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Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts

Address: 350 Madison Ave
City: Detroit State: MI Zip: Phone:  
County: Wayne
Notes: AKA: Wilson, Cinerama
View on Google Maps  
Open: 1928   Capacity: 1722  
Owner: Cinerama Corp.
Number of visits to this page since Sept 2013: 6455

1/13/2020 - Nick Sortzi
Music Hall is not closed.
8/17/2006 - Greg Steinmayer
I worked for the architectural firm that oversaw the early-90s restoration of the ceiling (Schervish Vogel Merz). At that time we discovered that the second, upper balcony (the first, middle balcony could not be called a Loge since it was larger than the upper balcony) was originally constructed as coloreds-only seating, and except for emplyee passages, was not originally internally connected to the rest of the theater - it was originally accessible to the public only via a stairway from a set of doors on the side of the theater. The original wallpaper remained across the rear of the balcony and still bore the dark stains of many, many years of hair oil .
6/5/2006 - Kelly
The Music Hall is open, and it has a newer Facade.
1/15/2004 - Cinema Treasures
Opened in 1928 as a legitimate playhouse, the Wilson Theatre once sat over 2000. Designed by William Kapp in a stunning blend of Spanish Renaissance and Art Deco, the Wilson cost nearly $3 million to construct. Its facade was strictly Art Deco, complete with multicolored terra cotta. The interior was even more ornate, complete with marble columns, wrought-iron railings, brass fixtures, mahogany paneling, and masks representing comedy and drama by Italian sculptor Corrado Parducci. The Wilson was immediately acclaimed for its perfect accoustics and clear sight lines.

Though primarily a legitimate theater, the Wilson did have then-cutting edge projection equipment installed before it opened, and did screen a film 'These Thirty Years' on its opening night. In 1941, the Wilson was one of just fourteen theaters nation-wide to screen Disney's 'Fantasia' in Fantasound, an early use of stereo sound. In 1945, the Wilson closed, and was purchased by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. It was renamed the Music Hall.

In 1949, the orchestra vacated the theater and it remained closed until 1953, when Mervyn Gaskin reopened it as a venue for Cinerama films. A 64 foot-tall screen was installed. The Music Hall was only the second Cinerama theater in the world, and supposedly the most successful as well, playing to packed houses for years. In 1964, 70mm equipment was installed for the premier of 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'.

In 1966, after closing a year for remodeling, the Music Hall reopened again, this time showing second-run films, until closing once more in 1970. In 1973, the Kresge Foundation purchased the Music Hall and renamed it the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts. It received a $5 million renovation to return the interior to its 1928 appearance. In 1977, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Music Hall has continued to receive renovations over the years, and is today one of Detroit's most magnificent venues to see concerts and other events. Cinema Treasures Link.
1/10/2004 - Box Office Magazine
March 1959 Issue - A six-foot high birthday cake in the lobby of the Music Hall Theatre marked the sixth anniversary of Cinerama here. On March 23, 1953, This is Cinerama, the first of five Cinerama productions, made its bow to the Detroit moviegoing public. A large white ribbon was snipped at the entrance of the Music Hall, and a knife plunged into the huge birthday cake by two Dearborn, Mich, youngsters, who were selected from a group of 50 juvenile candidates residing in the greater Detroit area to become Miss Junior Cinerama, and Mr. Junior Cinerama. All celebrated birthdays on March 23.

Tiny Deborah Greener as Miss Junior Cinerama and Dennis Test as Mr. Junior Cinerama served as hosts for the evening performance of the more than 20 state, city and suburban mayors, city managers and other dignitaries, who were special guest to see South Seas Adventure. Music Hall Manager William McLaughlin and other Cinerama staffers remained in the background as the red velvet costumed youngsters greeted their guests for the evening and escorted them into the theatre to the strains of Hawaiian melodies played by Maurice Guillemet's Hawaiian Serenaders and hula dancers. The Detroit, Toledo, and Windsor daily and a half dozen weekly publications launched the Cinerama promotion seeking Miss and Mr.

Junior Cinerama candidates and response came from as far south as Holland, Ohio, over to Adrian, Mich. and extended into the northernmost suburbs of Detroit.
1/10/2004 - Box Office Magazine
March 1959 Issue - William McLaughlin, Music Hall manager for Cinerama, was one of the chief participants in a suprise award - a plaque he and a group of hockey fans financed to present at the Saturday (21) game at Olympia Stadium to George Hayes, hockey linesman. The plaque honored Hayes' long-time service to the sport and was a suprise kept secret until presentation time by McLaughlin, except for the officials of the hockey league who had to grant permission for the presentation.
1/10/2004 - Box Office Magazine
April 1959 Issue - On the occasion of Cinerama's sixth birthday Monday, March 23rd, the last Monday of Lent, the Music Hall, now showing South Seas Adventure, experienced a record attendance. It was the second best Monday ever experienced by Cinerama during the Lenten period. The previous weeks of Lent held up exceptionally well.
12/30/2003 - John Lauter
The Wilson Theatre is what is now known as Music Hall on Madison ave. The playbill shown on the page has an advertizement at the bottom for gowns by Irving which would have been located on Washington Blvd. The Wilson was built by Matilda (Dodge) Wilson, widow of John Dodge and resident of Meadowbrook hall. The Wilson was built as a legitimate house, and switched to movies in the 40's.

12/11/2003 - John McDowell
Perhaps correcting Bryan Kreffts entry, I suspect the screen was 64 feet wide, not tall. Consider the Cinerama aspect ratio of around 2. 5/1 and you can see that a 64 foot tall screen would have to have been 160 feet wide.
2/13/2003 - Michigans Historic Sites Online
Originally called the Wilson Theatre, this building was completed in 1928 with funds provided by Matilda Wilson (Mrs. Alfred G. ). William E. Kapp of Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, an architectural firm whose works dominated the citys skyline of the 1920s, designed this Art Deco-style edifice.

Terra cotta Greek masks adorn the exterior, and elaborate molded plaster and stenciling complement the interior. The theaters purpose of offering legitimate productions was initially fulfilled, but during the Depression its lights dimmed except for sporadic occasions. From 1946 to 1949, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra occupied the structure which was renamed Music Hall. Area residents came here in the 1950s and 1960s to see Cinerama and other films.

Now the home of the Music Hall Center and the Michigan Opera Theatre, Music Hall is restored to its original use and appearance. The Wilson Theater (Music Hall) is a rectangular, six-story, Art Deco theater with walls of light colored stone. Orange and tan brick is used as ornament and the building is trimmed with colorful mosaic tile. The entrance facade is divided into several bays by wide stone pillars topped by theatrical terra cotta mask figures, and thin pillars separating window bays.

The stunning interior, decorated in an elaborate Spanish Renaissance style, seats approximately 1800 guests. The Music Hall is an outstanding example of careful restoration and one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in Detroit. Mathilda Dodge Wilson commissioned William Kapp of the Detroit firm of Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls to design the theater, completed in 1928 at a cost of $1. 5 million.

The building was constructed as a legitimate theater and originally housed touring Broadway productions in the citys main theater district. In 1946 the name of the building was changed from the Wilson Theater to the Music Hall when the theater became the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The building was changed into a Cinerama in 1951 and has recently been beautifully restored.

Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - AUDITORIUM SHOT FROM JOHN LAUTER
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - LOBBY SHOT FROM JOHN LAUTER
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - LOBBY SHOT FROM JOHN LAUTER
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - OLD MARQUEE SHOT
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - OLD AD
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - OLD SHOT AS MUSIC HALL
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - OLD AD
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - RECENT SHOT
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - FROM ROBERT MORROW
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - MUSIC HALL FROM FREDERICK
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - FROM ROBERT MORROW
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - FROM ROBERT MORROW
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - FROM ROBERT MORROW
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - FROM ROBERT MORROW
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - FROM ROBERT MORROW
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts - FLOOR PLAN FROM JOHN LAUTER

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