Penn Theatre - Plymouth MI

Address: 760 Penniman Ave
City: Plymouth
State: MI
Zip: 48170
County: Wayne
Open: 1941
Capacity: 800
Owner History: Woodward Theatre Company, Lloyd Oliver, Penn Theatre Realty, LLC
Theater Type: Neighborhood House
Number of visits to this page: 14453

Please note that location entries may feature older photos or post card views that may not represent the current appearance, features, addresses, phone numbers, or contact names of the attraction. This site is intended to be a historical as well as current record of various attractions but it is not always possible to have up-to-date information due to the vast number of locations featured here. We ask you consult the propietor for current information.

General Information:

The Woodward Theatre Company purchased a parcel of land in downtown Plymouth in 1926 from George H. Wilcox with the intention of building a first class movie palace. It would be thirteen years before Harry Lush, employee at the Penniman & Allen Theatre, would purchase the property from the Woodward Theatre Company and begin plans on a theatre of his own. The name of the theatre, which was situated across from Kellogg Park, was changed twice before the building was complete and finally crowned in green neon with the name “PENN”.

The Penn Theatre officially opened on December 4, 1941 with the showing of “Weekend in Havana” starring John Payne and Carmen Miranda. Due to Mr. Lush's dislike of popcorn, the movie house staple was not served at the Penn until 1950 after Mr. Lush moved to California and the theatre was being managed by Margaret Wilson, who became the Penn's second owner in 1964. In late 1966, plans were drawn to “modernize” the entrance (as it appears today) as well as create a proper concession area in the main lobby.

The Penn has stood the test of time, surviving the advent of “a television in every living room” and the appearance of movies in VHS and DVD format. Over the next 58 years the theatre changed ownership several times but dedicated projectionist, Lloyd Oliver, “the voice of the Penn”, remained a constant at 760 Penniman Avenue until it closed its doors in late 2003 for “remodeling”. The Penn remained closed through 2004 with its fate uncertain.

In February of 2005, the Friends of the Penn was organized by a group of local residents who were concerned about the future of the historic Penn Theatre and the impact its closing has had on the community. Through a survey conducted in April, 2005, the group received an overwhelming response from the community in support of re-opening the Penn. The issue of procuring $1.2 M to purchase the building remained a stumbling block, however.

In December of 2005, when it looked like all hope was lost, a group of local businessmen formed Penn Theatre Realty, LLC and purchased the building from its current owners. This wonderful group of “angels” unselfishly decided to lease the building to Friends of the Penn for $1/year. Since reopening in September 2006, the Friends of the Penn volunteers have logged over 29,000 hours and welcomed in excess of 630,000 patrons (as of April, 2019). [Penn Website]

Click the following links for locations of interest nearby:
Info Updates:
1/6/2014 - Rich Burger
Built by Burger Construction Company.
4/12/2008 - M.S.
The concession area is now rebuilt and "sort of" newer movies are being shown on the weekend.

The most exciting thing is classic movies are being shown at the Penn Theater every Thursday evening at 7:00 pm. Cost is still $3.00 and believe me, it is worth it.

This past Thursday, the movie was "It Came From Outer Space", in 3-D, with glasses included. Next Thursday's showing will be "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (the original!!!!).
9/7/2006 - Detroit News
PLYMOUTH -- A group of local investors has agreed to buy the historic Penn Theater for $1.2 million and promises to save the old movie house for films and local performances. The consortium will lease the facility to a citizens group that had struggled to come up with the purchase price. The group, Friends of the Penn, had faced a deadline of today to come up with the money. Now, relieved of the burden of raising the purchase money, Friends of the Penn can shift its efforts to raising up to $1 million to renovate the old cinema and reopen it for second-run movies, performances by the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra and Plymouth Community Band, live theater productions and possible winter extensions of popular summer musical acts held in the adjacent Kellogg Park. One of the investors is Donald Soenen, owner of a Saline instruments manufacturing company and president of the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra Society. He also was a participant in fundraising for Cantons $12 million Village Theatre at Cherry Hill, which has become a center for performing arts. Soenen said a limited partnership -- it numbers seven, he said, and likely will grow to 10 -- is being formed to own the Penn. Soenen said the names of the other investors will be made public later. "At this point, I can say only that these are Plymouth-area businesspeople who have stepped up and committed $100,000 to $200,000 each to buy the theater and lease it back to The Friends of the Penn for restoration and operation. It would be a long-term commitment." Soenen said the investors have pledged "about three-quarters" of the purchase price. He is optimistic purchase can be completed within days. "Right now, there are still terms and additions -- like environmental impact studies -- being negotiated," Soenen said. "There are still loose ends, but we are confident this will get done within days." "Without this group of individuals, saving the Penn wouldnt happen," said Ellen Elliott, executive director of the Friends of the Penn. "Because of these people, our group can now focus on getting the Penn renovated and back into operation as quickly as possible." Chris Knight, a Plymouth Realtor who bought the theater for about $975,000 in 2004 with partner Patrick Tortora, said the sale could be completed by Wednesday. "We think this is a very good group, and the deal will be good for Plymouth," Knight said. "We got a higher offer from an out-of-area developer, but they would have torn it down. For the money difference, we really didnt think it was worth becoming known as the guys who tore down the Penn." Soenen has lived in Plymouth since 1969. He owns Sensors Inc., an automotive emissions test equipment manufacturer. He also owns a company in California that makes instruments for measuring and predicting the weather. "Its been a very nice community, and most of the people involved (investing) have been here as long as me and longer," Soenen said. "Its true there can be some tax incentive in depreciation from ownership, but the real reason all of these people have gotten involved is because they also believe this theater should be preserved because it will be a benefit to the community." Soenen said he and other investors got involved with the Friends of the Penn about a month ago. "In Plymouth, this is a big deal," Soenen said. "There is tremendous support for the arts here. I can see chamber concerts and youth programs there. There are going to be lots of uses for this theater, which is about the same size as the one in Canton, and that program has been extremely successful." The 64-year-old Penn closed two years ago as a movie house. It was used briefly by a church. The preservation group formed to save the art deco-style building from being torn down for redevelopment in the popular downtown. The roof leaks and the floors are tilted. The furnace and air conditioner need to be replaced. Plans to refurbish the building and its systems have been donated by local experts.
3/30/2004 - Detroit News
Penn Theater changes hands again By Christopher M. Singer / The Detroit News PLYMOUTH — The venerable old Penn Theater, which won accolades from the Art Deco Society of Detroit after the historic movie house was restored, has new owners. Lifelong Plymouth residents Chris Knight and Patrick Tortora, real estate investors, signed the deal on Friday. Knight said the sales agreement contains language forbidding him from revealing the purchase price for the theater, off Main Street and across from the town square, Kellogg Park. He and Tortora bought it from three partners, Ron Cook and John Mazzei of Cook Development in Plymouth and Ron Courtney, owner of Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak. “We shook hands last Friday,” Knight said. The closing is scheduled March 20. After an unsuccessful experiment with first-run films, the Penn closed in January for, it was announced, remodeling into a dinner theatre and comedy club. “Some demolition started,” Knight said, adding half the theater seats had been removed. “We have no definite plans as yet,” Knight said. Knight hinted that the new co-owners plan a family-oriented venue in the building and haven’t ruled out a restaurant. No one at Cook Development on Tuesday would discuss the sale. But the three partners bought the theater in 1998. In 2001, it won the Art Deco Society of Detroit’s preservation award. The Penn Theater opened Dec. 4, 1941, three days before Pearl Harbor. It was built by Harry R. Lush, who also owned a movie house in Northville. Its first film was “Weekend in Havana” with John Payne, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda. The decade of the 1950s was hard for the neighborhood movie house. Television brought free entertainment into the family living room and the federal government slapped a stiff excise tax on movie houses. While some neighborhood houses closed and others turned to art films or adult movies, the Penn managed to survive for decades by switching to second-run family films.
1/15/2004 - Cinema Treasures
Opened just three days before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Penn's first feature was "Weekend in Havana" with John Payne and Carmen Miranda. The 800-seat Art Deco beauty was built for Harry R. Lush, who owned a couple of other theaters in Plymouth and Northville. The name of the theater was to have been the Park, because it faced Kellogg Park, but just prior to opening, the name was switched to the Penn, short for Penniman, the street the theater sits on in downtown Plymouth. Over the decades, the Penn has had several ownership changes, but has continued to be a center of entertainment for the city of Plymouth. It is one of the few remaining single-screen classic movie houses in operation in the state of Michigan. The Penn has recently been restored and refurbished, looking better than it has in years, complete with new marble facing on its exterior, and new carpeting. It also has state-of-the-art sound and projection equipment, with DTS digital stereo, keeping up a tradition of being cutting-edge going back to the early 50s, when the Penn was among the first theaters in the area to install a Cinemascope screen with stereophonic sound. Today, the Penn not only screens second-run features, but also hosts monthly stand-up comedy nights, and the occaisional musical act. The Penn is one of the best-preserved operating classic cinemas in all of Michgian, and was awarded a "Preservation Award" in 2001 by the Detroit Area Art Deco Society.
12/18/2003 - Detroit News
Penn Theatre rolls through the years Movie format may change to second-run By Eric Lacy / The Detroit News PLYMOUTH -- The first day Lloyd Oliver started his film career he earned $13 and had to ditch the silver screen for a small booth and film projector. Hours were long and tedious since Oliver rolled and unrolled film most of the time. But the experience led to a historic family tradition that lives on today. "Its become a lifes work for me," said Oliver, who has had five relatives work at the Penn Theatre at different times over the past 50 years. "Theres nothing quite like it." Oliver, 74, is one of several longtime residents that has ties to the Penn Theatre, a 60-year-old one-screen structure on Penniman Avenue that still operates daily. The theater could soon return to its original format of second-run movies after more than a year of a first-run schedule, said William Oliver, the Penns general manager and Lloyds son. A return to second-run movies is one of several options the Penn has to help increase its patronage. Other ideas to boost patronage include the addition of comedy and music acts on designated nonmovie nights. However, no plans are set to change anything at this time, said John Mizzi, one of Penns three co-owners. There are only discussions about what could be done in the future. "Were doing everything we can to keep the theater and the first-run format," Mizzi said. "But like any business, you always have to explore your options." Mizzi said the Penns first-run format is fairing well in Plymouth, a community that has dramatically increased its downtown entertainment options in the past five years. But the first-run format is also expensive because most first-run movie companies ask for more than half of all ticket revenue. "Theres also the question of whether a first-run movie at a single-screen theater will succeed," said William Oliver. "For every "Chicago" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" there are films that fail miserably at the box office after two weeks." William Oliver is optimistic that any changes at Penn will produce positive results. "Were going to try to make it more customer friendly and get more people through the door," he said. "Its funny because we have people every day say they havent been to the Penn since they were a kid." No matter what changes are made to Penn, if any, it wont erase 81-year-old resident Ann Ingalls fond memories. Ingall, the aunt of Lloyd Oliver, saw "Weekend in Havana" at Penn Theatre the day of Japans bombing of Pearl Harbor. The bombing on Dec. 7, 1941 occurred three days after the theaters grand opening. "When I left the movie, nobody knew what was going on; people were scared and confused because they didnt know who was going to war," Ingall said. "The theater meant so much because thats how we got our news." She would later spend 17 years as a concessions cashier at the theater. She cherished the theater then because it brought the community together, and she hopes the buildings history will continue to be preserved. "You dont have to worry about crime because its in the center of town. Its a great place for kids; its a part of Plymouth," she said. "Growing up I always thought the Penn would last forever, and I hope Im right."
12/18/2003 - Detroit News
By Eric Lacy / The Detroit News PLYMOUTH — First-run movies could soon be history at the Penn Theater, a 50-year-old city landmark expected to make significant changes in the next two months. Owners of the theater are contemplating a switch to second-run films and possibly the addition of live entertainment, said William Oliver, Penn Theater general manager. Any movie screening changes would be in accordance with a renovation of the theater’s two lobbies expected to be complete within the next year. "We don’t know what’s going to happen just yet," Oliver said. "But once something is decided about what we will do, work will begin as soon as possible." The Penn started a first-run format a year ago due to a lack of business for second-run films. However, first-run has been a challenge as well since the films are more expensive to obtain. It’s possible the Penn won’t return to a second-run format because most second-run films are now obtained by theaters close to the film’s video cassette and DVD releases. That poses a challenge for theater owners, Oliver said. An option under consideration is a "brew and view" format where patrons could purchase alcohol and watch classic movies. Live entertainment such as plays, musicals and comedy acts is also a possibility. One of the three co-owners, Jim Courtney, is also co-owner of the popular Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Oliver said. The Penn had a brief stint with comedy acts in the past, but the turnout was never as strong as anticipated, Oliver said. Several former employees of the Penn continue to reside in the Plymouth area, and the theater continues to spark memories. Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, occurred three days after the theater’s grand opening. The first movie was "Weekend in Havana." The Penn was first named The Park Theater since it overlooks Kellogg Park, but it was soon changed to Penn prior to its opening since it resides on Penniman Avenue.
1/6/2003 - Web
The Penn Theatre is one of Michigans few remaining and active single screen theatres. A great piece of history! Serving Plymouth, MI and surrounding areas since 1941. The Penn Theatre opened its doors to the public on December 4, 1941 - Three days before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II. Moviegoers were treated to "Weekend in Havana", starring John Payne, Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda. Harry R. Lush, who also operated the Penniman & Allen Theatres in Plymouth and Northville, built the Penn and was its first owner. Originally named the Park Theatre because of its position overlooking downtown Plymouths Kellogg Park, the name was changed to the Penn just prior to its opening. Because of the sugar rationing during the war, candy was unavailable and concessions were eliminated, leaving only popcorn for patrons to enjoy with the feature. Harry Lush, unwilling to lose a bright and energetic young concessionaire, transferred teenaged Margaret Wilson to the Penniman & Allen theatre located a block away. Margaret sold tickets at the P & A for more than a year, then became the manager of all the theatres when Harry Lush and his wife moved to California. She continued to manage the Penn for Mr. Lush until his death in 1960, receiving one-quarter interest in the theatre in his will. In 1964, Harry Lushs widow, Charlotte, sold her interest to Miss Wilson, who became the sole owner. In 1982, the theatre was purchased by Earl and Bonnie Smith for their daughter Lauren to manage. When she left the business a few years later to begin a family of her own, the Smiths resumed operation of the theatre, but left much of the day-to-day management to long time projectionist Lloyd Oliver. They owned the Penn for sixteen years, and were responsible for many of the renovations of the interior, including the curtain and wall fabric, the xenon gas projector lamps which replaced the original carbon-arc lamps, and the stereophonic sound system. The Penn Theatre has long been on the cutting edge of motion picture technology. In 1953, it became one of the first area theatres equipped with a large screen suitable for the new Cinemascope anemographic process, and stereophonic sound. This tradition continues today with the exciting new DTS digital stereo system, which brings sonic realism to many of todays finest motion pictures. In 1998, The Penn changed ownership again. The current owners are Ron & Paula Cook, Jim & Linda Courtney and John & Deborah Mazzei. Recent changes have been made to the theatre. Much of the marble facing on the theatre has been replaced and the remainder was restored. The inside of the theatre has been updated including a new lobby floor, doors and carpeting. In May 2001 the Penn was awarded the "Preservation Award" by the Detroit Area Art Deco Society for the restoration of the Penn Theatre. There is an expanded stage to accommodate band performances. Weddings have been performed at the Penn, and it is also available for rental for corporate functions. In 2001 live comedy nights with national acts were introduced one weekend a month.
Penn Theatre - April 2021
April 2021
Penn Theatre - April 2021
April 2021
Penn Theatre - From 2003
From 2003
Penn Theatre - From 2003
From 2003
Penn Theatre - From 2003
From 2003
Penn Theatre - 1940S From Paul
1940S From Paul
Penn Theatre - Lloyd And William Oliver
Lloyd And William Oliver
Penn Theatre - Lloyd Oliver
Lloyd Oliver
Penn Theatre - 2003 Ice Carvings In Front Of The Penn
2003 Ice Carvings In Front Of The Penn © 2024 Over 73,745,101 Served