Howell Theater

315 E. Grand River Avenue,
Howell, MI 48843

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RIP Howell Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Howell Theater was constructed in 1927 as both a movie house and a live entertainment venue. It replaced the smaller Temple Theater (located one block west) that was apparently suitable only for movies. It also provided a stage and orchestra pit suitable for musical and live entertainment that would have been previously held at the Howell Opera House that closed several years earlier. The theater was built by the Locey family.

As late as New Year’s 1932 there was still live musical entertainment at the theater along with movies. In 1938 the Howell Theater was extensively renovated by the Schulte Amusement Company of Detroit which had acquired the theater. The renovations included more spacious seating (which remain) and bathrooms, new projection and sound equipment, acoustical treatment, and a new marquee that complimented the original vertical sign that was retained.

Schulte Amusement continued to operate the theater for many years, although by 1944 the theater was being used exclusively as a movie house. In 1956 they again replaced the marquee along with the original entrance and canopy. The original theater sign and 1938 marquee were also removed. The original storefronts were not altered and remain to this day, although some architectural elements may have been covered over.

By 1970, the theater had been acquired by The Wisper and Wetsman Company, that ran the theater as the Howell Theater Corporation. During the 1970’s the plaster walls were covered by draperies and the movie screen was moved to the front of the proscenium to accommodate a larger picture. The sound system was also upgraded around this time and it remains.

In 1998 the theater was placed on the market and closed its doors in December, 1998. The theater was acquired by the City of Howell in June, 1999.

Carol Chandler, a real estate appraiser whose company, Chandler Corp. purchased the Howell Theater from the city, restored the Howell theater.

Today, the Howell Theater has been restored from top to bottom. The brand new marquee welcomes you into a totally remodeled and restored interior. Two auditoriums with new seating, DTS sound, as well as immaculate restrooms. An excellent snack bar completes the picture.

The Howell Theater was closed as a movie theatre on May 5, 2009, but reopened on November 6, 2009. It was closed again on August 13, 2013 and reopened September 26, 2014.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

rivest266 on October 28, 2012 at 9:27 am

Reopened, website at

Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society
Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society on August 18, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Well … sadly, the 86 year-old Howell appears to be permanently darkened, according to my exhibitor partner and current Howell, MI resident, Miss Barbara Jean Babbs. Miss Babbs interviewed a Howell Theater employee last month and learned that the venue had been sold and is slated to become an ‘expensive restaurant.’ As a life-long picture show aficianado, I find atrocities like this to be extremely disheartening. Trendy eateries have a reputation to come and go. It is our hope that the lion’s share of the moviehouse is left intact, so that the possibility of the Howell Theater being re-opened one day remains. These old theaters tended to be the heart and soul of the local communities they served … a gala gathering place. Nothing gold can stay. Dave Lounder (, CT

Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society
Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society on August 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm site states: The theater is closed; however, check back for updates on the Root Restaurant coming soon!

EvMueller on July 21, 2014 at 9:08 pm

The Howell is re-opening! Kickstarter project by new owner Tyler DePerro here:

Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society
Drive-In Theatre Preservation Society on August 5, 2014 at 12:45 am

Curious as to what Mr. DePerro paid when he ‘bought’ the theater??

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