Norwest Theatre - Detroit MI

Address: 17630 Grand River Ave
City: Detroit
State: MI
Zip: 48227
County: Wayne
Open: 1936
Capacity: 1366
Owner History: United Detroit Theatres
Theater Type: Neighborhood House
Number of visits to this page: 14592
General Information:

Source: Cinema Treasures

The Art Deco style Norwest opened in 1936, designed by Hector Payne, who also designed the Varsity the same year. The Norwest could seat 1366, and was a first run house until closing around 1978. In 1979, it was reopened as a bargain second-run house, by Robert Sloan, who also operated the sadly-demolished Art Deco Metro Mercury as well, which was located not far from the Norwest. At some point during the 80s, the theater was twinned, becoming the Norwest 1 & 2, with total seating reduced to about 1100. The Norwest 1 & 2 was closed in 2000.

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Info Updates:
1/16/2016 - Mark Schmeling
Growing up in the 1960s I frequently went to a trio of theaters up and down Grand River Ave, from the Redford out on Lasher, to the Great Lakes, east of Greenfield. But the Norwest was the main venue of movie going as I lived south of this theater on Longacre. It was a double feature house then, with the occasional Neighborhood Premiere single attraction, such as Ben-Hur or Dr. Zhivago. There were silver dollar give aways in the summer with the right movie stub number, and snow cones at the concession stand. After the remodeling in '61 (?) they added a waiting room off of the newly paneled lobby with a television in it. That struck me as odd, for even as a 9 or 10 year old I knew that movie releases in theaters were losing out to more and more television watching, so was it a case of - if you can't beat them, join them? Across Grand River at the south-west corner of Longacre, there was a shoe store called Hansel & Gretel, and they had some how been given miniature highway billboards of current movies playing in and around Detroit. These billboards were scale for a Lionel train landscape and were engraved with United Detroit Theaters.
8/10/2015 - Janet
Norwest Theatre was my first job behind the concession stand in 1975. I was 15. My second was on the corner Grand River/Fenkell/Southfield Shell. I have great memories of the area that have stayed with me for a lifetime. The sister Theatre Mercury was my mothers first job.
6/7/2014 - Ricardo
In 1970 when I was seven I saw my first movie at the norwest and it was the sound of music with Julie Andrews on a school field trip, I lived on mark twain between Intervale and Lyndon and as a young child I've seen several movies at the norwest some with my parents and as I got into my teenage years with my friends. We would walk or ride our bikes but mostly walk, I've seen at the Norwest smokey and the bandit, let's do it again, sparkle, eat my dust, food of the gods,blood of the dragon, breakin', beatstreet, Halloween, ect. But the very last movie I saw there was dead presidents in 1995. I've watch the area become crime ridden and it wasn't safe to even park in the parking lot. As Detroit police officer I've made several arrests in and around the norwest for various offenses one day while working I received a police run at the norwest after it was closed for good about someone inside stripping the building, when I arrived I found the rear door open and there was mold everywhere so I checked the basement and there was several feet of water down there but I found no one inside. I've since retired from the Detroit police department in June of 2013 and has since moved to Texas but my earlier memories of the norwest still make me smile.
7/18/2012 - Tony Winters
Where do I begin? My family moved to the Harlow and Puritan in the early 70s. I was about 12 or 13 years old. My love affair with movies had begun a few years earlier by watching Bill Kennedy, Rita Bell and even Sir Graves Ghastly. As I reached adolescence, Blaxsploitation and Kung Fu flicks were all the rage so my friends and I would catch buses to downtown Detroit or over to the Mercury and watch triple features. Sometimes I'd go to the show as we called it then, alone and the Norwest was one of my favorites. Perhaps because it was in walking distance, it was clean, affordable and safe. Usually, one of the older kids from the neighborhood worked there and I would never having a problem getting in because I knew someone. LOL! THE GODFATHER and JOHNNY TOUGH are just two of the titles of the many I've long since forgotten that were seen at The Norwest. During my senior year at nearby Redford High School, in my business law class, we were given an assignment. It was The (blank) and How the Law Regulates It. At the time, I was becoming a bit of a cinefile but I just didn't know it. I decided to fill in the blank with 'Theater' and made my way over to The Norwest and met Robert Bob Sloan. As I told him of my assignment and asked for a little of his time, he must had been somewhat impressed because he offered me a job, as a ticket taker, usher, right there on the spot and I accepted. I worked there from the fall of 78 to the summer of 79, the year I graduated from high school. It was fantastic! We screened THE WIZ, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ and a dozens others during my brief tenure. The theater staff was pretty multi ethnic. The theater manager's name was Gary and he was of Arab decent. The projectionists name was Lloyd and he looked like Jimmy Durante! He once invited me and my then girlfriend to a private screening of THE ONION FIELD with James Woods at the corporate offices. The other names have long since faded with time but I do remember a cute white girl (I'm black, unusual at that time in Detroit) that I would make out with behind the screen. LOL! The girls that worked at the concession stand and in the ticket booth became my prey as well. LOL! Perhaps because of the time I spent with my afternoon movie hosts and at The Norwest, I began to take the study of acting and film quite seriously. So after a brief stint in college, I moved to Los Angeles and became a tour guide at Universal Studios. Over the last 30 years, I've acted in live theater, television shows and movies. I've even written a few and managed to produce them on a low budget. My dream had always been that my name would roll in the credits of a film playing at The Norwest. It may have happened but I have no record of it. Thank for allowing me to share my memories of the late, great Norwest Theater.
9/11/2004 - Detroit Free Press
36, closed since 2000, is demolished August 26, 2004 BY MARSHA LOW FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER Below the turquoise sign that juts toward the sky, a mangled mass of metal is all that remains of northwest Detroit's Norwest Theater. Across the street, Barnard Gill watched as wrecking balls and bulldozers smashed the art deco movie house to the ground. He shook his head as another piece of his childhood disappeared in the back of a dump truck. Standing on Grand River, Gill, 42, returned to the days when he was just 13 years old. Summers were spent mowing lawns and saving wisely so he could hop a bus on Saturdays and meet his friends at the Norwest. There he'd treat himself to a box of Raisinets, a bag of red licorice and an ice cold Pepsi. Then he'd settle into the burgundy velvet seats, ready for the show, feeling so grown up sitting in the theater without his parents. "I'm bummed to see it come down," said Gill, a lifelong Detroiter. "It was a very special place." But as more film fans turn to home video or flock to multi-screen movie palaces, thousands of old theaters around the country have closed, some becoming vacant lots or shells for new businesses. Robert Sloan, owner of the Norwest, did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday. But Cory Jacobson, owner of the neighborhood Phoenix Theaters in Detroit and Farmington Hills, said it is increasingly difficult for small movie houses to compete. "There arent many of us left, and those that are left struggle," he said. "Its become a labor of love to run a neighborhood theater." In the spring of 2003, Brian Vosburg and his co-workers at Detroits Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. began working to save the Norwest. The nonprofit agency renovates Detroit homes and playgrounds and restores the city's commercial buildings. Vosburg talked to neighbors and asked architects to consider turning the building into a new business. There was no interest. "The Norwest was the only original building left on Grand River from the 1920s and 1930s era when a lot of the commercial buildings were built," Vosburg said. The Norwest opened in 1936 as a single-screen theater seating 1,366 people. It was a first-run movie house until it closed in 1978. The theater re-opened in 1979 as a second-run house until Sloan split the theater in the 80s, creating the double-screened Norwest 1&2. The theater closed in 2000. Demolition of the Norwest began Monday and is expected to continue into early next week. Two fast food restaurants will soon join the other fast food chains already operating down the block. At Robinson's Main Event Barber & Beauty Shop Wednesday, Terrence Dawkins was getting a trim as the sound of the bulldozers hummed across the street. "You used to be able to walk to get your groceries and walk for a movie," said Dawkins, 47, of Detroit. "But every piece of good is being torn down for fast food and strip malls. Its just disappointing."
8/22/2003 - Jack Pickering
Original owner was United Detroit in 40s, then owned by Suburban Detroit. Remodeled in 60-61, then Bob Sloan purchased it from his dad who owned Suburban Detroit. Sloan made theater into a twin & then it closed.
 Photos:6
Norwest Theatre - OUTDOOR SHOT
OUTDOOR SHOT
Norwest Theatre - OUTDOOR SHOT
OUTDOOR SHOT
Norwest Theatre - OLD PHOTO FROM WAYNE STATE LIBRARY
OLD PHOTO FROM WAYNE STATE LIBRARY
Norwest Theatre - NEWS ARTICLE
NEWS ARTICLE
Norwest Theatre - INDOOR SHOT FROM DETROIT BLOG
INDOOR SHOT FROM DETROIT BLOG
Norwest Theatre - RESIDENTS FIGHT TO KEEP THEATER OPEN FEB 12 1979
RESIDENTS FIGHT TO KEEP THEATER OPEN FEB 12 1979
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