Location Name: Redford Theatre (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Theatre
Year Completed: 1928
Architect(s): Raph F. Shreieve from Verner, Wilhelm and Molby
Ground was broken for the Kunsky Reford Theatre in March 1927. Architect Ralph F. Shreive of the Verner, Wilhelm and Molby firm designed the 1,661 seat neighborhood theatre. The John H. Kunsky Co. theatre opened to the public on 27 January 1928 with a final cost of $500,000. The first film shown was "The Gay Defender," a silent film. In those days theatres were built to show silent movies and because of this the theatre was equipped with an impressive pipe organ. The Barton organ was installed as the theatre was being built and boasts a three manual, ten rank console. The interior of the thetre was decorated in the exotic revival style with a Japanese motif and was topped with a painted blue sky complete with Christmas lights as stars. When the theatre opened in 1928 the price of an adult admission was just 30 cents.
The neighborhood theatre experienced several decades of thriving business, but not without some changes. During World War II, the vertical marquee sign was removed for scrap iron to help the war effort. Even more destructive, much of the interior decor was removed or painted over due to anti-Japanese sentiment. Yet the Barton organ was still in use and the Motor City Theatre Organ Society (MCTOS) completed a restoration of the organ in 1965.
Over the years the theatre was sold to the Goldberg Community Theatre chain and eventually fell on hard times as the neighborhood's population began to drop and new suburban theatres began to offer more showings. In the late 1970s the owners felt the theatre was no longer viable as a commercial operation. Fortunately, the MCTOS stepped in and made a $125,000 downpayment for the purchase of the Redford on 07 November 1977.
As soon as the MCTOS took over the theatre they planned many updates and renovations to the aging building. In 1978 the projection booth was updated with Norelco 35/70mm projectors from the Pandora and Cass Theatres; this made the Redford capable of showing modern 70mm films. In December 1981 restored chandeliers from the Detroit Oriental Theatre were installed in the grand foyer. On 02 January 1985 the MCTOS took full ownership of the theatre.
The renovations did not stop once MCTOS finished its payments. In 1985 the paint was removed and the original Japanese decorative stencilwork was restored. In 1995 four Japanese figures surrounding the stage were uncovered and restored. Also in 1995, the company that painted the original blue sky ceiling came back and re-painted it. More recently in 2008 a fiber optic system replaced the stars in the ceiling.
Today the Redford seats 1,571 and hosts regular weekend showings of classic films. The original Barton organ is still the central feature of this historic movie house. Run by an all volunteer staff, the Redford is a great, affordable and unique night out for those in the Detroit area. The MCTOS has also partnered with many local businesses and organizations to help keep the community alive. Their hard work in keeping their piece of history alive is a testament to the power of the perseverance and commitment of their volunteers and the support of their guests.
Redford Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.Sources