Madison Theatre - Detroit MI

Address: 22 Witherell St
City: Detroit
State: MI
Zip: 48226
County: Wayne
Open: 1917
Capacity: 1806
Owner History: Kunsky
Theater Type: Neighborhood House
Number of visits to this page: 11459
General Information:

Source: Cinema Treasures

When the Madison opened in 1917, its $500,000 cost was one of the heftiest yet for a theater in downtown Detroit. Built for the Kunsky circuit by C. Howard Crane in an elegant, understated neo-classical style, it could seat over 1800 and was then the largest of the theaters in Detroit's former theater district, Grand Circus Park. As with many theaters of the 1910s and 1920s, it was built along with an office tower, in case moving pictures were 'just a passing fad' and no longer profitable.

The Madison was surrounded by a five story office building with a facade covered in terra cotta decoration in a classical motif. Other than a small, relatively simple marquee (removed in the 60s in favor of a larger and tackier one), the Madison could pass for a typical office block. The top floor of the Madison Building housed the Kunksy circuit's main offices when it first opened.

The Madison also enjoyed immediate success, opening with the film 'Poor Little Rich Girl'. Its features included gilded plasterwork in the auditorium and lobby spaces, including a frieze of maidens over the stage's proscenium arch and a tiered orchestra pit. By the late 20s and early 30s, several larger and far more ornate palaces had joined the Madison on Grand Circus Park, such as the Capitol (just across the street), the State, the Fox and the United Artists, but the Madison continued to remain a popular venue for many more years.

In the 40s, Kunsky sold the Madison to United Detroit Theaters, which had the theater drastically remodeled in 1961, destroying the orginal neo-classical facade with a drab 60s one. Fortunately, the interior was left mostly intact. It was Detroit's first theater to screen a film in 3D, 'Bwana Devil', in 1952. In 1960, the theater switched over to 70mm film, with 'Spartacus', which had a long run, but nowhere near as long as the almost two-year run of 'The Sound of Music' beginning in 1965.

By the late 70s and early 80s, the Madison had begun to decline, and in addition to horror and action films, was hosting rock concerts on its stage in order to help keep the theater open. However, this wasn't enough. In 1984, the Madison was shuttered, its last film, ironically, was 'The Dead Zone' (which remained on its marquee for a long time after it had closed).

In the 90s, the Michigan Opera Theater, which purchased the Capitol Theater to remake it into their new home, also acquired the Madison and announced plans to restore it for use as a performing arts center, but were ultimately unable to raise enough money. It was sold to a developer in 2000 who intended to replace the theater with loft units (though the Madison Building behind the theater would remain). Though in poor shape (a victim of heavy water damage and decades of neglect), the Madison was still restorable, but nevertheless was razed later that year.

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Info Updates:
10/24/2006 - Scott Michaels
I worked as a projectionist at the Madison for a couple of years, under Chris Jasczak - we mostly showed action films, and we also had 70mm capacity. The projectors were Bauers, considered the Rolls Royce of projectors. While I was there, it was pretty run down. I remember people sometimes sat with their rears on the top of the seats, to keep their feet off the ground, because of the rats. Saw a few live shows there, including The Busboys, who totally rocked the place. Now its completely gone - a hollow shell, only the marquee remains.
1/10/2004 - Box Office Magazine
March 1959 Issue - The Greater Detroit Motion Picture Council held its monthly meeting at the Crowley Milner Auditorium and heard a discussion and a review of coming films by the manager of the Madison Theatre, Glen McLean.
12/19/2003 - Box Office Magazine
February 1959 - Horstman and Co. get the job to install a new marquee at the Madison. The new marquee will provide 40% more space for copy than the old marquee. It features a new kind of slimline lighting.
12/18/2003 - Box Office Magazine
April 1959 - Installation of 70mm equipment in the Madison Theatre was announced by Woodrow R. Praught, in his first public statement since recently assuming the presidency of United Detroit Theatres. The Madison, oldest first-run in the big circuit, is traditionally the home of long runs. The installation is scheduled for completion May 15.
 Photos:27
Madison Theatre - FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
FROM AMERICAN CLASSIC IMAGES
Madison Theatre - OLD PHOTO FROM WAYNE STATE LIBRARY
OLD PHOTO FROM WAYNE STATE LIBRARY
Madison Theatre - LOBBY
LOBBY
Madison Theatre - LOBBY
LOBBY
Madison Theatre - AUDITORIUM
AUDITORIUM
Madison Theatre - AUDITORIUM
AUDITORIUM
Madison Theatre - ENTRANCE
ENTRANCE
Madison Theatre - LOBBY
LOBBY
Madison Theatre - OLD LOBBY
OLD LOBBY
Madison Theatre - OLD LOBBY
OLD LOBBY
Madison Theatre - OLD PHOTO
OLD PHOTO
Madison Theatre - OLD EXTERIOR VIEW
OLD EXTERIOR VIEW
Madison Theatre - OLD INTERIOR VIEW
OLD INTERIOR VIEW
Madison Theatre - AUDITORIUM
AUDITORIUM
Madison Theatre - ENTRANCE
ENTRANCE
Madison Theatre - OLD EXTERIOR
OLD EXTERIOR
Madison Theatre - OLD PIC OF BUILDING
OLD PIC OF BUILDING
Madison Theatre - OLD AUDITORIUM VIEW
OLD AUDITORIUM VIEW
Madison Theatre - Photo from early 2000's
Photo from early 2000's
Madison Theatre - FROM ROBERT MORROW
FROM ROBERT MORROW
Madison Theatre - FROM ROBERT MORROW
FROM ROBERT MORROW
Madison Theatre - FROM ROBERT MORROW
FROM ROBERT MORROW
Madison Theatre - FROM ROBERT MORROW
FROM ROBERT MORROW
Madison Theatre - OLD AD
OLD AD
Madison Theatre - 1917-03-07 AD
1917-03-07 AD
Madison Theatre - 1920S FROM PAUL
1920S FROM PAUL
Madison Theatre - TICKET FROM GARY FLINN
TICKET FROM GARY FLINN
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