Denniston Cinemas - Monroe MI

Address: 6495 N Monroe St
City: Monroe
State: MI
Zip: 48162
County: Monroe
Open: 1974
Capacity: 578
Owner History: Denniston Theater Co.
Theater Type: Downtown Movie Palace
Number of visits to this page: 4589
General Information:

Source: Cinema Treasures

Built as the Denniston I & II in 1974 on a corner of the long-ago closed Denniston Drive-In's property (both theaters were operated at the time by the Denniston Theatre Company), the twin was designed by Louis Wiltse. It could originally seat 578 and featured a V-shaped floorplan, with sloped ceilings and large floor to ceiling screens. The projection booths in the original two auditoriums were only four feet above the main floor, which was said to give a better picture. A third screen was added in the 80s. Though the theater was closed briefly during the 90s, it has since reopened and features first-run films.

Info Updates:
5/27/2009 - Monroe News
Movie memories by Charles Slat , last modified May 22. 2009 11:04AM Area film buffs are reacting to the closing of the Denniston Cinema with the same nostalgia and emotions that might be evoked by a bittersweet movie. The moviehouse at 6495 N. Monroe St. had its last showings Thursday night, ending a 35-year run and the cinematic legacy of a longtime Monroe family. Owners said it had become more difficult for the family-owned theater to book films to compete with offerings at multi-screen cinemas. "It makes me very sad," said Bill Reiser, a film fan, Denniston patron and circulation coordinator at the Monroe County Library System. "I give them all the credit in the world for hanging on and remaining independent for as long as they were able to in this world of corporate takeovers and consolidations." Mr. Reiser said he has fond memories of the Denniston. "I can thank the folks at the Denniston for making me a movie-lover. My earliest film memories are of the old Monroe Theater downtown (now the River Raisin Centre for the Arts) and then it shifted up the road to the Denniston. I can remember being dropped off to see films and watching them twice, back-to- back at the Denniston. "I saw ‘Star Wars’ for the first time at the Denniston," he recalled. "The first R-rated movie I snuck into was at the Denniston. They were actually asking for ID but my companion at the time was old enough to see ‘Endless Love’ so we were able to go together. "The popcorn at Denniston was always fresh," he added. Lee Markham, 60, of Monroe remembered going to the Denniston-owned Monroe Theater as a child, paying 25 cents and later 35 cents to see movies. The Monroe Theater dates to 1937. Later, he’d take in films at the Denniston, which opened in 1974. "They always said it was a little bit nicer theater," he said. He remembers the first few frames of a film being projected as the curtain opened. "You’d never see a blank white screen. That was a nice touch," he said. The late Joseph R. Denniston opened the movie theater in 1974. He also was a pioneer in Monroe cinema, running the Dixie, Family and the Monroe Theaters in downtown Monroe for many years. The first Denniston-owned theater dated to 1917. He opened a drive-in theater on N. Monroe St. in 1955 on acreage just north of where the Denniston Cinema stands. The drive-in operated until the 1980s and was demolished in the 1990s. Mr. Denniston’s grandson, Joe Sterling, who became involved in the family business in 1950 and has run the operation for decades, said he, of course, was saddened by the closing. He has many memories of the films and customers. He said the biggest film, attendance-wise, at the Denniston, probably was the original "Star Wars." "We were able to open it a week before it opened in Toledo," he said. "It was one of those not infrequent examples where the film company doesn’t really know what they have. It was a huge hit." Mr. Reiser said he remembers waiting in line for "Star Wars" tickets. "We camped out for a couple of hours to get in," he said. On monroenews and MonroeTalks, area residents associated the Denniston with flirting, first dates and fun times through the years. Mr. Sterling he’s not sure what might become of the theater building. "I don’t really have any firm plans and I don’t suspect any purchaser would want it as a theater," he said. But he added, "I probably won’t take the projection equipment out right away because it’s in good working order and there’s the chance that someone would use them." He said church organizations sometimes acquire old theaters to show Christian movies and some cinemas are converted to Bollywood fare. Mr. Reiser said he is not a fan of corporate theaters and the Denniston was convenient for him when he lived in Carleton. "The screens were larger, they seemed to care more about the presentation, and the folks there always seemed to remember you," he said "I think that that’s losing value in society these days, just like the act of going to a movie in a place where we all sit in a dark room with pretty pictures on the wall is losing value. We see that in the lack of etiquette in theaters now. "For some reason, the Denniston will always remind me of the day when going to the movies was a big deal," he said.
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