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As we whisk past the United Artists Theatre in the People Mover. United Artists' 17th theater, the Detroit UA was similar in design to the Chicago and Los Angeles UA theaters, also designed by C. Howard Crane. The $1.2 million theater opened on February 3, 1928, with 'Sadie Thompson'. Star Gloria Swanson, in an elaborate telephone hook-up, addressed the audience and opened the curtain for the first time. The UA featured an orchestra led by Hugo Riesenfield and featured stage shows for a short time.
A shot of the UA office building's upper floors. United Detroit later operated the theater before selling it back to UA in 1950. The theater was remodeled and the 10-story marquee was replaced with the current one.
The building next door is the Michigan Theatre. The UA was the second theater in the area to feature CinemaScope, with 'How to Marry a Millionaire' in 1953. The theater was also the first in Michigan to show films in 70mm, beginning in 1956 with Oklahoma! and occasionally showed 35mm features between these roadshow engagements. The UA was remodeled again in 1962.
A shot of the side of the United Artists Theatre. The gaping hole of an empty lot is where the Tuller Hotel once stood.
A nice front shot of the once elegant theatre, which began showing adult films and finally closed in 1971. Later that year, the theater reopened as the Downtown, but didn't last long. The Automobile Club of Michigan moved out of the UA building in 1974, and the theatres furnishings and fixtures were auctioned off in 1975. The organ was installed in a Warren pizza joint and Whitney Management purchased the building in 1976.
In 1977, a New York investor leased the theater with the intent of remodeling and reopening it as the Detroit, but these plans were unrealized. In 1978, London Records and the DSO used the theater to make several recordings. This lasted until 1983. Click here, then scroll down to "London Records" for an extensive list of recordings at the UA. The last building tenants moved out in 1984 and later that year, and again in 1987, bricks fell from the UA building, damaging vehicles parked on the street below. Somewhere along this timeline, Don Barden acquired the UA.
Sometime later, Barden sold the UA to the city with the stipulation that it not be sold to Mike Ilitch. In typical City of Detroit fashion, they turned right around and sold it to Ilitch. What are Ilitch's plans for the UA, besides letting it return to nature? There were rumors of building an 20,000+ seat Olympia Stadium clone on this lot, at the risk of levelling the theatre as well as the office building.
Another shot of the Marquee.
An interior shot of the UA. (Thanx to whomever shot this "Send Feedback" please).
A view looking up at the office complex.
Graffiti artists have made this building into their new canvas.
Click the pic for large shot of the office complex the office complex.
A final shot of the office tower.
  • Thanx to CinemaTour.com for much of the above info!

  • United Artists Theatre