Detroit’s Redford Theatre keeps the spirit of vintage cinema alive

Detroit’s Redford Theatre keeps the spirit of vintage cinema alive


The flicker of the projector. The sound of
a pipe organ. The smell popcorn in the air. Finding that perfect seat. It’s something
that just can’t be replicated in your home. No matter how big your flat-screen is. Welcome to the Redford theater. I’m Jeremy Marble inside one of
Michigan’s hidden gems. A beacon in a struggling neighborhood on the outskirts
of Detroit. The theater opened in the winter of 1928 as the city of Detroit
was rapidly growing and the early auto industry was booming. But not everyone
was a rich auto baron. Hard-working folks came here to see a second run movie for
just 30 cents. The inside was hardly a second-rate experience. With an interior
designed to transport patrons to a Japanese garden. Featuring pagoda
style roofs and murals. A deep blue ceiling like a sky filled with stars. And
live music on a glistening new pipe organ. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor
in 1941 the Japanese look was out. All the decor was removed or painted over. It
wasn’t until the 1990s that the Japanese motif was eventually, painstakingly
restored. Despite war and recessions the Redford
theater has been in continuous operation for more than 90 years. I joined this organization back in 1983. One day I wandered up here and the
projectionists at that time asked me: “do I want to learn how to run the
projectors?” I am always amazed when we get the big crowds we tried to run film
when we can as time goes on it gets to be harder. But we still maintain all the
ability to show all the different formats plus the digital. You can watch a
Hollywood classic on 35 millimeter film. Movies like The Breakfast Club or
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey are screened here. Not just movies from the
golden era of film, even Harry Potter is welcome with the Redford theater. But the
true heart of the Redford theater is the original Barton pipe organ We open our doors an hour before the
movies. I would be or whoever it would be playing this organ. It’s the 1928 Barton
theater pipe organ and the sounds just permeate throughout the whole theater
because of the pipes. The way that this the sound resounds throughout the
theater. So the sounds are so spectacular and unique. After the end of the silent
film era the pipe organ fell into disuse. But in the 1960s it was restored by the
Motor City Theater Organ Society. A non-profit group that eventually
purchased the Redford Theater and continues its operation. Today
couples relive their first dates. And families make memories watching
Hollywood classics and modern day favorites. Enjoying live organ music as
they find their seats or make that popcorn run during intermission. The
Redford Theater. A time machine transporting patrons back to Hollywood’s golden age.

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  1. This theater is the BEST!!!!! It is also run by all volunteers. I have been attending shows there since the 1970s and continue to do so!

  2. Alan Heavner here …… The reason this is on our facebook at Heavner is that Nancy is one of Heavner staff and I am so proud of Nancy on our staff being a part of the Redford story. I have attended many movies there and have watched Nancy move up to this position at the Redford. Another amazing story not mentioned here is her Dad Gil. He still travels there daily as well as the Senate. He has been an inspiration to myself and many others as he has been there mentoring Nancy for years.
    Thank you Nancy and Gil for what you have given to us.

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