From unique museums to historic theaters in Michigan to quirky tourist attractions, The Mitten is full of historic landmarks that scores of people love exploring. Historic theaters — both movie palaces and performance theaters — have long captured the imagination of Michiganders.
Many of The Mitten’s historic theaters have been open since the late 19th century and early 20th century. Some have operated continuously since they first opened their doors. Others opened with pomp and circumstance, were closed after a time, and then reopened to great enthusiasm after major renovations.
These historic venues can be found all over the state, offering visitors a chance to see a variety of performances, including local and national theatre, live music, orchestras, and a whole lot more.
Historic Upper Peninsula Theaters
The Calumet Theatre | Calumet
Dating back to 1900 when Calumet was at the center of the nation’s copper mining industry, this theater hosted a who’s who of famous guests in its early years, including John Philip Sousa. The theater became a historic landmark in 1971 and continues to host dozens of events every year, covering a variety of arts, including theatre, dance, and jazz.
Menominee Opera House | Menominee
Built in 1902 with the help of lumber barons, it quickly gained fame as one of the finest theaters in the Upper Peninsula. The closure of the theater in 1929 and a fire in 1950 led to the building sitting unused for many years. In recent years, efforts have been made to restore the theater, and live events have been held there periodically.
Soo Theatre | Sault Ste. Marie
This theater first opened in 1930 and has been a busy spot in Michigan’s oldest city since the early 2000s when work was done to renovate the building. For more than a decade, the theater has presented a Broadway musical and hosted operas, musical performances, a youth theater, and more.
Ironwood Theatre | Ironwood
Opened in 1928 as a venue for silent films and vaudeville theatre, the Ironwood Theatre is now home to movie showings, musical performances, and fundraising events. Also, the theater is home to one of the last remaining functional Barton organs, which is still used regularly for special events.
Crystal Theatre | Crystal Falls
Opened as a vaudeville and movie theater in 1927, the venue was given new life in the late ’80s when volunteers worked to restore the theater to its original grand state. The theater is a favorite of artists who often praise the acoustics, and it hosts theatrical performances, musicians, singers, and more.
Historic Theaters in Northern Michigan
Ramsdell Theatre | Manistee
The Ramsdell Theatre has served the Manistee community for more than 100 years and is listed as a historic landmark. The theater has retained much of its charm and architecture through the years, including a horseshoe balcony. Today, it’s home to musical performances, dance and theatre presentations, and more.
The Opera House | Cheboygan
The Cheboygan Opera House got off to a rocky start and was built three times between 1877 and 1903. Though it is also the home of the original city hall, police department, and fire department, it houses the opera house and hosts a variety of shows, including choirs, holiday theatrical performances and concerts, orchestral performances, and more.
City Opera House | Traverse City
Affectionally called the “Grand Old Lady,” this Victorian-style structure routinely hosts a variety of nationally touring shows, musicians, and comedians, as well as youth arts education programs. Even with all that happens in Traverse City, the opera house is a destination for national performances, conferences, and community events.
The Garden Theater | Frankfort
Situated on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Frankfort, The Garden Theater opened in 1924 and has operated continuously since then. Major renovations in the mid-2000s restored and upgraded the theater, including its Art Deco interior. Today, The Garden Theater is the site of movie screenings of new releases and family favorites and hosts a pair of annual film festivals as well.
Elk Rapids Town Hall | Elk Rapids
This historic venue, also known as the HERTH, was built in 1883 and has been a center of activity for more than 100 years. Over time, it’s been the site of rollerskating, conferences, local theatre performances, banquets, and more. Renovations have kept the hall in tip-top shape, and it continues to be a popular spot for performances, weddings, and other events.
Southeast Michigan’s Historic Theaters
Redford Theatre | Redford
Opened in 1928, the Redford Theatre became an instant hit as a neighborhood movie palace with its grand stage and three-story grand foyer. Its reputation is still strong today, hosting a variety of movie showings for everything from Christmas films to family favorites to cinema classics.
Fox Theatre | Detroit
Even with the sports stadiums, restaurants, and tall buildings in downtown Detroit, the historic Fox Theatre manages to stand out. Constructed in 1928, the 5,028-seat theater hosts nationally touring shows, well-known comedians, a variety of established and up-and-coming musical acts, and other community events. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Flagstar Strand Theatre | Pontiac
This three-story theater opened in 1921 with nearly 1,200 seats. In its prime, the theater was one of the busiest movie houses in Metro Detroit. After ownership changes and renovations, the venue is home to three stages, including the 900-seat Strand Theatre, and hosts local and national theater, educational programs, and more.
Detroit Opera House | Detroit
Fans of live performances — especially music — can enjoy performances at the Detroit Opera House, which originally opened in 1922. It continues to be a popular venue with a main auditorium that seats more than 3,000 guests and hosts nationally touring shows and a variety of performing arts performances.
The Baldwin Theatre | Royal Oak
The theater opened in 1922 and celebrated its 100th birthday in 2022. It features several stages that host a wide spectrum of events. The main stage has hosted Broadway shows, and the second stage is a smaller, more intimate venue for live performances. The theater also supports a youth program and performances.
Howell Opera House | Howell
This three-story Victorian-style opera house opened in 1881 and was a center of activity with live performances and first-floor retail spaces. Today, the renovated first floor is used for a variety of performances. The upper floors are frozen in time, remaining in their original conditions. Frequent free public tours are offered, giving visitors a glimpse of history.
Grays Opera House | Romeo
Opened in 1870, the Italian-style Grays Opera House was the toast of Macomb County and drew some comparisons to the famous Ford’s Theatre. Through the years, the opera house has had a number of distinguished guests and is still a popular site for concerts, community events, theatrical performances, and more.
Historic South Central Michigan Theaters
Michigan Theatre | Jackson
The theater has provided some of the best entertainment in downtown Jackson. Opened in 1930, it gained popularity for its ornate interior decorating, as well as for being one of the first air-conditioned buildings in town. Today, efforts are being made to return the theater to optimal performance standards, but it hosts movie screenings, improv comedy, musical performances, and more.
Hill Auditorium | Ann Arbor
Completed in 1913, the Hill Auditorium has hosted thousands of concerts, welcoming everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Bob Dylan. Renovations in the early 2000s restored much of the interior and updated the infrastructure. The auditorium continues to host an eclectic mix of events in Ann Arbor, including theatre, musical performances, and more.
Croswell Opera House | Adrian
Adrian is home to the oldest theater in Michigan and one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating theaters. Constructed in 1866, the 640-seat theater offers an intimate experience that includes a Broadway season with at least a half dozen full-scale shows, as well as local productions, concerts, and an all-area high school musical.
The Dawn Theater | Hillsdale
In the heart of downtown Hillsdale, The Dawn Theater, which opened in 1919, offers visitors the chance to enjoy a show in an intimate old-school theater with some modern charm. What began as a theater built from a livery stable has grown into a historic venue as a premier location for theatre production, musical performances, and more.
The Rex Theater | Morenci
Sitting on the Michigan-Ohio border is a historic theater in Morenci that dates back to 1916. After sitting vacant for more than 10 years, Morenci resident and owner Tim Newsom was compelled to revitalize the theater and reopened the 220-seat venue a few years ago with movie screenings. It has also hosted comedy shows.
Historic Theaters in West Michigan
The Playhouse at White Lake | Whitehall
The Playhouse has operated almost continuously since it opened in 1916, and its design was modeled on Chicago’s famous LaSalle Theatre. It has a spring season and a fall season, which includes musical performances, movie screenings, poetry readings, and more. It’s also the site of an annual summer theatre festival.
Frauenthal Center | Muskegon
Once known as the Michigan Theater, this historic venue was built by Muskegon movie mogul Paul Shlossman and is well known for its grand Spanish and Moorish-inspired architecture and exquisite interior design.
The theater has hosted everything from motion pictures to theatre to symphonies to travelogues and more. Renovations and improvements over time have ensured that the theater remains an important Muskegon landmark.
Sparta Opera House | Sparta
Built in 1914, this theater was once a space for film exhibitions, community dances, plays, and more. Also, the first floor was formerly an entertainment venue that included a pool hall and a restaurant. Efforts are currently underway to revitalize the opera house, which has long sat vacant in downtown Sparta.
Wealthy Theatre | Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids has a rich arts scene and the Wealthy Theatre, which was built in 1911 as a movie house, continues to be a part of it. In its heyday, the Wealthy was known as the best spot to see art films. The theater continues to show a mix of classic and art films and also hosts improv comedy events in Grand Rapids.
The Old Theater | Lowell
From the time it was built in 1928, The Old Theater was known as the place to see movies in Lowell. Under the ownership of David and Lisa Reed, it has been rejuvenated and hosts comedy events and public dancing. It even hosted a local theatre production in March 2023, offering hope for a bright future.
East Michigan’s Historic Theaters
State Theatre | Bay City
This theater was originally known as the Bijou and opened in 1908, hosting both vaudeville and burlesque shows. After a number of changes and near demolition, the building has experienced a resurgence since the early 2000s. The theater currently hosts a variety of events, including comedy nights, movie nights, musical performances, and more.
Capitol Theatre | Flint
This lavish theater opened in 1928, immediately drawing attention as the nicest venue in Flint. Renowned for its size and ornate decor, the theatre showcased the very best in music, live performance, and dance for many years. Today, visitors can enjoy a mix of local and national theatre, music, movie screenings, and more.
Temple Theatre | Saginaw
Known by some as the “Showplace of Northeastern Michigan,” this theater is still one of most distinguished buildings in Saginaw and has hosted legendary musicians, comedians, and everything in between. Opened in 1926, the theater hosts a variety of events — comedians, popular movies, ballet, and choirs.
Historic Southwest Michigan Theaters
State Theatre | Kalamazoo
This historic and captivating venue opened in 1927 in downtown Kalamazoo and has always offered visitors a unique experience, hosting performances of opera, ballet, drama, movies, and more. The iconic venue continues to operate in Kalamazoo as a testament to its staying power and captivates audiences with its commitment to excellence and wide range of performances.
Tibbits Opera House | Coldwater
Believe it or not, one of the oldest theaters in The Mitten is nestled in Southern Michigan. The Tibbits Opera House was built in 1882 in downtown Coldwater and offers an intimate experience in a 500-seat theater. The venue offers year-round entertainment — from children’s theatre to professional theatre to concerts and community events.
The Regent Theatre | Allegan
This Allegan landmark opened to great fanfare in 1919 and hosted a variety of performances, including silent and talking picture shows, jazz revues, vaudeville performances, and more. Over time, the theater has adapted to changes in technology and still offers a high-quality movie experience to anyone who visits.
Riviera Theatre | Three Rivers
The Riviera opened in 1925 and immediately gained favor for its grandiosity, which was said to rival venues in bigger cities. It has operated almost continuously since it opened, delighting visitors with varied entertainment, including comedians, magicians, live music, movies, and stage productions.
Visit Some Historic Theaters in Michigan Today
Stepping into one of the beloved historic theaters in Michigan is almost like stepping into a time capsule. No matter what’s on the screen or stage, it’s hard for all ages not to appreciate the finely decorated interiors, their size, and the history that lives within their walls.
Michigan has seen its share of memorable performances through the years, and many of those performances have occurred at historic theaters in Michigan. Whether you’re a Michigan resident or you’re visiting from out of town, watching a performance at a historic theater is a must for every bucket list.
Many of Michigan’s most historic and beloved event venues offer performances and screenings year-round, so make plans to visit and enjoy a trip to a historic theatre in Michigan.