Jackson’s Old Vaudeville & Movie Theaters
The Capitol Theatre, once located at 130 W. Michigan Avenue, has been closed since 1973. Can you believe it’s been that long? Currently, all Jackson has - as far as downtown movie theaters - is the Michigan. But there was a time when Jackson was a movie house – and vaudeville - mecca. And that is NO exaggeration.
Jackson’s theater life started in the 1800s with live shows: vaudeville, plays, and musical performers. Jackson was such a successful entertainment venue, that it drew in some of the all-time biggest names in showbiz. In the early 1900’s, Jackson was entertained by Al Jolson, Fred Astaire, Jack Benny, The Marx Brothers, and many, many others.
These live-performance venues flourished from the late 1800s until the 1920s:
MOSHER OPERA HOUSE, 141 W. Pearl Street.
JACKSON HALL, 151 W. Michigan Avenue, burned to the ground in the late 1800s.
ASSEMBLY HALL, 124 E. Cortland Street. The first motion picture ever shown in Jackson happened here. It was a film of the 1892 World Heavyweight boxing championship between John L. Sullivan and Gentleman Jim Corbett. The building was torn down in 1993.
UNION HALL, @ E. Michigan Avenue & Francis.
HIBBARD OPERA HOUSE, originally built in 1882 as a livery stable on the corner of Francis & Cortland streets. Burned down in 1897.
After the turn of the century, Jackson had plenty of nickelodeons as an alternative to live shows, much to the enjoyment of shoppers, visitors, and residents. These early-1900s nicks were set up in stores and shops, both occupied and vacant. Some of these were:
THE SUBWAY, 210 E. Main Street, opening in 1906, Jackson's first theater to strictly present motion pictures.
THE STAR THEATER, 107 W Main Street, opened 1908 and closed in 1909.
THE CROWN, W. Michigan Avenue, opened in 1909, closed in 1917.
THE IDEAL, located at 228 E. Main St.
WONDERLAND, set up in Assembly Hall.
When it became obvious that motion pictures were replacing live shows as an evening out, more and more movie houses popped up in Jackson. Among them were:
ATHENAEUM, on 234 S. Mechanic Street, opened in December 1898. It became the MAJESTIC THEATER in 1927, closed in 1954, and the auditorium was torn down to make way for a parking lot. The lobby still stands.
THE RIALTO, 1708 Francis St.
BIJOU THEATER, corner of Francis and Cortland streets. Originated in 1905, moved to the Hibbard Opera House in 1908. In 1920, the name changed to the REGENT THEATER. In December 1928, the Regent presented the first talking movie in Jackson - "The Lion and the Mouse." The Regent closed in the late 1940s, and torn down in 1950.
REX THEATER, 172-74 W. Michigan Avenue, began life as a nickelodeon in 1911. Owner C.A. Kuhlman opened the KUHL THEATER next door. The wall was knocked down to make the two theaters into a bigger one. It closed in 1951, torn down in 1975.
THE STRAND, 245 E. Michigan Ave.
BON TON THEATER, 240 E. Michigan Avenue, started life as a nickelodeon in 1912, closing for good in the early 1950s.
FAMILY THEATER, 113 N. Otsego Street was once the O’Melay livery stable. In 1913 the livery became the Family Theater, closed in 1962, burned down in 1965. I’d still like to know how it burned.
THE TEMPLE, Michigan Avenue.
COLONIAL THEATER, 1630 E. Michigan Avenue, opened in 1913, closed in 1948.
ORPHEUM THEATER – opened in February 1916 as a vaudeville house. This is the theater that became the CAPITOL in 1922 when films began replacing live stage shows. Jackson’s very first radio station began broadcasts in the basement in 1937.
THE VICTOR, Michigan Avenue.
MICHIGAN THEATRE, 124 N. Mechanic Street, opened April 30, 1930, and became the first Jackson theater to feature sound films. Closed in May 1978, bought by Michigan Theatre of Jackson Inc. in 1993, and is still in operation.
These awesome theaters began closing down in the 1950s, some unfortunately being demolished. Westwood Mall and Paka Plaza opened their modern theaters and the need for downtown venues sadly decreased.
Thank goodness the Michigan still stands.
The above information was taken from Mlive, who did an awesome article on these theaters.....you can check out HERE.
In the 1960's, the movies gave way to Rock 'n Roll venues, clubs and concerts. But that's another story.