333 Madison Avenue,
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Opened in 1928 as the Little Theatre, for a private womens group called the 20th Century Club, with a peformance of “Cyrano de Bergerac”, the Gem Theatre had a full stage, orchestra pit, and balcony which sat about 200 patrons. The exterior resembled a Florentine Renaissance palace, while the interior contained minimal decor.
Since its opening, the theater has had several name changes, first the Rivoli Theatre in 1932, then the Drury Lane Theatre and Europa Theatre in the next couple years, and finally in 1936, the Cinema, a name which stuck until the mid-1950’s, when the theater was screening foreign films. In 1959, as the Vanguard Theatre, the format was changed to stage shows, but by the mid-1960’s, decline had firmly set in, and as the Gem Art Theatr, became showing adult films. The theater closed in 1978.
Charles Forbes, who also owned the nearby State Theatre, purchased the Gem Theatre in 1991 and began an eighteen-month restoration, which brought the small house back to its original appearance. The Gem Theatre once again was home to live stage perfomances.
In 1997, the Gem Theatre made national news when the theater was lifted from its former foundation and moved about half a mile away from its original location to make way for the construction of the new Detroit Stadium. The move placed the Gem Theatre in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the heaviest building ever moved on wheels, at about five million pounds. It arrived at its new home at Madison and Brush as a crowd of several hundred cheered.
After a small restoration, the Gem Theatre reopened in late-1998.
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