Lake Theatre - Walled Lake MI 

Address: 420 N Pontiac Trail
City: Walled Lake
State: MI
Zip: 48390
County: Oakland
Open: 1950
Capacity: 300
Owner History: William "Bud" Harris Jr.
Theater Type: Small Town Movie Palace
Number of visits to this page: 12844
General Information:

The Lake opened in the late 40s, and sat around 300. It operated for many years and was even a porn house for a short period. Eventually, it was converted to an archery range and bait shop. After that closed, it sat dormant for many years. It was torn down in 2003 after falling into disrepair. The photos on this page are from a set I took when I was considering buying the theater (in the late 1980's) in the hopes of re-opening it.

I got an estimate on the repairs that would have been needed and it was substantial. The electrical, plumbing and HVAC were shot. The roof leaked. It would have also needed all new seating, projection, audio gear and a new screen. Those expenses added to the 150k or so the owners were asking made the investment untenable. A single screen theater wouldn't have generated enough revenue to justify the investment.

It's a shame because the city really wanted it to happen. The place was an eyesore and they needed a nighttime entertainment draw for the town. The fact that I was looking into it and speaking with the city generated a mention in the Spinal Column Newspaper. The locals were excited as was I until I looked at the numbers.

Click the following links for locations of interest nearby:
Info Updates:
3/23/2021 - Andy Gray

My grandfather A.S. "Al" Johnson built the Lake Theatre in Walled Lake, but family records don't include the year of the project. An undated newspaper advertisement for the "New Lake Theatre" lists a 1947 film "The Voice of the Turtle," so it's likely that the theater opened in 1947 or 1948.

The theater was located at 420 Pontiac Trail. After the theater closed, the building went on to house a variety of businesses before being demolished. In June 1948 Al shot a slide from outside the theatre (see below). In this image, the entrance has a pair of red double doors with half-moon glass. These are the classic "Johnson doors" for which my grandfather was said to have held a patent. The theater is tan with red accents and the marquee is cream and maroon. Humphrey Bogart's classic 1948 film "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" appears on the marquee.

The Cinema Treasures website offers this history: "The Lake opened in the late 40s, and [seated] around 300. After the theater closed, it was used as a bait shop. It was torn down in 2003 after falling into disrepair, having stood vacant for many years."

11/29/2012 - Sonny Triplett
Born in 1945 on the opposite side of Walled Lake, we moved into a small house on Common St approximately 1 1/2 blocks from the theater in 1950. I remember paying 12 cents to get in until I turned 12 years old and it went to 20 cents. YEOWWWWW! l. o. l. I remember seeing Elvis in Blue Suede Shoes holding my younger sister sitting on the little wall in the rear of the theater because it was so packed. Truly some of the good old days.
8/20/2012 - Jim Harter
It also use to be a bowling alley. They had a professional bowling tournament there back in the late 50's that I went to and got to watch a 300 game bowled by Johnny King. Tom Dunckley and myself use to also bowl in a league there at that time.
12/2/2011 - Rich Hornbuckle
I remember the theater having a roller rink phase in the early 70's. I went to a birthday party there in 1972. I lived in Walled Lake from 1967-1975, and I believe it was a roller rink most of that time frame.
11/24/2009 - Sandra Huhtala
The lake theater was still open in 1966. I saw "Born Free" there when I still lived in Commerce Township.
7/14/2005 - Keith Collins
The Lake Theater remains an empty weed-filled lot. I noticed there are some posts that would hold a FOR SALE sign with a specific realtor. Either someone bought the lot, or the realtor just gave up.
12/18/2003 - Box Office Magazine
The Lake at Walled Lake, operated by William "Bud" Harris Jr. is being dismantled.
1/6/2003 - WaterWinterWonderland
The Lakes was a nice little downtown theatre that was probably built in the 1950s. After it closed, It was unsuccessfully converted to a bait store and an archery range. It eventually fell into such disrepair that the City of Walled Lake condemned the buiding. It sat dormant for a few years and was eventually demolished. The site is now an empty lot.
 Photos:9
Lake Theatre - MARQUEE FRONT
MARQUEE FRONT
Lake Theatre - FRONT ENTRANCE UNDER MARQUEE
FRONT ENTRANCE UNDER MARQUEE
Lake Theatre - MARQUEE FROM SIDE
MARQUEE FROM SIDE
Lake Theatre - PHOTO TAKEN IN JUNE 1948 BY AL JOHNSON
PHOTO TAKEN IN JUNE 1948 BY AL JOHNSON
Lake Theatre - OLD PIC
OLD PIC
Lake Theatre - OLD AD
OLD AD
Lake Theatre - OLD AD
OLD AD
Lake Theatre - 1950 PHONE BOOK
1950 PHONE BOOK
Lake Theatre - PORN PROBLEM IN WALLED LAKE AUG 1973
PORN PROBLEM IN WALLED LAKE AUG 1973
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