333 Madison Avenue,
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Gem Theatre -- Century Grille (Official)
Architects: George DeWitt Mason
Functions: Live Theater
Styles: Italian Renaissance
Previous Names: Little Theatre, Rivoli Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Europa Theatre, Cinema, Vanguard Theatre, Gem Art Theatre
News About This Theater
- Aug 5, 2008 — Detroit historic theatres tour
Opened in 1928 as the Little Theatre, for a private women’s group called the 20th Century Club, with a performance of “Cyrano de Bergerac”, the Gem Theatre had a full stage, orchestra pit, and balcony which sat about 200 patrons. The exterior resembled a Florentine Renaissance palace, while the interior contained minimal décor.
Since its opening, the theatre has had several name changes, first the Rivoli Theatre in 1932, then the Drury Lane Theatre and Europa Theatre in the next couple years, and finally in 1936, the Cinema, a name which stuck until the mid-1950’s, when the theatre was screening foreign films. In 1959, as the Vanguard Theatre, the format was changed to stage shows, but by the mid-1960’s, decline had firmly set in, and as the Gem Art Theatre, became showing adult films. The theatre closed in 1978.
Charles Forbes, who also owned the nearby State Theatre, purchased the Gem Theatre in 1991 and began an eighteen-month restoration, which brought the small house back to its original appearance. The Gem Theatre once again was home to live stage performances.
In 1997, the Gem Theatre made national news when the theatre was lifted from its former foundation and moved about half a mile away from its original location to make way for the construction of the new Detroit Stadium. The move placed the Gem Theatre in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the heaviest building ever moved on wheels, at about five million pounds. It arrived at its new home at Madison Avenue and Brush as a crowd of several hundred cheered.
After a small restoration, the Gem Theatre reopened in late-1998.
In 1985 the Gem Theatre was added to the list of the National Register of Historic Places.
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