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Source: Cinema Treasures
Opened as the Oriental, this movie palace was the only atmospheric theater ever built in downtown Detroit, opening in late 1927. It had a Middle Eastern theme to its decor, and could seat about 2950. It was designed by Percival R. Pereira, his only theater built in the downtown area. The opening day movie was called "Blood Ship" and despite its title, was an adventure and not a horror movie! The theater had a house orchestra in its early years, led by Frank Musial.
In 1930, the Oriental was acquired by RKO and was renamed the RKO Downtown. Three years later a scandal erupted at the Downtown when the management refused to allow an African-American couple to sit on the main floor in the "whites-only" area, instead of in the balcony. The theater was ordered to pay the couple $300 in damages. The Downtown was closed in 1950 and, three years later, was demolished to make way for a parking lot. Its crystal chandeliers were removed and now hang in the lobby of the Redford.