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Source: David W. King
Here's is possibly the last words on the Family Theatre, this from the Citizen Pat, 3/18/65 Family Theater Fire Blamed on Intruders A gust-fanned fire which swept the upper portion of the empty Family Theater at 113n. Otsego Wednesday afternoon is believed to have been accidentally started by intruders who used the building to sleep in. Jackson Fire Chief Leo M. Fox said the firs could have been started by a discarded cigarette or by coals used to ekeep the dwellers warm. He said that charred papers found on the floor hould have veen used for a bed. The fire apparently started near the projection room door and ran up the partition. Most heavily damaged were offices around the projection booth and the small balcony:
The theater, a former livery stable, had been vacant for about two years and is scheduled to be razed under the city's urban renewal program, along with other buildings to which it is connected. The city bough it in June. The fire, which at one time was sending sheets of flame and heavy, thick gray smoke through windows directly above the marquee, was brought under control about an hour after the firemen arrived. Eight fire department vehicles were sent to the scene. After blasting the face of the fire with high pressure water bursts, the black helmeted, gas masked firemen began making their way int o the theater and to buildings attached to each side of it, all of which front on N. Otsego or E Michigan Avenues. Other buildings which absorbed quantities of smoke and are due to be deolished along with the theater are the U. S. Trading Store, the Ira Scott upholstery store, and the Royal Banner Cigar Store, once owned by Lyle Burden.
Some patrons in Eddie's Bar, next to the Royal Banner building, took to the sidewalks soon after the fire was discovered aand then slowly drited back after danger of the fire spreading had lessened. The fire was discvoered about 3 p. m. by Carl Rosiling, a Citizen Patriot employe who alerted Mrs. Robert W. Welman, 3600 Seymour Rd. , operator of the Gold Bell Gift Redemption Center, 144 E. Michigan. She called the fire department. The 800 seat Family Theater was purchased for $24,500 on June 5, 1964, by he city from Daniel C. Haefner and the National Bank of JAckson. Mr. Haefner previously had leased the building to Harry C. Small, 2001 Blen. Mr. Small said he operated the theater for 20 years beginning in 1943. He said it was formerly a Butterfield theater.
Source: Ward MacReady
As a child growing up in Jackson's Summit Twp suburbs (Horton Rd\Jackson Country Club area) beginning in the mid-50's, I remember hearing tales about the Family, which was on it's last legs sometime during the late 50's early 60's if my memory serves me correctly. In particular, rumors were that there were bats flying freely through the theater during shows and that the Family had low-budget, "sleazy" films playing--not on a level with the Michigan and Capitol theaters, both downtown, which played Disney movies among others.
By today's standards, what passed for "sleaze" in those days is laughable. Among my pals and their parents, the Family Theater had a reputation as an old, forbidding, scary place--a place to be avoided, which intrigued me all to heck. I have very vague memories of seeing the theater somewhere on its downtown corner, but I would love to see any old photos of the place and hear others' recollections. I plan to visit the Lib of Mich's microfilm newspaper archive sometime to look for old Family Theater ads, which must have run in the Jackson Citizen Patriot during the era I remember.