Hoover Theatre - Detroit MI

Address: 19020 W. Warren Ave.
City: Detroit
State: MI
Zip: 48228
County: Wayne
Open: 1929
Capacity: 404
Owner History:
Theater Type: Neighborhood House
Number of visits to this page: 4917

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General Information:

Source: Steve Bielawski

The Hoover Theater was owned and operated by Simon Leja. Simon, often known as "Sam", was an immigrant from Poland. He had operated a bar/restaurant until prohibition. During prohibition, he kept the restaurant going, but he kept his eye out for another business to get into. Simons friend, Stanley Oleszkowicz, owned the Chopin Theater, and Simon decided to join him in the movie business. Simon opened the Hoover Theater in 1929, while Herbert Hoover was president of the United States. About the time that Simon opened the Hoover, Stanley Oleszkowicz started building a new, bigger theatre down the street. (That would be the Stanley Theater.)

The Hoover held only 404 seats, which was rather small for those days. (By comparison, at some multiplexes, 404 seats would be about the size of the next-to-largest "auditorium".) Shortly after the Hoover opened, the depression hit. Times were hard, and the Hoover had trouble making much money. According to Henry Leja (Simons son, born in 1918 and still quite alert as of this writing), if the theatre ever made money, the distriubtor simply raised the studios percentage of the box office. In 1943, with Henry and his brothers off to war, Simon decided to close the Hoover and return to the restaurant/bar business. He rented space from Stanley Oleszkowicz in the block of the Chopin Theater (on Michigan Avenue) and later bought the property outright. His daughter, Claire, ran the establishment, later known as Claires OK Restaurant, until she retired in 1993.

As for the Hoover, after Simon got out of the movie business, it was owned by the Lowry Dance Ensemble for many years and was often a hall for rent. (They used only the lobby of the theatre building.) Today, I am told, it is an auto parts store. When last I was in htat neighbourhood, I could still clearly read the painted brick announcing, "Hoover Theater". The sign hasnt been touched up in decades, but still, the ghost of the old paint is quite definitely there.

Info Updates:
3/2/2009 - James Zemboy
If the Hoover Theater "closed" in 1943, it must have reopened some time later because it was certainly still open in the mid-1950s. I had two cousins who used to go there for Saturday cartoon matinees between about 1952 and 1955. There was a funeral parlor across the street (Turawski's I think) and during wakes (our grandfather in 1952, our grandmother in 1954) our parents spent entire days in the funeral parlor, and because we were bored (we were about 10-12 years old) they let us go across the street to the Hoover to see movies while they remained in the funeral parlor receiving friends and relatives. I clearly remember seeing a black-and-white science fiction thriller at the Hoover in 1954 with two cousins while our parents were in the funeral parlor. The title was Target Earth and it was about invading robots from another planet. Very scary. Richard Denning was one of the actors in it. The Warren Theater (further east on Warren, abut five blocks east of Southfield) opened just after World War Two and it was beautiful, modern, much more comfortable and had much better movies, so that took a lot of the Hoover's business away. Compared with the Warren, the Hoover was considered to be "a dump" by the mid-1950s and it was certainly closed by 1958 or so. But it was definitely still functioning at least as late as 1954.
Hoover Theatre - The Hoover As Of 2005 From Eric Mackey
The Hoover As Of 2005 From Eric Mackey
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