Detroit Movie Palaces
Your Guide to Classic Movie Theater Filmgoing!
Detroit Film Theatre
Step back in time to see what area movie theaters were presenting in January 1974, the month that the Detroit Film Theatre opened. Film titles are linked to the Internet Movie Database.
For more information about these theaters, see Cinema Treasures or Water Winter Wonderland.
"The Detroit Film Theater at the Art Institute launches its promising premier season Friday with 'Mon Oncle Antoine,' a quietly perceptive French-Canadian film by Claude Jutra," wrote Detroit Free Press Film Critic Susan Stark on Friday, January 4, 1974, the opening night of the DFT. Later in her review, Stark added, "It is precisely the kind of movie—low-key but high quality—that justifies the existence of a Detroit Film Theater."
Mon Oncle Antoine (1971) was described by David Shipman in the 1982 book The Story of Cinema as "the first Canadian film widely seen abroad." On Saturday night, January 5, the DFT presented the poignant 1952 French drama about childhood and death, Forbidden Games. The opening weekend concluded on Sunday, January 6, with Laurence Olivier in The Beggar's Opera (1953).
In reference to Mon Oncle Antoine and Forbidden Games, Detroit News Entertainment Writer Barbara Hoover wrote (on January 4), "The Detroit Film Theatre has chosen two gems to launch its six-month film series at the Detroit Institute of Arts." Patrons were charged $2 for individual tickets, and could buy 16 tickets for $15. This first month coincided with the start of another significant era in Detroit—Coleman Young was inaugurated as Detroit's first black mayor on January 2, 1974.
The DFT's first month included types of films that have always attracted enthusiastic audiences to the DFT: French films (The Fire Within, King of Hearts, and A Very Curious Girl); old American movies (Zoo in Budapest and To Have and Have Not); documentaries (A Sense of Loss); and little-known recent movies (Pulp).
A comment about Pulp by Detroit Free Press Entertainment Editor Lawrence DeVine on January 17 helped describe the mission of the DFT: "Now it [Pulp] has been pulled from the obscurity which it so richly did not deserve by the new Detroit Film Theater series..."
When the DFT opened, art film lovers were served mainly by the Studio chain of theaters. On January 4, the Studio-North at Woodward and Nine Mile was showing François Truffaut's Day for Night. Claude Lelouch's Happy New Year was screening at the Studio-8 (Greenfield and Eight Mile). The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe was drawing patrons to the Studio 4 in Birmingham, while Harold and Maude appeared for the 70th week at the Studio New Center (3rd and West Grand Boulevard).
To see an old movie on a big screen, your options included libraries, cinema societies in Ann Arbor, and the auditorium at the Henry Ford Museum.
The Redford Theatre and the Michigan Theater marked their 46th birthdays in January 1974. It was one of their last years as mainstream movie theaters, before they were faced with significant challenges that they successfully overcame in the late 1970s with ownership and programming changes that have helped them survive into the 21st century.
The Redford showed a variety of action movies. Martial arts twin bills included Screaming Tigers / Deep Thrust and Blood of the Dragon / Embalmer. Walking Tall, a popular movie of 1973, was paired with Straw Dogs. Other Redford double features included Black Belt Jones / Come Back, Charleston Blue, and The Serpent / Pretty Maids All in a Row. For children, a Kiddie Matinee on January 26 and 27 featured Pippi Longstocking.
The Michigan continued its long association with the W. S. Butterfield Theatres chain, which in Ann Arbor also included the State, Campus, and Wayside (3020 Washtenaw Ave.). Competing with these theaters in Ann Arbor were the Fifth Forum, Movies at Briarwood, and the Fox Village theaters. The first Michigan movie of 1974 was Jonathan Livingston Seagull, followed by A Film about Jim Hendrix, The Laughing Policeman, and Sleeper.
Popular first run movies in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area included The Sting, The Exorcist, Papillon, The Way We Were, The Paper Chase, Magnum Force, and the animated Robin Hood.
This website is not affiliated with the Detroit Film Theatre, the Michigan Theater, or the Redford Theatre.
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Launched November 25, 2005.
Last updated November 25, 2020.
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