Detroit Opera House - Detroit MI

Address: 1526 Broadway St
City: Detroit
State: MI
Zip: 48226
County: Wayne
Open: 1922
Capacity: 4250
Owner History: Kunsky
Theater Type: N/A
Number of visits to this page: 18096

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General Information:

Source: Cinema Treasures

The Capitol was considered Detroit's first official movie palace, and when it opened in 1922, it sat about 3500, the fifth largest ever built in the US at the time. Its architect, C. Howard Crane, designed the Capitol in the style of the Italian Renaissance, and its facade, with its soaring Corinthian columns, loomed over Broadway like a royal palace. Its interior was even more ornate, with several kinds of marble, Tiffany mosaics, sculpture and gilt decorating its lobby and other areas. The Capitol is said to have cost over $2 million to build.

The 35-piece 'Great Capitol Wonder Orchestra', led by Eduard Werner, was on hand opening day, and remained a popular feature of the theater until he left the Capitol for the Michigan in 1926. On screen, 'The Lotus Eater' was shown, as well as footage of guests entering the theater two hours earlier, much to the audience's amazement and delight. The theater's name was changed to the Paramount in 1929, when it was taken over by the Paramount-Publix chain, and featured live stage shows and vaudeville acts. Stars who appeared on the Paramount's stage in those days included W.C. Fields, Fatty Arbuckle, and Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra.

As a result of the Depression, the theater closed in 1932, but only until 1934, when it reopened under United Detroit Theaters with another new name, this time the Broadway-Capitol. In the 40s and 50s, management of the theater passed back and forth between various parties, but it was managed by United Detroit once again beginning in 1960. For most of the 50s, the Broadway-Capitol featured second-run films and double-features, and unlike many other area theaters, did not convert to the widescreen format to attract audiences.

It was in 1960 that United Detroit poured over $100,000 into remodeling the theater, completely changing its facade and slightly reducing its seating capacity. It was also given yet another new name during this time, the Grand Circus, continuing to screen second-run films. The theater often struggled during the 60s and 70s, but remained open until 1978, with the last film on its screen being 'Jailbait Babysitter'. During the early-to-mid 80s, the Grand Circus was used for concerts, but was forced to close in 1985 after a fire broke out.

In 1989, the Michigan Opera Theatre purchased the Grand Circus and nearby Madison Theaters for $3.5 million and began a $20 million campaign to restore the interior of the old Capitol to its 20s appearance, enlarge its stage, improve the sound and lighting systems, and reduce seating to a more comfortable 2700. It now serves as the Detroit Opera House.

Source: Gistok

I just want to make some additions to the comments already made. the theatre opened on Jan. 12, 1922 as the Capitol Theatre. It underwent a name change in 1929 and became the Paramount (when it became part of the Paramount theatre chain). It closed in 1933 during the depression. In 1934 it reopened as the Broadway Capitol Theatre. In 1960 it underwent a name change (and remodeling) to the Grand Circus Theatre (not to be confused with the 1913-1922 1,300 seat C. Howard Crane designed Grand Circus Theatre on Woodward Ave. , that was replaced after only 9 years of business by the 2,967 seat State Theatre).

The Grand Circus continued operation first as a movie house, then later as a concert venue. finally closing (and left abandoned) in 1985. In 1989 Michigan Opera Theatre bought it and spent $42 million expanding the stage house and restoring the auditorium. It reopened in 1996 (christened by opera stars Luciano Pavarotti and Dame Joan Sutherland) as the Detroit Opera House. As to original seating counts for this theatre. Developer John Kunsky claimed that when it opened in 1922 it had 4,250 seats, and was the 5th largest theatre in the world at the time. However, Kunsky (and most theatre operators) often liked to inflate their seating counts. and the true seating count for this theatre was 3,384 seats.

However much later, the original diagrams for the theatre showed that since the auditorium was open to the grand foyer behind it. the original seating had an additional 7 or so rows of seats. which would have brought it up to perhaps 4,000 seats. But likely fire codes at the time nixed that extra seating in the back (the grand foyer needed more circulation space). but Kunsky kept the count higher than it was allowed to be.

Info Updates:
11/7/2022 - Sarah B
Cinema treasures page
12/18/2003 - Box Office Magazine
August 1959 - "The Tingler", new William Castle horror release, was world-premiered at the Broadway-Capitol Theatre, probably the first time a premiere has been held at the "witching hour" in this city. A two-hour horror clambake, starting at 10 p.m., preceded the event and drew sure-fire public interest. Marquee lights were converted to a horror green. A masquerade dance was featured at the clambake, with music by Freddy Days Tingler orchestra. Announcements urged all visitors to wear fright costumes representing murderers, demons and other "undefineable apparitions". All persons wearing suitable costumes were admitted without charge for the premiere, and prizes were awarded for the most terrifying costumes. Dick Osgood, radio show business commentator, was master of ceremonies, interviewing and introducing celebrities attending the preliminary saturnalia as well as the world premiere itself. Publicity for the world premiere was handled by Cornell & Prass, Detroit public relations firm, working with Marle D. Meyer, director of advertising and exploitation for United Detroit Theatres.
Detroit Opera House - Old Photo From Wayne State Library
Old Photo From Wayne State Library
Detroit Opera House - Organist From Wayne State Library
Organist From Wayne State Library
Detroit Opera House - Classic Shot
Classic Shot
Detroit Opera House - Old Marquee Shot
Old Marquee Shot
Detroit Opera House - Now Detroit Opera House
Now Detroit Opera House
Detroit Opera House - Now Detroit Opera House
Now Detroit Opera House
Detroit Opera House - Old Post Card
Old Post Card
Detroit Opera House - Old Ad
Old Ad
Detroit Opera House - Old Ad
Old Ad
Detroit Opera House - Old Ad From John Lauter
Old Ad From John Lauter
Detroit Opera House - 1934-08-31 Ad
1934-08-31 Ad
Detroit Opera House - Aug 1934
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