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Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Uptown Theaters

 
 
Uptown Theaters Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joel Seewald, July 10, 2021
1. Uptown Theaters Marker
Inscription.  
The Michigan Theater opened January 5, 1928, acclaimed as Ann Arbor's own movie palace—"a shrine to art." Ida Mae Chadwick and her Dizzy Blondes, a flapper dance revue, accompanied the silent film "A Hero for a Night" with a live orchestra and the Barton pipe organ. The following year, in 1929, the Michigan converted to talkies. During the Great Depression, live vaudeville and bands played between the movies. In 1932 you could see newreels, cartoons, features, and hear live musicians—all for 50 cents.

In 1942, after the start of World War II, the Art Deco State Theater opened "ablaze with radiant beauty." Showing movies only, it succeeded the aging Majestic Theater on Maynard Street. The Michigan and the State became the major venues for movies in the 1950s with the closing of the Main Street theaters—the Whitney, the Orpheum, and the Wuerth. From then to the 1980s most foreign art films played at the Campus Theater on South University Avenue and later at the Fifth Forum on South Fifth Avenue.

Movie theaters were threatened by competition from television and later from suburban multiplexes. Owners reacted in 1979 by
Uptown Theaters Marker — left images image. Click for full size.
Photos courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.
2. Uptown Theaters Marker — left images
Michigan Theater and East Liberty Street, 1929. The film "Finders Keepers," starring Jack Oakie, was playing.
Top left inset caption: In 1940 "Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra" played at the Michigan for two days between film screenings. The Ann Arbor News display ad promised "primitive rhythms, weird melodies, amazing syncopations...music not other band can play."
Top right inset caption: Henry Aldridge was one of the leaders in saving the Michigan Theater. For years he had worked with others to restore the Barton Theater Pipe Organ, originally used to accompany silent films.
Bottom left inset caption: Founded in 1963, the Ann Arbor Film Festival has been held at the Michigan Theater every year since 1980. It is the longest running independent and experimental film festival in North America.
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dividing State into four mini-theaters. The upper two survived after the lower two were converted to retail space.

The Michigan closed in 1979. The people of Ann Arbor responded by buying it and began raising funds for restoration. As a nonprofit, it has become the premier showplace for independent films, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Ann Arbor Symphony, the Not Just for Kids series of live-on-stage programs, popular music concerts, and live theater.

Sponsored by Ralph P. Beebe, Pauline V. Walters, and First Martin Corporation
 
Erected by Ann Arbor Historical Foundation.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicEntertainmentIndustry & Commerce. A significant historical date for this entry is January 5, 1928.
 
Location. 42° 16.759′ N, 83° 44.531′ W. Marker is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Washtenaw County. Marker is at the intersection of East Liberty Street and Maynard Street, on the right when traveling east on East Liberty Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 540 East Liberty Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. From Liveries to Taxis (here, next to this marker); Ideation Building (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The James Foster House of Art (about 400 feet away); Town and Gown: Entertainment and Changing Culture
Uptown Theaters Marker — right images image. Click for full size.
Photos courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.
3. Uptown Theaters Marker — right images
Image and bottom right inset caption: Converted from a roller rink to a theater in 1907, the Majestic on Maynard Street focused on vaudeville but also showed movies. Butterfield Theater manager Gerald Hoag moved live performances to the Michigan Theater when it opened in 1928. The Majestic closed in 1942 and Hoag then transferred the entire staff to the new State Theater.
Top left inset caption: The Arcade Theater, on North University from 1915 to 1928, showed silent movies often to raucous student audiences. It burned in December, a few months before talkies arrived in town.
(about 400 feet away); The 19th-Century Neighborhood (about 500 feet away); At Home in the 19th Century (about 500 feet away); A Second Shopping District (about 600 feet away); Ann Arbor High School (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ann Arbor.
 
Uptown Theaters Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joel Seewald, July 10, 2021
4. Uptown Theaters Marker
This marker is the one on the left, closest to the building entrance.
Uptown Theaters Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Joel Seewald, July 10, 2021
5. Uptown Theaters Marker
View looking east along East Liberty Street from the marker. Michigan Theater's marquee and blade sign can be seen on the left and State Theater's marquee and blade sign can be seen in the distance at the intersection of East Liberty Street and South State Street.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on July 11, 2021, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 61 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 11, 2021, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.

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Dec. 8, 2022