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  1. #1

    Default United Artists Theatre

    UPDATE Oct. 24, 2019 - Theatre to be demolished as part of Building Renovation.

    =============================
    I couldn't find the old thread on the UA Theatre. Anybody know what is going on with this building?

    By the way, I found this myspace page which has not been updated in a while:

    http://www.myspace.com/unitedartiststheater
    Last edited by Lowell; July-17-09 at 09:08 PM.

  2. #2

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    In before "Tear that schitt down!".

  3. #3

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    The United Artists Theatre & Building have been discussed several times in the past 2 years. The Ilitch's are very mum about what is currently going on there... and strangely enough there are no permits pulled with the city.

    But a new roof was put on the UA complex, and J. C. Beale Co.. has been secretly at work here for nearly 2 years... Beale employees are completely mum when asked what they're doing.

    Some posters here think that the auditorium is beyond saving. I thought the same thing of the Grand Circus Theatre (formerly the Capitol Theatre) when I had a tour of its' decrepit condition in 1991. And just look at it today... the gloriously restored Detroit Opera House.

    Designed by Detroit's own movie palace architect C. Howard Crane, the Detroit UA (1928, 2070 seats) and its' Los Angeles sibling (1927, 2200 seats) were the theatre designs that brought Crane out of his classic mode (Madison, Capitol, State, Orchestra Hall) and into his exotic theatre mode.

    Crane's 3 United Artists Theatres of 1927-28 (the 3rd is the smaller Chicago UA, 1739 seats, razed) were the dress rehersal for Crane's opening act.... his 3 mammoth Fox masterpieces of 1928-29... the Detroit (5174 seats), St. Louis (5042 seats) and Brooklyn (4088 seats, razed) Fox Theatres. Many folks are familiar with the Detroit/St. Louis Fox Theatres, which stilll stand and are well cared for, but sadly his Brooklyn Fox was pounded to rubble about 40 years ago:

    http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage...&displayType=1

    Now what will happen with the acoustically perfect Detroit United Artists? We really don't know.

    The Detroit UA reminds me of some lost exotic temple in an Indiana Jones movie. Here's 2 pics of how the very exotic Detroit United Artists Theatre looked when it opened in 1928 in a Spanish Gothic/Art Deco mix of styles.

    The 1st picture is of the stage and procenium arch. The lower half of this arch was removed for wider screen viewing (circa 1950s). But the ornate top half of the arch, and the organ screens on either side still survive.

    The 2nd picture is of the Rotunda Lobby that sits between the outer lobby (in the office tower) and the auditorium. Because Bagley and Clifford have a 50 degree angle difference (where the theatre is located), the Rotunda Lobby was built so that patrons wouldn't notice the odd angle between the entrance and auditorium. The Rotunda Lobby also houses the theatres grand staircase (entered from the rotunda, but hidden within the walls of the rotunda). Sadly the Rotunda Lobby is the most damaged part of the theatre space.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Gistok; July-17-09 at 12:54 AM.

  4. #4
    MIRepublic Guest

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    I knew before I clicked on this that Gistok was going to give a textbook history lesson. lol

  5. #5

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    Gistok, if you have the cheat codes for SimDetroit, please post them.

  6. #6

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    SimDetroit !!!!! ;-)

  7. #7

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    Is there an advantage for Detroit to have another theatre this big? Are the Nederlander shows and shows at the Fox really in need for more venues?

    I'd love to see more performances in Detroit don't get me wrong, but I'm just trying to figure out if the theatre is really needed in this building.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Detroit500 View Post
    Is there an advantage for Detroit to have another theatre this big? Are the Nederlander shows and shows at the Fox really in need for more venues?

    I'd love to see more performances in Detroit don't get me wrong, but I'm just trying to figure out if the theatre is really needed in this building.

    well, you could gut the theatre interior, leave the celining and make a three-deck parking garagefor the office building. How would that be?

  9. #9

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    LOL at 56packman (who was there when the Michigan Theatre was gutted, and the fixtures of the UA and lobby fixtures of the obscure Downtown RKO Theatre were sold off)... I think that one unique theatre experience like that is enough...

    MIRepublic... you know I'd probably explode if I tried fighting the urge to post something. (I just like to add new stuff each time I post about it.)

    Sorry Huggybear... no SimDetroit.... just old Movie Palace books and Preservation Wayne touring notes.

    Detroit500... the Nederlander folks only have performances at the Fisher. They used to also have some of their larger shows at the Masonic Temple Theatre. But the Masonic folks were not happy, because the Nederlander shows there were few and far between...

    The Fox shows are handled by Olympia Entertainment, the Ilitch entertainment subsidiary, and with Mike Ilitch paying off the mountain of overdue utility bills of the Masonic Temple (thus saving the entire complex from closing), they now do the bookings for the 4404 seat Masonic Temple Theatre, as well as the bookings for the Masonic's 1585 seat Scottish Rite Theatre..

    As for the question of whether or not a restored 2000+ seat United Artists Theatre is needed? That is a good question. With the demise of the 1800 seat Madison several years back, and the recent razing of the 1700 seat Adams Theatre, there are now no longer any other unrestored movie palaces left in the Theatre District (well there's the 900 seat National Theatre, but that's a smaller venue and is located farther away near the financial district, and the 4050 seat Michigan would cost an unrealistic $50-$75 million to restore).

    Right now there is no need for an additional theatre. But it would be myopic to think that perhaps there may not be a need in the future for a 2,000 seat venue, should the entertainment district ever expand.

    Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Baltimore made the mistake many years ago of destroying every one of their downtown movie palaces. And when the need arose for some performance venue, there were none to "harvest". So those cities had to build anew... which is very expensive.

    One of the things that the Detroit United Artists has going in its' favor is its absolutely phenomenal acoustics. C. Howard Crane said "if an auditorium was pleasing to the eye, then it would be pleasing to the ear as well." He developed great accoustics in his 1919 Orchestra Hall, and 1922 Capitol Theatre (now Detroit Opera House). By 1928 his acoustic magic was perfected with the UA.

    Acoustics are more often than not problematic in new performance venues. The NYC Philharmonic moved out of Avery Fisher Hall (at Lincoln Center) and into the old Carnegie Hall, because of mediocre acoustics. Even the NYC Metropolitan Opera House (also at 1966 built Lincoln Center) is certain death for small voices.

    On the otherhand... entertainment venues (with the exception of symphonic and operatic venues) really don't need to be acoustically perfect, due to the advances of sound amplification. But if no use is found currently for this venue, then it should be mothballed for possible future use. Because it would be a shame to destroy this beauty, especially when both artistically and acoustically it was one of a kind, and could realistically never be recreated.

    If one were to make a list of the best Detroit movie palaces (according to movie palace architectural critics), the top 4 would likely be the Fox (1st), followed (in no particular order) by the Michigan, old (pre-1961) Fisher and the United Artists.
    Last edited by Gistok; July-18-09 at 12:26 AM.

  10. #10

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    Was the Adams structurally unsound? What was Illitch's logic with destroying that property and doing "something" to this one? I would love to see this district be filled with more performances, making Detroit almost a "little Broadway" with plenty of first-run or replica performances similar to Chicago.

    Lincoln Center, in many respects is a disaster. The acoustics and artistic venues that we have here in Detroit are absolutely remarkable, something I didn't realize until I spent a bit of time on the east coast.

  11. #11

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    Gistok, the real trick to great sound isn't from all the decorative frosting, but rather a technique stolen from LaScala: straw. Straw in the plaster along with horse hair makes plaster hard to the touch but soft to the ear.

    The softness is related to the walls absorbing - not bouncing - the sound. For example, the Ford Aud carries the same sound characteristics as the Tunnel because of the hardness of its walls.

    Now, Gannon is much better at this than I, but a modern example of "wall softening" are those drapes on the walls of your local hexiplex. So, Gerhard, toss that bit of inside baseball to your future tour takers. Handfuls of straw and horsehair make for attention grabbing props.

    oh, since no one knows what horsehair looks like anymore, a trip to the barber will garner you a lifetime supply of faux horsehair.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Detroit500 View Post
    Was the Adams structurally unsound? What was Illitch's logic with destroying that property and doing "something" to this one? I would love to see this district be filled with more performances, making Detroit almost a "little Broadway" with plenty of first-run or replica performances similar to Chicago.

    Lincoln Center, in many respects is a disaster. The acoustics and artistic venues that we have here in Detroit are absolutely remarkable, something I didn't realize until I spent a bit of time on the east coast.
    Detroit500, I wish I knew what Ilitch was thinking right now... The 1700 seat Adams was always the "ugly duckling" of the Grand Circus Park theatres. It was built in 1917 (well before movie palaces were in full bloom), built in a very tame style as a legitimate theatre, and became a movie house within a year of its' opening. Much of anything resembling ornate plasterwork was removed decades ago during several unsympathetic remodelings. So it was more likely a question of "is it worth the bother", rather than "can it be restored"?

    Is the Adams the sacraficial lamb so that the United Artists can one day be reborn? I don't know... only the Ilitch family knows the answer to that.

    But there is one member of that family... Atanis Ilitch, who was sidetracked for many years with a serious form of cancer, who is now back at the family company. He's known as "the creative Ilitch"... and may be the the inspiration behind doing something with the United Artists. And Atanis Ilitch is a close friend of Quicken owner Dan Gilbert.

    But we really don't yet know what the future holds...
    Last edited by Gistok; July-18-09 at 12:48 AM.

  13. #13

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    I don't get how work is being done without any city permit and any accountability. This seems very fishy. Usually politicians jump to announce new buildings years before ground is broken and even when the plans are very tentative... what's going on here?

    Citizens have a right not to be kept in the dark. Next time someone has a chance they should pose a question about the United Artists to a public official and demand a response/information.

  14. #14

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    Which GCP theatres are even left besides the Fox, Music Hall, and Opera House?

  15. #15

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    Well, the State/Fillmore and Telenews/Bleu weren't mentioned.

  16. #16

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    Also, I wanted to post 2 very old images of the exterior of the United Artists Theatre/Building.

    Back in the mid 20th century the UA had a hack remodeling job very similar to the Lafayette Building, with several stories of dark gray slate attached to the first 3 floors of the building exterior. The 1st picture shows the old building facade with the original Romanesque arches and columns. Do they exist underneath the current facade (as is the case with the Lafayette Building), or was the old facade first stripped away. I doubt they're still there, but I really don't know....

    The 2nd picture shows the United Artists from the northeast back around 1930. This pic shows that the north wall of the UA Building originally as a blank wall. Apparently it was anticipated that a tall building could be built on that small lot between the UA and the Tuller Hotel. But no building was ever built there. And eventually windows were inserted into the north wall of the UA Building. This explains why the architecture of that side of the building doesn't match the other sides.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Last edited by Gistok; July-17-09 at 04:42 PM.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Detroit500 View Post
    Was the Adams structurally unsound? What was Illitch's logic with destroying that property and doing "something" to this one? I would love to see this district be filled with more performances, making Detroit almost a "little Broadway" with plenty of first-run or replica performances similar to Chicago.

    Lincoln Center, in many respects is a disaster. The acoustics and artistic venues that we have here in Detroit are absolutely remarkable, something I didn't realize until I spent a bit of time on the east coast.
    There was nothing wrong structurally with the Adams Theatre, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to save it from a preservation standpoint. There was nothing left about it of any historical value. It was essentially a brick and steel shed prior to its demolition....say for a very small amount of detailing.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paris_of_the_Midwest View Post
    I don't get how work is being done without any city permit and any accountability. This seems very fishy. Usually politicians jump to announce new buildings years before ground is broken and even when the plans are very tentative... what's going on here?

    Citizens have a right not to be kept in the dark. Next time someone has a chance they should pose a question about the United Artists to a public official and demand a response/information.
    Paris... the only reason that comes to mind is that the Ilitch's don't want to further drive up the price of land parcels that they don't yet own in west Foxtown (for a possible arena and U/A renovations)... and he has to have the city's OK on that possible scenario. No other reason sounds plausible. Can't be a secret for setting it up for demolition... the Ilitch's haven't made demolitions a secret, have they?

    And on the other question... other not mentioned GCP theatres include the Gem and Century.

  19. #19

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    Detroit500 here's a semi-complete list of Grand Circus Park Theatres in the district and beyond....

    Fox - 5,174 seats (restored).
    Michigan - 4,050 seats (partly gutted for a 3 level parking deck)
    Capitol - 3,384 seats (restored as the Detroit Opera House, 2,785 spacious seats)
    State/Filmore - 2,961 seats (partly restored, main floor seating removed for cabaret style seats, currently 2,200 seats)
    Oriental/Downtown RKO - 2,950 seats (razed in 1950s)
    United Artists - 2,070 seats (awaiting restoration?)
    Madison - 1,806 seats (razed 2000)
    Wilson/Music Hall - 1778 seats (restored)
    Adams - 1,700 seats (razed 2009)
    Gem - 453 seats (moved late 1990s, restored)
    Telenews/Bleu - 450 seats (turned into a night club, closed)
    Century - 200 seats (moved late 1990s, restored)
    Chrysler - 150 seats (on 6th floor of Detroit Opera House, used for dance recitals)

    Others closeby....

    Masonic Temple Theatre - 4,404 seats (restored). Actual seating 5,000 but 600 seats have poor sight lines or obstructions.
    Orchestra Hall - 2, 286 seats (restored)
    Fisher Theatre - 2,089 seats (original seating 2,975, 1961 remodeling made for smaller theatre shell, planned future shell expansion to 2,475 seats)
    Masonic Scottish Rite Theatre -1,585 seats (restored)
    Majestic Theatre - 1,531 seats (stripped of ornate plasterwork, has removable seating)
    Bonstelle Theatre - 1,200 seats (restored)
    DIA Theatre - 1,200 seats (restored)
    National Theatre - 900 seats (awaiting restoration?)
    Garden Bowl Theatre - 900 seats (currently under renovation)
    Hillberry Theatre - 550 seats (restored)
    Allessee Theatre - 450 seats (in The Max M. Fisher Center)
    Last edited by Gistok; July-17-09 at 10:22 PM.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gistok View Post
    Paris... the only reason that comes to mind is that the Ilitch's don't want to further drive up the price of land parcels that they don't yet own in west Foxtown (for a possible arena and U/A renovations)... and he has to have the city's OK on that possible scenario. No other reason sounds plausible. Can't be a secret for setting it up for demolition... the Ilitch's haven't made demolitions a secret, have they?

    And on the other question... other not mentioned GCP theatres include the Gem and Century.
    Yes but how can the Illitchs do all this work without any sort of city permit and without any accountability to the public? This is a public place in the downtown of a major city. If the DEGC is alerted to all of this activity and the lack of permits they will have to act or at least acknowledge what's going on won't they? What can a private citizen do about this situation?

  21. #21

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    Majestic Theatre - 0 seats

  22. #22

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    please indulge the ignorant (me) but is this the theatre that is nearly touching the people mover? i think theres a coffee bar or something similar on the main floor now...

    thanks

  23. #23

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    Gistok! Bravo! I found this particularly elegant.

    On the otherhand... entertainment venues (with the exception of symphonic and operatic venues) really don't need to be acoustically perfect, due to the advances of sound amplification. But if no use is found currently for this venue, then it should be mothballed for possible future use. Because it would be a shame to destroy this beauty, especially when both artistically and acoustically it was one of a kind, and could realistically never be recreated.

    Thanks for your great posts. I have learned so much from them.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ltdave View Post
    please indulge the ignorant (me) but is this the theatre that is nearly touching the people mover? i think theres a coffee bar or something similar on the main floor now...thanks
    No that's the old Madison marquee. The theatre has been long gone and the reno was a rebuild of the space to include the Italian Restaurant. I was an usher at the Madison during the 60"s when they had Paint Your Wagon and Woodstock! First time this old Catholic boy saw a tit on the BIG screen. Used to get quarter tips for taking patrons to their seats.

  25. #25

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    Thanks Lowell!

    Paris, this is one indignation (lack of permits for restoration work) that we may not get too worked up about. It's the Ilitch's use of public money for demolition work that gets us really worked up.

    Detroitcity is spot on... about the Adams literally "decomposing" under the Ilitch's watch. Soon after the Fox was restored and opened in late 1988, there was a shooting at the Adams. CAY had the building shut down, and soon after, Ilitch purchased the "twinned" Adams Theatre from the previous owner, and just let it sit, without any maintenance.

    Now we're waiting to see what will be built behind the "facade stabalization" of the Fine Arts Building entry to the Adams Theatre, as that building is demolished. The Fine Arts Buildings interior supports (wood beam construction) was failing, and the Detroit Historic Commission decreed that the facade on West Adams be saved... but for what??

    I was digging thru some old pics of the UA Building, and came across this 1st one that shows the UA soon after it opened in 1928. Notice that the first 5 floors are ornate with heavy cornice lines and arched entry ways. There is also an NBD branch on the corner.

    The 2nd image was taken about 2 years ago by a DYESer (don't remember who) from the people mover. Notice that not only are the first 3 floors totally remodeled, but the ornate brickwork on the 4th and 5th floor (as seen in the 1st image) was removed and replaced with plain brick.

    It looks like everything above the 5th floor is still pretty much original, except for the already discussed Tuller side, as well as the Clifford Ave. side of the building. The Clifford side lost a lot of the brickwork when it came raining down on parked cars in the mid 1980s, causing the temporary closing of Clifford for a long time. Apparently the freeze/thaw cycle (as well as the sun exposure) took its' toll on that side of the long unheated UA Building.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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