Mai Kai Theatre - Livonia MI

Address: 33330 Plymouth Rd
City: Livonia
State: MI
Zip: 48150
County: Wayne
Open: 1963
Capacity: 1400
Owner History:
Theater Type: Shopping Center - Early Multiplex
Number of visits to this page: 19185
Disclaimer:

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General Information:

AKA: Omni Star, George Burns

Source: Cinema Treasures

One of the last Detroit-area theaters built with a full stage and orchestra pit, the Mai Kai was built for Nicholas George in 1963 at a cost of over $1.5 million. It could seat over 1400 and decorated in Polynesian style, as its name would imply, though it had all the most up-to-date amenities of a 60s-era movie house, including both 35mm and 70mm projectors, a huge 60' by 27'; screen, and comfortable seating.

On opening night, the stars of the first movie to play the Mai Kai, "Son of Flubber", Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello, were in attendance. Also, the Mai Kai Orchestra performed, for the first and last time. The theater's management claimed that the Mai Kai's parking lot could hold more than 3000 cars, but the true number was closer to 500.

Though several times throughout the 70s there was talk of dividing the auditorium into a twin or more screens, the Mai Kai remained a single screen until it closed, in 1987, a year after the theater was acquired by AMC. During the 70s and into the 80s, the Mai Kai was one of the more popular area venues to see "event" films like "Superman" or the original "Star Wars" trilogy, in large part due to its vast screen.

The Mai Kai was reopened in 1988 as the Omni Star Theatre, after close to half a million dollars was said to have been spent remodeling the former movie theater into a live performance venue. However, in less than two months after it opened, the Omni was closed down, due to its owner's illegal activities. In 1992, the Omni reopened as the George Burns Theatre, after a $1 million facelift, with the theater's namesake being present at the opening festivities. However, despite high hopes for the George Burns, the theater was shuttered after a little more than a year in operation.

After sitting vacant for almost a decade, and plans for its reuse coming to naught, the George Burns is now slated to be razed for new construction, including a Walgreens and townhomes.

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Info Updates:
4/25/2003 - Detroit Free Press
Last curtain call for theater George Burns building is destined for condos, retail center April 24, 2003 BY ZLATI MEYER FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER Say good night, George Burns Theatre for the Performing Arts. Good night, George Burns Theatre for the Performing Arts. Demolition has begun at the movie palace at Plymouth and Farmington roads, the first theater named for the famous cigar-smoking, women-loving comedian. The property, long abandoned by a succession of owners, is getting a Hollywood-style makeover. The Farmington Hills-based Phoenix Land Development Co. plans to resurrect the site, transforming it into 94 ranch-style condominiums and 45,000 square feet of retail space. Walgreens, a major bank and a coffee shop already have signed up, said Dennis Rollinger, the companys marketing director. He said he expects the property to be worth $30 million when completed. But will the project, called Fountain Park, bring back pizzazz to the long-ignored property? "Itll put to good use a theater building closed for many, many years," said John J. Nagy, director of the Plymouth Road Development Authority. "Itll put the property back on the tax rolls with some significant development, both commercial and residential. "With the added residential, the residents will become shoppers and likely patronize the stores in the area. Thatll be good for business in the corridor." Like its namesake, the Burns Theatre kept coming back for encore after encore. Opened in 1963, the one-screen Mai Kai Theater was lavishly decorated in a Polynesian theme and boasted a sophisticated sound system. So grand was the cinema that Tommy Kirk, star of the first film shown at the Mai Kai, "Son of Flubber," attended the movie houses opening. Twenty-three years later, another company bought the 1,396-seat movie house, complete with an orchestra pit. In 1988, the Mai Kai became the Omni Star Theatre, but less than two months later, it closed. It had sold $70,000 worth of tickets for a Tom Jones performance, though the Welsh crooner had no deal with the theater. The Omni Star manager later pleaded guilty to fraud and most would-be audience members got their money back. In 1992, following a $1-million renovation, Stuart Gorelick -- whose family owned the Carlton and Civic theaters in Detroit and who himself had owned the Royal Oak Music Theatre for approximately two decades -- reopened the entertainment palace, this time christened for his favorite performer. Burns attended the grand opening with Florence Henderson, best known as Carol Brady. The inaugural production was the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Aspects of Love," and Gorelick said he planned to bring shows starring Marlo Thomas, Anthony Quinn and Don Knotts to town. Within half a year, though, what was once a venue for Wayne Newton and Debbie Reynolds shows was shuttered again; the theater went bankrupt. The Burns then served simply as a parking lot for the neighboring car dealership, Bill Brown Ford. On the drawing board now for the 21 acres is 14.2 acres dedicated to homes -- two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos that will range from 1,200 to 1,600 square feet and will sell for $150,000 to $180,000, said Rollinger. "Its win-win for developers, businesses, the corridor and the city of Livonia, in general," Nagy said. "Our board unanimously adopted a resolution in support of the project in spring 2002." The Phoenix Land Development Co. has another development project under contract in Livonia -- the old psychiatric hospital at Farmington and 8 Mile. That property will become Springbrook, a subdivision of single-family homes and condominiums, said Rollinger. According to the Plymouth Road Development Authority, the theaters intersection is the center of Livonias business corridor -- and has been since before Livonia became a city. An estimated 99,000 people live within a 3-mile radius of the intersection, and more than 988,000 live within a 10-mile radius, which stretches into Washtenaw and Oakland counties. Fountain Park is expected to rejuvenate this section of the Plymouth-Farmington crossroads. Elsewhere in the business district are a regional shopping center, four smaller ones and six Ford and GM automotive plants. But for older area residents, the Mai Kai in any of its incarnations is the place of memories -- first "big kid" outings, first kisses, first times playing hooky. With the quasi-schmaltzy building goes a piece of local history. "It was quite something as far as theaters went," recalled Pat Seleski, who gave her age simply as "old enough to remember." "It had this blue or bluish-green carpet. It had a contemporary Asian feel. Prior to that, theaters were more on the gaudy side. This was very modern for the time." Seleskis first outing to the then-Mai Kai Theater was when she was 10 years old. She went with her father, brothers, uncle and cousins to see the 1963 Marlon Brando film "The Ugly American."
 Photos:11
Mai Kai Theatre - FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
Mai Kai Theatre - MARQEE
MARQEE
Mai Kai Theatre - MAIN ENTRANCE
MAIN ENTRANCE
Mai Kai Theatre - MAIN ENTRANCE
MAIN ENTRANCE
Mai Kai Theatre - FOYER
FOYER
Mai Kai Theatre - MARQUEE
MARQUEE
Mai Kai Theatre - DEMOLITION
DEMOLITION
Mai Kai Theatre - DEMOLITION
DEMOLITION
Mai Kai Theatre - OLD AD
OLD AD
Mai Kai Theatre - JAN 7 1970 AD
JAN 7 1970 AD
Mai Kai Theatre - 1963-04-10 AD
1963-04-10 AD
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