A restored neighborhood movie theater on the southwest side of Detroit is increasing the number of classic movies that you can see on the big screen in the Detroit area.
The Senate Theater on Michigan Avenue near Livernois Avenue has this year started a regular series of old films, after experimenting with the occasional movie in the last few years.
This year’s schedule has so far included such screen gems as Top Hat, My Man Godfrey, the first two Godfather films, and Bonnie and Clyde.
Upcoming films include a Halloween double bill of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein (October 28); a Barbra Streisand double feature (November 4); and several movies for the Christmas season.
The schedule has also included silent movies, including Diary of a Lost Girl on May 27 and Nosferatu on October 20.
For these silent films, the Senate has made good use of the Wurlitzer theater organ that was the main reason that the Detroit Theater Organ Society bought the Senate Theater in the 1960s. This organ, originally installed at the Fisher Theatre, is also used for monthly concerts by world famous artists.
The Wurlitzer is part of a fun package of extras that enhance your movie-going experience at the Senate:
- Short organ concerts before the movie and during the intermission.
- A cute short film about proper behavior in a movie theater.
- An animated enticement to visit the refreshment stand.
- Special events like the performance of Elvis Presley imitator Matt King at a screening of the Elvis movie Viva Las Vegas on July 1.
The Senate has about 800 seats on one floor. Watching a movie there is a cozy, nostalgic experience. It takes you back to the time when there were dozens of neighborhood movie theaters in the city of Detroit.
Adding to the atmosphere is an elegant lobby where you can relax when you’re not in the auditorium. The snack bar has all the usual goodies, including fresh-popped popcorn.
Outside the theater is a fenced-in parking lot. The theater is easily accessible from the I-94 exit to Livernois and from Michigan Avenue.
The Senate has strongly publicized its movies through e-mails and social media. This effort looks like it is paying off. At recent movies, the stage announcer has asked first-time visitors to raise their hands, drawing a response from many people.
I’ve seen several movies at the Senate that I’ve never or rarely seen at other historic theaters in the area. I’m looking forward to many more, like His Girl Friday on September 9 and March of the Wooden Soldiers on December 9.
Copyright © 2017 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.