Eastown Theatre - Detroit MI

Address: 8041 Harper Ave
City: Detroit
State: MI
Zip: 48213
County: Wayne
Open: 1931
Capacity: 2500
Owner History: Wisper-Wetsman
Theater Type: Neighborhood House
Number of visits to this page: 25421

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:

From Cinema Treasures

The Eastown Theatre was one of Detroit’s great neighborhood theatres, located to the northeast of the city near Hamtramck. It opened originally October 1, 1931 for the Wisper-Wetsman Theaters circuit. It was mainly a movie house, though it did have a small stage and did occasionally host stage shows as well in its early years.

Its decor was a mixture of Renaissance Revival styles, including Spanish and Italian with Baroque and Neo-Classic elements as well. The auditorium, which included a large balcony, originally sat just under 2,500. It was designed by the firm of V.J. Waier & Co.

Though the Eastown Theatre closed as a movie house during the mid-1960’s, its second life was just beginning, for which it would be much better known, as one of Detroit’s premiere rock venues.

Beginning in 1969, the list of performers on the Eastown Theatre’s stage reads like a who’s-who of rock and roll of that era. Alice Cooper, the Doors, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Seger, Jethro Tull and the Grateful Dead are just a few of the bands who played here between 1969 and 1973.

It was forced to shut down in 1973 by the city of Detroit, cited for failing to meet health and safety codes. In 1975, it reopened as a jazz venue, which remained in operation for about a year. After this, it was used for a short time for performing arts and live theatre, but again closed down.

In 1980, the Eastown Theatre began to show adult films under a new name, the Showcase Theatre, but closed again in 1984. From 1984 until 1990, the Eastown Theatre was again home to a performing arts group.

During the mid-1990’s, the Eastown Theatre hosted raves, and later housed a church. Today, the building is unused, and by January 2015 the roof collapsed due to illegal scrappers stealing sections of the building. It was demolished in November 2015.

Info Updates:
1/13/2020 - Nick Sortzi
Demolished in November 2015 following a fire that destroyed the apartment portion. Currently a vacant lot.
11/20/2015 - Ed
Growing up in Detroit in the late 40's and 50's we had 2 places for movies. The cheaper one was the Van Dyke Theater which was around the corner from the Eastown on Van Dyke and Harper. I think it was 15 cents to get in but the Eastown charged 25 cents as it was more upscale and fancier Lots of great memories.
7/5/2015 - Gayke
I saw Bloodrock, Joe Cocker's Grease Band and Bad Finger at this awesome historical Theatre in 1971. It is a real shame that noone wanted to invest in this Historical Landmark to save this beautiful venue. It had the best acoustics and was architecturally beautiful and a cult classic. It hosted many classic movies and concerts in it's time. It was a diamond in the rough.
4/12/2015 - Dawn
Its interesting reading everyone's comments. My great grandfather was the manager at Eastown in the 1940s. He went on to help open many other theaters & drive-ins in Wayne , Macomb & Oakland counties. Almost all of these are closed now. He owned a business that furnished most of the theaters with projectors & seating. His company was Exhibitors Supply Company. So sad that these beautiful theaters are all about gone now.
3/5/2014 - Lenny
Most of those who knew the Eastown were shocked when it was almost destroyed. Nobody helped. The Rock Bands like the Stooges, Bob Seger, the USA and English Bands did nothing when the Eastown almost destroyed our history. Why don't these Groups do something? It's all about money! Why don't they get together to give our history back to the people.
7/25/2013 - Jack Turri
Oh my. What a great web site that you folks have strung together !! I remember going there as a little kid in the 60s to watch The Beatles A Hard Days Night and many other weekends for those cheap B&W 3D monsters movies. Later in the high school days when we Turned On & Tuned In, I remember seeing Ten Years After, Procol Harum, King Crimson, Lee Michaels, The Amboy Dukes, Mountain, Joe Walsh, Alice Cooper, Bloodrock, Leon Russell, Cradle, etc. etc. WOW. I also remember trying to get my frisbee throwing friends to go to the Eastown one Saturday night to see these new bands from England named Emerson, Lake & Palmer + some new band called YES. Can you imagine. ? And, no one wanted to go! As the great Mark Farner would say, Tell everybody you know - you got some rock n roll soul !!!.
8/27/2011 - Richard Knier
I grew up in Roseville Mi. just north of the city line at 12 mile rd. My first visit to the Eastown was either Oct 3 rd or 4 th 1969. I can never forget that night or the groups that played. It was Pacific Gas & Electric, Steve Miller Band and I disagree that Head over Heels played both nights. I saw The Chambers Brothers with the other two groups one of the two nights that weekend. From then on I was a regular. I'm not sure how long it was before my brother Michael befriended The girl who ran the Magic Veil Light Show at the Eastown at the time. She needed help with one of the two carbon arc spot lights and Michael asked if he could help her. She said yes. That started rock and roll history for him and myself as he was able to get me a job running the other spot light. Eventually Gail gave up the gig at the Eastown, and the place was left with just the two spot lights. My brother and I ran the spot lights. for about the next 3 years. We made no wages and worked for getting in free each week and running the lights from the front row of the balcony. The owner Mr. Glance and his son eventually installed two new spotlights that got the light from a large light bulb. We worked until the last show in Dec. 11, 1971. Then the theater was shut down by the mayor. We went to the re-opening on July 19, 1973. We saw the last three rock shows and the rest is history. I have retold the story of our experience at the Eastown many times over the years. and I told the story last night to a friend at my local watering hole Dolly's Tavern in DeLand Fl. This site and others appeared in my face this morning when I finally Googled The Eastown Theater in Detroit Mich. Now I can tell this story to the same guy. I also have two items I got while working the lights. A autographed photo of Johnny Winters and a couple of Magic veil lights you alot embossed pins.
7/31/2011 - Fred
While enjoying the venue at The East-town Theatre (1970) some black dude walked up to us and started a conversation. My room mate Dave and I were watching Alice Cooper from the 10th row. I thought the guy was a friend of Dave's and visa versa. We talked about music and he seemed very interested in our opinion on the various groups who played at the East-Town. It wasn't until we saw the dude on stage doing the Duckwalk that we realized he was Chuck Berry.
3/24/2011 - Joe B
the House of Donuts, now that brings back memories. I use to go there a lot in the 60's I was only 7 or 8 years old then. My older brother had a crush on a girl that worked there back then. My father use to run the shoe repair shop around the corner on Van Dyke across from Cunninghams.
2/13/2011 - rob
In early 2000, i attended several raves in the theatre and i always loved to hear the directions on the phone enroute that the rave was being held at the theatre (Eastown-the best raves were always there) i remember Lovers Ball was my first and i think tough guy was there!! Some of the best times in my life in the D. P. L. U. R!!! (Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect).
12/8/2010 - Cary Gordon
I was the production manager for Bamboo Productions and the various other Bagheris/Russo/Gibb/Glantz entities that operated it as a rock palace through early 1971. The reason we stopped doing shows there was not so much because of licensing issues as much as the enmity between Bob Bageris and Gabe Glantz. Although a few things happened there after we left, it was the end of its glory days as a rock palace. It was a great time to be young and in the music business. It is amusing to read stuff from folks who were there and folks who thought they were there, although after four decades, the difference is trivial.
8/27/2010 - Larry Avery
Was there the night that while the MC5 were playing " The Motor City's Burning" ...The place started on fire. (under the stage)...Still a great night....I think!
8/27/2010 - thomas sabol jr
i can remember as a little boy running around the theater as crews would set up for concerts that my father and bobby bageris (uncle bobby) promoted from middle 60's to early 70's until bamboo productions and the rock groups they promoted outgrew the venue and moved onto cobo hall and other venues. my favorite story is of alice cooper and how bamboo productions helped by promoting and having him play in the eastown. the eastown was the cornerstone that allowed rockbands and bamboo productions to go on to grow into succesful business and most of all it was responsible for providing the start of a childhood of financial comfort and pride a boy loved to have knowing his father had a job most kids envied. thanks eastown!!!!
8/14/2010 - Skip Ferris
I grew up on the east side of Detroit and was a fan of the Eastown from an early age. I went to the movies there countless times as a young boy in the early sixties. Later, as a teenager I attended many events there. My highlight at the Eastown was as a guest/member in 1968 of Alice Cooper with full backstage rights. At the time I was a dealer and connected to the band through friends and also through their booking agency. I was with them for the concert at the Eastown, at the Ohio Pop Festival and at the Toronto Pop Festival with John Lennon. All of these incredible experiences were with full backstage access, not to mention I was their stage manager at the Ohio Festival. I was also at Woodstock in 1969 with a group called the Canned Heat.

Anyhow, let me not detract from Detroit history. I sure miss the Eastown and the Grande Ballroom, my teenage homes.

Peace to all of you.

Skip Ferris
8/14/2010 - Eddie
Well i just got back from the Eastown and had my last look at this amazing theatre..The theatre itself didnt burn to the ground but the attached apartments are gone..The theatre took some damage, you can see where the smoke billowed out the windows but it is still standing strong..I'm the wrecking ball isnt far away to put her to rest....
6/7/2010 - bob jackson
Saw Jethro Tull there in 1968. Drove my 1958 Corvette there. Wish I still had that car!
3/25/2010 - Steve M.
I managed to go to the Eastown Theatre only a few times near the end of its run as Detroits GREATEST rock n' roll venue. The first time there for me was seeing the Detroit debut of the Marshall Tucker Band there. Also, another time there, I saw the early Rockets with Jim McCarty and Johnny B. on vocals (pre Dave Gilbert days) and with Ted Lucas and also Fred "Sonic" Smith(MC 5) with his Sonic Rondevous Band. Another time I saw Quicksilver Messenger Service there with British blues great Frankie Miller and Salem Witchcraft in support of them. But one of the very best concert I ever was to see was what would be the last show at the Eastown, which was fusion jazz great Jean-Luc Ponty with Lenny White(from Return to Forever) opening for him. The old theatre would'nt give up easily. About half way through Ponty's set while they were in the middle of a song, in a sold out house, the front light standard came crashing down on the stage narrowling missing Ponty. Ponty, who rarely speaks during any of his concerts stopped abrupthy and spoke in his heavy French accent and said; I think the theatre is telling us to take a short break! The stage hands put everything back and they finished without any further incident.
It's sad to hear that the theatre is falling into dispair. I sure wish there could be a group that could be put together to try to purchase it (it is for sale NOW!) and move forward to preserve it. Kind of like the group that is trying to save the Grande Ballroom except for the Eastown before the elements take over or it ends up like the old Michigan Palace (parking garage downtown). Any Ideas out there?
3/23/2010 - Eddie
I was actually just in the old Eastown..I am to young to have been there in its hey-day but i still have a hard time as to the condition of this once beautiful theatre..I have a ton of pics but dont know how to post them here...As stated earlier it is open the elements and has been picked clean..The upper levels(where all the crazy art is) are in pretty good shape actually.. It is almost as if you are in another world when you into this place..Went with a few guys who probably saw 50 concerts between them...Just an awesome building but it saddens me to see it this way...
1/11/2010 - Al
I remember going every Saturday to the matinee we would stop in and see our Uncle John who own the barber shop next door and he would give us some money to buy candy. I remember they use to have costume parties at Halloween and my uncle would be one of the judges along with other store owners on the block. I remember 3D glass to see the 13 ghosts, ah those were the days. Then we moved farther east to 7 mile & Gratiot and the Ramona was the place to go. I remember my mother would give my older brother the money to get a hair cut at the barber college from the second floor because they were better then the ones on the third floor but we would go to the top floor so we would have more spending money. I believe the teacher would always end up cutting it because he knew our uncle.
1/6/2010 - chuck borsuk
I spent every weekend at this venue,for a short time I had a job there. Does anyone remember those great downers CARBITAL'S . If you remember Pink Floyd was three hours late the first time they played, there truck broke down in Toledo Ohio. I found an old friend of mine who went to the East town often his name is Juliano any one recognize the name.
10/28/2009 - mike neault
April 25, 1970 I was 17 years old and along with some of my closest friends, spent an unforgetable night at the eastown watching Pink Floyd perform. We sat in a packed theatre very quietly as Pink Floyd took us on a musical trip. To say we were alittle high when we got there might be closer to the truth. But I can still remember looking around the room and everyone in the theatre was sitting very quiet being blown away by what we were hearing, it was a something I will never forget. The intimate gathering was one of the best concerts I ever attended, much better then the areana shows. I think Pink Floyd is a great experience in a smaller theatre. I will never forget thst night.
5/15/2009 - dDICKdDDick chester
Growing up in Detroit I had the chance to visit many of the Eastside theaters.
I was at awe the first time i entered the Eastown on a hot steamy night in 1962,not to see a movie but to rumble with members of the Harper & Van dyke
gang ,whom at that time called the Eastown home. The evening turned out to be un eventfull, but I did leave knowing I had just visited a magnificent structure.
My next visit was in 1968 in which i saw Alice Cooper,The Stooges,Head Over Heels,and the Flamin Groovies. Wow ! what a night, my thoughts went back to 1962 when the atmosphere was that of violence & hatred. How things had changed, now the patrons were seeking a high of peace and love.
The East is surley a monument which stands valiant at the corner of Harper & Van Dyke holding many memories for a lot of people.
11/6/2008 - miks staskowski
I will never forget the old Eastown theatre....it was the showpiece of the old Harper and Van Dyke area in Detroit.....remember going there in 58 or 59 and seeing "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad"....the theatre was sold out for over week and a half when that film played there.....then there were those saturday afternoon matinees in the 50s and early 60s that were filled with hot lips teenagers....all the make out sessions!!! They would show a double feature of monster movies and Hercules type films with Steve Reeves and others....
You could get in for about 75 cents per person in those days and a Slo Poke carmel sucker lasted all day for about 50 more cents. My brother swears the last film ever showed there was in the fall of 1966, "Neveda Smith" with Steve McQueen.....after that final sunday with that film the Eastown closed as a movie theatre....attendance was nearly pitiful in the last year it was open. On some nights 10 people were in attendance. Then it became a rock and roll drum emporium....I will always remember it as the showplace of the old east side neighborhood.
4/4/2008 - deniseddenise
iI have such great memories of Easttown Theater. My older cousin took me there many times in 1971 & 1972 to see every band on the planet it seemed. If kids today would get for the money what we got for 4.50 they wouldn't believe it. I fell in love with the Faces and became a Rod groupie for the last 37 years. Seeing Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro tull, Traffic, Elton, I could go on and on.I would love to go into the grand lady just once again to have all those feelings come over me again. I'm happy I came upon this sight, it's made me smile and tear up alittle. Where did the time go!!!
3/27/2007 - L. B. Farley
In 1966 the Eastown Theater became know as the Eastown Ballroom and the very first rock group to perform there was "Smoke Stacked Lightening". The theater was converted; as stated by your previous writer, into a ballroom for all of the latest rock groups to perform in. Robert Bageris and Thomas Sabol were the primary owner and manager (Bambo Productions). The seats were removed from the ground floor and the balcony was left with their seats in tact . The Eastown was one of a kind during the late 60's and brought in groups such as Alice Cooper, J Geils Band, Bette Midler (in her mermaid days, she was just starting out), Crosby Stills and Nash, Chuck Berry, Iron Butterfly and many others. The Eastown was one of the first in the Detroit area to introduce back projection shows during the performances while the groups and performers were on stage. The ballroom closed sometime in the early 70's, ending another era for what was once a beautiful movie theater.
4/1/2004 - John M. Heyka
I recall Alice Cooper saying in a radio interview on WRIF in 1981 that "I used to LIVE at the Eastown". I also read somewhere that he would get props for his early shows from the trash dumpster in the alley. I remember going there to see a movie in what was clearly NOT one the places better days! I snuck in through the backstage door one afternoon in 1984(i think) to find a complete band setup on the stage. The only light I had was the from the sun through the doorway. No one in there but me. Big, cold and spooky, I tell you! My sister went to see a very popular organist of the day by the name of Virgil Fox there- not sure what year.
Eastown Theatre - Old Photo From Sean Doerr
Old Photo From Sean Doerr
Eastown Theatre - Recent Pic Of Eastown
Recent Pic Of Eastown
Eastown Theatre - Old Pic From Free Press
Old Pic From Free Press
Eastown Theatre - Old Pic From Free Press
Old Pic From Free Press
Eastown Theatre - Old Pic Of Interior
Old Pic Of Interior
Eastown Theatre - Recent Exterior Pic
Recent Exterior Pic
Eastown Theatre - Recent Interior Pic
Recent Interior Pic
Eastown Theatre - Recent Interior Pic
Recent Interior Pic
Eastown Theatre - Recent Interior Pic
Recent Interior Pic
Eastown Theatre - Recent Interior Pic
Recent Interior Pic
Eastown Theatre - Recent Interior Pic
Recent Interior Pic
Eastown Theatre - Recent Interior Pic
Recent Interior Pic
Eastown Theatre - Recent Interior Pic
Recent Interior Pic
Eastown Theatre - 2009-10 Pic
2009-10 Pic
Eastown Theatre - 2009-10 Pic
2009-10 Pic
Eastown Theatre - 2009-10 Pic
2009-10 Pic
Eastown Theatre - 2009-10 Pic
2009-10 Pic
Eastown Theatre - 2009-10 Pic
2009-10 Pic
Eastown Theatre - 2009-10 Pic
2009-10 Pic
Eastown Theatre - 2009-10 Pic
2009-10 Pic
Eastown Theatre - 1942 Article From James
1942 Article From James
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