Michigan Theater


Michigan Theater

Founded in 1963, the Ann Arbor Film Festival has been held at the Michigan Theater every year since 1980. It is the longest running independent and experimental film festival in North America.

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Ann Arbor District Library



East Liberty Street, 1929


East Liberty Street, 1929

Michigan Theater and East Liberty Street, 1929. The film "Finders Keepers", starring Jack Oakie, was playing.

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Majestic


Majestic

Converted from a roller rink to a theater in 1907, the Majestic on Maynard Street focused on vaudeville but also showed movies. Butterfield Theater manager Gerald Hoag moved live performances to the Michigan Theater when it opened in 1928. The Majestic closed in 1942 and Hoag then transferred the entire movie staff to the new State Theater.

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Duke Ellington, 1940


Duke Ellington, 1940

In 1940 "Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra" played at the Michigan for two days between film screenings. The Ann Arbor News display ad promised "primitive rhythms, weird melodies, amazing syncopations…music no other band can play".

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Henry Aldridge and Barton Theater pipe organ


Henry Aldridge and Barton Theater pipe organ

Henry Aldridge was one of the leaders in saving the Michigan Theater. For years he had worked with others to restore the Barton Theater pipe organ, originally used to accompany silent films.

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Michigras Parade, 1954


Michigras Parade, 1954

The 1954 Michigras parade, with elaborate student floats, passed the Michigan Theater on its way up Liberty Street. The parade and the theater were part of an entertainment tradition of "gown" and "town" coming together to shape Ann Arbor's cultural identity. In the nineteenth century local acts and touring companies played in downtown ballrooms, churches, the courthouse, and Hangsterfer's Hall. Students, faculty, and townspeople contributed talent and enthusiastic audiences. In 1871 Ann Arbor's first real theater, Hill's Opera House with 2,000 seats, opened on Main Street. Local actors in "The Spy of Shiloh" packed the house. On campus that same year the cornerstone was laid for University Hall, with a 3,000-seat auditorium for concerts, graduations, and the town's largest events. Many celebrated guests appeared, including lecturers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Susan B. Anthony, and Mark Twain, actress Sarah Bernhardt, and dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. After 1913 audiences attended the new and larger Hill Auditorium. The Michigan Theater opened in 1928, dedicated to "the faculty and students of the University of Michigan and the residents of Ann Arbor". A full orchestra and the Barton theater organ accompanied live shows and silent films. The following year, Broadway stars first performed in Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the UM's new Michigan League. The Ann Arbor Symphony, Civic Theater, and UM Gilbert and Sullivan Society continued the tradition of combining town and gown through the twentieth century.

Frame location: East side of South State Street, near the curb, facing west down East Liberty Street.

Collection info: OOH

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Ushers at the Michigan Theater


Ushers at the Michigan Theater

Proclaimed a "shrine of entertainment" when it opened in 1928, the Michigan Theater boasted an army of uniformed ushers.

Frame location: East side of South State Street, near the curb, facing west down East Liberty Street.

Collection info: Observer, 11/88, p 66

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I Remember When: Playbill Part 2

Media Player

1974

Downloads:

File NameSizeType
irw-playbill_part_2-480.mp4172.8 MB480p Video
irw-playbill_part_2-audio.mp344.6 MBAudio

In this episode, Gerald H. Hoag, former manager of both the Majestic Theatre and the Michigan Theatre, talks about the early theaters in Ann Arbor and some of the early stars and most popular films to come to town. Host Ted Trost mentions the Ann Arbor Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Art Fairs. Footage includes a street performer at the Art Fair and the University of Michigan Marching Band.

Directed by Dale Throneberry
Created by Jeff Werner
Executive producer: Catherine Anderson
Graphic artist Eric Anderson
Sponsored by the Ann Arbor Public Library, with help from the Ann Arbor Sesquicentennial Commission and the University of Michigan Speech Department.

Rights Held By: 
Ann Arbor District Library
Repository Info: 
Ann Arbor District Library Archives
Length: 
00:30:58
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