Detroit & Flint Theaters – anyone remember these?

posted by willis on July 27, 2006 at 12:09 pm

Here are a few I knew in the 40’s & 50’s that I didn’t find on the Michigan list.

In Detroit:
1)The Cinema, a small art house on a side street across Woodward from The Fox. “Red Shoes” played there for a year.
2)The Art. I believe it was near Eastwood Park and the one time I passed it, around 1948, it was playing “Wiener Melodien,” a musical in German.
3)The Harper, a neighborhood house on the avenue of the same name
4)The Paradise. I only knew this one as a church but it must have been a theater. It was on Woodward on the same side and within a few blocks of The Fox.

In Flint:
1)The Flint Art. Far out on North Saginaw, it was known simply as The Flint Theatre until it started showing foreign art films around 1949. I think “The Red Shoes” inaugurated the policy and it even played “La Ronde” at the time it was banned in Manhattan.
2)The Roxy, somewhere in the northern part of Flint, in was always linked with the Della in newspaper ads and always played the same program
3)The State was right next to The Strand on South Saginaw in downtown Flint and it played double bills much like its neighbor.
4)The Rialto was also downtown on South Saginaw, near the river and the railroad tracks. The Rialto was open all night and had an unsavory reputation, at least in my mother’s circle, and we were never allowed to go there.

Does anyone have any information on these theaters? Thank you.

Comments (5)

EvanC on July 27, 2006 at 12:40 pm

Detroit’s Harper Theatre was converted to a rock night club many years ago—the vertical Harper sign changed to Harpo’s. I assume the building is still there, visible from I-94.

irvl on July 28, 2006 at 12:56 am

The Paradise Theatre was actually Orchestra Hall, after the Detroit Symphony Orchestra deserted it. A Roman Catholic church rented it for a long period of time after the theatre closed. The DSO made recordings for Mercury in the building during the 1950s and 1960s. Today it has been beautifully restored and is Orchestra Hall once again. The orchestra members had much to do with fundraising to save the hall.

Fredrickr on July 29, 2006 at 1:17 am

The Cinema theater across from the Fox has had many names and product:
The Little Theatre (1928 – 1932) Foreign Films
Rivoli (1932-1934) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Drury Lane (Jan 1935 – April 1935) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Europa (Sept 1935-Jan 1936) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Cinema (1936-1959) Movie Theatre / Burlesque
Vanguard Playhouse (1960-1964) / Professional Live Theatre
Gem Theatre (1967 – 1978) Adult Movie Theatre
Closed 1978 – 1991
The Little Gem Theatre (1991 – Present) Professional Live Theatre

In 1997 the Gem theater was moved to make way for the construction of Comerica Park. The building was moved 1850 feet to the corner of Madison and Brush. It holds the Guiness Book of World Records for the heaviest building ever moved on wheels.

steelbeard1 on August 2, 2006 at 8:42 am

About the Flint theaters…
The Flint Art closed in 1953. The address is now Classic Charter and Tour.
The Roxy was earlier known as the Colonial, then the Durant. It closed in 1956, was torn down in 1971 and is still a vacant lot.
The State closed in 1953 and was converted to retail space. It still bears the name of the last occupant, Blackstone’s.
The Rialto was the theater’s second name. It’s first was the Savoy and the final name was the Royal. It did play porn at the end and was torn down in 1973 to make room for the new Citizens Bank building.
All of the above are listed at

willis on August 3, 2006 at 2:23 pm

Thanks to all for your generous help.

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