Friday, November 13, 2009

Michigan Theater tells an amazing history of Detroit

Down on Bagley Street and Grand River, a mammoth old building is standing there looking (like many of the buildings downtown) particularly under-used. It’s called the Michigan Building, one-time home of the Michigan Theater, which by itself has a remarkable history.

Back in the 1950s, the theater was a 4,000-seat place that showed now-classic films. In the 1960s, it was used to show closed-circuit television events, in particular, simulcast Red Wings games for people who couldn’t get in to Olympia. And in the 1970s, it was a concert venue for rock bands.

What few people realize – Kage readers no longer included – is that before the Michigan Theater closed in the late 1970s, the name was changed to the Michigan Palace. I hope the photo I took of a poster comes through clearly enough for you to read, because it’s unbelievable to see the names of the some of the bands who played there. (To give you an idea, the marquee in the poster reads “The Doors”.)

Sadly, sometime after the theater closed, it was converted into a parking garage, which is what that part of the building remains today. Interestingly, parts of the theater are reportedly still visible in the garage, and the place has been used recently during the filming of movies, including “Eight Mile”.