So, with a quarter allowance, you could go and get entertained for a whole afternoon. In the 50’s my favorite movies were science fiction – like The Body Snatchers, This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Tarantula, etc. Of course there were also many horror movies at Saturday matinee like – I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Night of the Living Dead, The Tingler, Frankenstein and Dracula. Mixed in with the Sci-Fi and horror movies were the westerns like High Noon and Shane.
On that corner of Mack and St. Jean in the 50’s, were a Cunngham’s drug (SW corner), a 5 and 10 cent store (NE corner), the Bakery (on the NW corner – no longer owned by my mom’s family) and a bank on the SE corner.

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