Mostly Cloudy   70.0F  |  Forecast »

The Historic Redford Theatre in Detroit

Take the kids and entire family to this 1928-opened Detroit neighborhood movie house for an evening outing to see classic films on a dime

A projectionist warms up the 1950s-era projectors and prepares 35 mm reels of vintage films. You take your seat in the main auditorium of the Redford Theatre in Detroit, restored to its 1920s splendor, and excitedly wait for the dimming of the lights and the countdown to show time.

The Redford Theatre, built in 1927 and now owned and operated by volunteers with the Motor City Theatre Organ Society, offers parents and children alike a unique movie-going experience with its showing of strictly classic films. The theater also serves as a venue for organ concerts and events with special guests.

History and restoration

When the theater first opened its doors in January 1928, John H. Kunsky – a local theater proprietor who owned the Royal Oak Theatre and Michigan Theatre in downtown Detroit – owned it, says organ society member Allen Fitzgerald, who has been volunteering at the theater for 40 years.

The Redford Theatre

Since those days, the theater has changed hands a few times, and has seen some interior changes. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Japanese-style decor inside the theater was covered with paint, says Linda Sites, the organ society's publicity chairperson. The theater was also sold to Paramount, and then Community Theatres, before the organ society bought it, Fitzgerald says.

When the Goldberg family of Community Theatres decided to sell, and had no children who wanted the theater, "We were given first opportunity to purchase it," Sites, a society member for 12 years, says of the organ society. The society bought it in 1977 after leasing it from the Goldbergs for a few years, notes the Redford Theatre's historical timeline.

The all-volunteer staff has "painstakingly, over 40 years, restored it to its original theme," Sites says of the theater today. They've revived the Japanese-style paintings and flourishes – and even put in new seats on the main floor 10 years ago, she notes.

"It's an ongoing project," Sites says, noting that the theater will be closed from May to June 2013 for more restorations.

The theater still has its Barton Organ, too – unique because it's one of 300 Barton Organs ever made – and only one of three with dragons on the console, Fitzgerald says.

The theater is listed on the National Historic Register and Michigan's historic register, according to the State Historic Preservation Office's online database.

A special outing

When Devin Newell of Dearborn brought his kids Maggie, 8, and Tom, 9, to The Redford Theatre in December 2012, it was their first trip to the theater.

"It's a little bit different than just going to a regular movie. They haven't been to a theater this elaborate," he says, calling the trip an "outing."

"(We) try and really never show 'R' films," Sites says, which keeps it a family-friendly destination.

"You come to a place like this, and you watch films that are actually wholesome," she adds. Sites describes seeing a movie at the theater as a communal experience.

"You're going to have people from 5 to 85 here tonight – all laughing, all crying at the same time," she said on the night of the A Christmas Story showing. "That's, to me, what is unique."

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Passport Rules for Kids

Passport Rules for Kids

If you're planning on traveling with your family outside of the country, they'll need a passport. Find out what you need and how to get passports for children.

Tips for Saving Cash on Flights

Tips for Saving Cash on Flights

Find out how your family can save money when flying abroad and in the country.

Tips for Traveling Internationally with Your Children

Tips for Traveling Internationally with Your Children

Thought about taking your kids for a trip abroad? You should! Here are tips to help make your cultural excursion easier – and cheaper – than you might think.

Staying Home Alone: How to Know When Your Child is Ready

Staying Home Alone: How to Know When Your Child is Ready

Whether you just want to run an errand or need to hit the gym for a break, it could be time to let your tween stay home alone. Here are a few ways to know your kid is prepared.

Craft Roundup: Get Ready for the Beach

Craft Roundup: Get Ready for the Beach

Whether you're hitting the pool or lake, southeast Michigan is packed with watery summer fun. These projects are inspired by (and ready for) this very topic!

Social Savvy: Raising Kids Who Can Make Connections

Social Savvy: Raising Kids Who Can Make Connections

At each stage of development, there are things parents can do for their kids to help them with social skills and making friendships.

Explore the Grand Canyon in Arizona

Explore the Grand Canyon in Arizona

If you haven't seen the wonder that is the Grand Canyon, you owe it to yourself and your kids to go.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement