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United Artists Theater

2001 Photo from the Adam Martin collection.
140 Bagley St
Detroit MI

Record #12643  
 Opened: 1928
 Closed: 1971
 Current Use:
Capacity: 2012 seats
Architect(s): C Howard Crane
Architectural Style(s): Spanish Gothic
National Register:
Current Organ: none
 Also Known As: Downtown
 Previously operated by: United Artists Theatres

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. 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 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.

The theater began showing adult films and 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.

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.

 Photos remain the property of the Member and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the Member.

May 2001 photos from the Adam Martin collection.

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Last featured 2002-12-27. Last edited 2/6/2022.

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