“an essential part of Ann Arbor's cultural fabric”
Today, the Michigan Theater continues to be an essential part of Ann Arbor’s cultural fabric. Presenting specialty films, serving as home to the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, and offering the Not Just for Kids series of live-on-stage programs for children and families, the Michigan remains “a Shrine to Art. . . and a credit to the community.” Businessman Angelo Poulos commissioned Detroit architect Maurice Finkel to design his dream: a grand vaudeville and movie palace in Ann Arbor. Finkel called it “a Shrine to Art. . . not built for today only, but constructed in the hopes that it might be a monument for years to come, and a credit to the community even when the city is many times its present size.” Constructed and furnished by the W. S. Butterfield Company, which operated several motion picture and vaudeville theaters in the state of Michigan, the theater opened to the public on January 5, 1928. Here, ushers prepare for the evening. Until the summer of 1929, Michigan events included vaudeville and silent films with live musical accompaniment from the Barton Theater Pipe Organ and Karl Weiderhold’s orchestra (shown here). The introduction of “talkies” resulted in the disbanding of the orchestra, the demise of vaudeville, and the beginning of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the 1930s and 1940s, the theater continued to be Ann Arbor’s premiere showplace for live stage entertainment, including national touring theater and opera companies, local community organizations, and University of Michigan events. The largest audiences, however, came for the movies. The 1950s and ’60s saw the increasing popularity of television – and decreasing film audiences. This 1951 photo shows a newer, less ornate marquee with a typical Hollywood offering of the time.
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The Michigan Theater
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