the first decade of the 20th century the Detroit theater
scene was centered on Monroe Ave. Small vaudeville
theaters such as the National provided the stage and
film needs for a growing population. But John Kunsky
had other ideas. Kunsky dreamed of building larger
and grander movie palaces for the showing of the new
moving pictures. The area in which he wished to build
these new palaces was the up and coming part of town,
Grand Circus Park.
hired architect C. Howard Crane to design his first
such theater, the Madison. The Madison was the first
large movie theater in Detroit, the first theater
built on Grand Circus Park, and the first theater
built by the team of Kunsky and Crane.
a budget of $500,000 Crane created a 1806 seat classical
revival theater. Among the features was a tiered orchestra
pit and a 'pretentious' 60,000 watt lighting system.
Patrons would enter the auditorium through a rectangular
entrance lobby and then through a two level main lobby.
The main lobby was a long narrow space with exits
on both ends. Its distinguishing feature was its oval
mezzanine. The Madison's design predates the 'movie
palace' layout of the 1920's. However, it was still
notable and effective.
the start of a Detroit tradition, the theater was
part of an office block development. At that date
it was not certain if movies would be a passing fade
of if such large theaters could be profitable. As
an insurance policy a 5 story office building was
built around the theater. The facade of the Madison
Building was covered in terra cotta with classical
designs. It resembled a typical office block. The
only hint of the presence of a theater was the marquee.
In 1961 the office block's classical design was destroyed
by a modern facelift.
Madison enjoyed success. The most tangible evidence
of this success was the entire district of ever larger
and more lavish theaters Kunsky and Crane built around
the park. By 1929 the Madison was joined by the Adams,
Oriental, Capitol, Wilson, State, Fox, and United
years the Madison remained one of Detroit's premiere
theaters. However, by the 70's and 80's downtown theaters
nation over began to struggle. Urban sprawl, suburban
multiplexes, and television all began to eat away
at the massive theater's profits. The Madison survived
by offering a diet of rock concerts and action movies.
But the business these generated would not be sufficient
to keep the theater afloat. In 1984, while showing
the film 'The Dead Zone' the Madison closed for good.
As an ironic sick joke, the words "The Dead Zone"
remained on the marquee for years.
theater was eventually bought by the Michigan Opera
Theater. MOT also purchased the old Capital Theater
across the street and lavished millions on it to create
the Opera House. Plans called for the eventual restoration
of the Madison for live stage and small productions.
However, MOT could not find the money to restore the
Madison. They sold the building to Lawson Reality
in early 2000.
advantage of the nearby development of Comerica Park,
Lawson planned to replace the Madison with a Post
Bar with loft units. The theater was slated to demolition
while the office structure would remain. Despite the
theater's historic importance no cry came for its
restoration. It fell to the wreckers during the summer