When the Redford Theatre in Detroit opened in January 1928, no one had seen anything like it.
The fanciful auditorium was like a Japanese garden, with gold walls, colorful Asian murals and a deep blue ceiling sprinkled with stars. A dazzling Barton pipe organ provided the music.
The rare Japanese motif, however, was removed and painted over because of anti-Japanese sentiment during World War II. The vertical marquee was sold for iron scrap for the war.
The theater’s original glamour remained largely hidden until the Motor City Theatre Organ Society bought the 1,661-seat building in 1985.
In the 1990s, the group underwent the painstaking task of restoring the theater to its original glamour. This involved peeling off up to seven layers of paint to reveal the original stencils and murals. Old photographs and architectural drawings were used to replicate originals that had been destroyed. The ceiling was repainted by the same company that painted it in 1927.
The result is breathtaking.
Two chandeliers hang above the pristine Grand Foyer, where candy, popcorn and pop are sold for a fraction of the costs at other theaters.
The projectors are from the 1950s and give justice to the classic films that play there every other week.
The best part – the films are just $5 and include an organ performance a half hour before the show and during intermission.
Playing Friday and Saturday night is “Ben-Hur,” the 1959 Oscars winner starring Charlton Heston.
Other upcoming films include the “Three Stooges Film Festival,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Imitation of Life” and “Spite Marriage.”
Check out their schedule for more information.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.