Source: Cinema Treasures
Opened as the centrepiece of the Kunsky circuit in 1928 as a vaudeville and movie house, the Fisher was a rare Detroit example of a Mayan-style palace. Designed by the firm of Mayger & Graven, the Fisher could seat over 3500 in its plush auditorium seats. The interior featured two balconies, an orchestra pit, a 4-manual/36-rank Wurlitzer organ, and in the lobby, a goldfish pond, real banana trees, and macaws which patrons could feed by hand while waiting for the next show. In the early 30s, the theater was operated by Paramount-Publix and became home to the 40-piece Sam Benavie Orchestra as well as elaborate stage acts.
By the 50s, the stage shows were gone, and the Fisher began showing only films. Its Wurlitzer was removed in 1956 and installed in the Senate Theater. For the last few years of the 50s, the Fisher became a second-run house and screened its final movie in 1960, 'The Magnificent Seven'. The next year, the Fisher was acquired by the Nederlander Theatrical Corporation, which hired the firm of Rapp & Rapp to remodel the theater at a cost of nearly $4 million.
It was decorated in an elegant, subdued style, using black marble, walnut paneling, imported crystal chandeliers and decorative metal-work. Seating was reduced to just under 2100 for more comfortable seating. For over 40 years, the Fisher has continued to be the preferred destination of touring Broadway shows in Detroit, with such stars as Joel Grey, Lynn Redgrave, Bernadette Peters, and Mary Martin gracing its stage.
Source: Gary Istok
The original seating of the old Fisher was actually 2,975 seats (Theatre Historical Society count). John Kunsky, the theatre operator (also operated many other Detroit Theatre's such as the Capitol, Michigan, Adams, Madison, Majestic, etc)... often exaggerated the seating counts of his theatres. 3,500 seats was one such exaggeration. He boasted the seating of the Capitol at "over 4,250", when it actually only had 3,384 seats.
Also, it is possible that some of Fisher architects Graven & Mayger's "Mayanesque" Fisher Theatre designs for the old Fisher may have been reused in Detroit's Vanity Ballroom. Graven & Mayger got their first commission in 1927 from Vanity Ballroom architect Charles N. Agree (in helping to design the Hollywood Theatre). Graven & Mayger's firm went out of business after only 15 months (1927-28), and Charles Agree may have obtained some of their Fisher designs for his 1929 Vanity Ballroom design.
Also, ironically Graven & Mayger originally worked for movie palace architects Rapp & Rapp (of Chicago... they designed the Michigan Theatre) before they briefly went off on their own and designed 1/2 dozen theatres during their 15 months in business as the architectural firm Graven & Mayger. The Fisher Theatre was their most exotic design. Ironically the 1961 remodeling of the Fisher Theatre was done by the surviving employees of the disbanded Rapp & Rapp firm (the firms founding Rapp brothers were long dead by 1961).