Every so often I get an urge to watch a really good movie. Oddly enough, this desire rarely drives me toward the nearest cine-plex. The first place that I always look is: The Redford Theater in Detroit. Many, and I would guess, most Detroiters have never heard of the Redford theater. They don't advertise that I know of, but rather build their business by word of mouth. Somehow or other, my parents have known about it since I
was a kid and took us there from time to time.
The theater originally opened in 1928 and when you walk into it today, you feel as though it were still that era. A group of dedicated volunteers have managed to preserve and restore the theater right down to the Japanese courtyard decor surrounding the front of the theater and starry sky ceiling. This group of volunteer also belongs to the Motor City Theatre Organ Society which is housed in the theater. As you may have guessed, the theater has an old, working organ. (That I will get into later.) While I am certain it has not maintained it's original ticket price, I would still say that the $4.00 admission that they charge is about the cheapest movie in town!
The other part of the Redford Theater that I love is that it only shows old movies. In fact, as you will see, they are dedicated to giving you an old movie experience. I think that as a kid, I was oblivious to the fact that most people hadn't gone to the theater to see Laurel and Hardy in "Sons of the Desert" (my favorite!) "You wax eater!!!"
While I realize that you can turn your television to Turner Classic Movies at any given time to catch much of the Redford Theater lineup, there is really something different about seeing these movies on the big screen with an audience. The first time that I took Mick to the RT, we went to see "Blazing Saddles." It was very different to hear a room full of strangers cracking up at the humor that Mel Brooks was doling. Only at the Redford Theater
will you get a balcony full of college students cheering at the mere mention of Gene Kelly during an introduction of "Singing in the Rain". (They always do an introduction.)
The theater also has an intermission with all of the movies, just as an old theater would have. They have a 50/50 raffle during the intermission. I won it when I went over the summer to see Mary Poppins. I walked away with $68, so factoring in the cost of the tickets and concession stand for all of the movies that I have gone to, I would say that I have made about a $55 profit going to the Redford this year.
This brings me to a new tradition for my family... "A Chistmas Story" at the Redford. I have always loved this movie. Actually, I love any movie which allows my parents to reminisce about their childhood. The Woody Allen movie "Radio Days" is a great example of this. The little known, but brilliant "Avalon" is another. "A Christmas Story," always seems to extract
the exclamations from my parents such as "Oh my goodness! Do you remember those snow suits?" "Look Matt! Look at the stove that she's using in the kitchen!" More than anything though, it conjures up a good laughing spell from my Dad which is an unforgettable thing.
"A Christmas Story" is shown every year at the RT because it is quite popular with their audiences. We went as a family once a couple of years ago, and sure en
ough, I began to get the itch to go again. I randomly put something on Facebook and quickly found out that my sister had gotten the same itch and had been planning to go. My brother Mike jumped on board. Everyone (in Detroit) was able to go except for my parents, who already had tickets to the symphony. Sorry Mom and Dad! It is a tradition now, so we will plan better next year!
It was so much fun to hear everyone laugh as the Dad pronounces "Fra-gee-lay. Must be Italian!" The audience cheered as Ralphie takes a stand against Scott Farkis the bully. "Yellow eyes! Yellow eyes! So help me God, he had yellow eyes!" The theater even threw in an additional raffle for a leg lamp!
So let me take you on a tour! (But bear with me. While these photos were supposed to be in an order that made some sense, Blogger does not seem to want to let me shift them around.) Get ready for some nostalgia:
This is looking at the overall scene from the balcony. Unfortunately with my camera, there is no good way to catch the starry sky, but there are twinkling stars above this already fantastic scene.
Some of the evenings participants: Mike with his girls, Madeline and Natalie
Check out the Santa Bears behind the tree. I totally had the 1986 bear!
Here is an example of some of the detail above the lights that was preserved in the middle lobby. I am taking this from the stairway that leads to the balcony:
The theater is always decked out for Christmas:
This was as close as I got to the organ.
I believe that it is original, and yes, there is an organist playing as you walk into the theater and during intermission. Usually the tunes relate to the movie that you are going to watch and in this case he was playing Christmas music. See how the organ is up on the stage? As the movie is beginning, the organ sinks slowly begins to sink until it is below.
At Christmas, they have an elaborate train set at the front. Wow. Whatever happened to train sets? I kind of want one.
Detail of some of the decor to the left of the stage:
Before every movie the curtains open and the National Anthem is played on the organ. I like to imagine that they have been doing this since World War II. (Who knows? Perhaps they have.)
This is a view of the middle lobby with the snack bar. What? I didn't mention the snack bar? $1.50 popcorn with real butter!!! Other inexpensive classics may be found such as Vernors ginger ale and Chuckles. (When Mick ordered Chuckles this time, the volunteer behind the counter responded "Chuckles! Ho Ho Ho!"
You can also see the other staircase going up to the balcony
Before most of the movies, they will usually show a "short" of some kind. Most of the time it is a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but in this case, we were treated to a silent Laurel and Hardy film that I had never seen before (accompanied by the organ of course.)
Here is a detail above one of the staircases. I am afraid that my flash made it appear a bit gaudier.
To the right of the stage
What photos did I not take? The entrance or the main lobby! Fortunately, you may find some on the Redford Theater website: http://redfordtheatre.com/index.htm
While you are there, you may just want to check out their Calendar of Events for the movie schedule. I will see you there!