Redford Theatre

Redford Theatre

17360 Lahser Rd, Detroit, MI 48219

Free parking in fenced lots with security


During the early 20th Century, movie palaces were built to show movies in glamorous settings with rich architectural details. Most were built in the late 1920’s. Years later many were left to decay and then torn down as the modern world changed. Luckily there are some palaces that have been lovingly restored.  I love beautiful old movie palaces and have visited several in various cities. Today I’ll share one of my favorites, The Redford Theatre in Old Redford section of Detroit.



Vintage photo via Redford Theatre




Outside of Redford Theatre



I’ve been a fan of the Redford Theatre for several decades. For a couple of years, I was even a member of the Motor City Theatre Organ Society which owns, restores, and maintains the 1928 suburban movie palace. Built for silent films, it was designed with a Barton organ in the theater.





MCTOS first became interested in the theater in the 1960’s due to its fully functional antique theater organ. With the owners permission, they began restoration and maintenance of the organ in 1965. They leased the building for organ recitals and meetings.



Photo Redford Theatre


When the owner was ready to sell the theater in 1974, it was offered to the society first before being put on the market. MCTOS took a giant step and purchased the theater on a seven year land contract. Organ shows and fundraisers were not enough to support the purchase and operation of the theater. While exploring the various means of securing a steady source of income, the idea of a classic movie series was born.  The non-profit’s series of classic films in a 1920’s movie theatre is extremely popular and brings folks from all over. Not only do we love the old movies, we love the old theater too. At the end of the land contract, MCTOS was able to make the balloon payment and became the full owner of the theater.



Redford Theatre



Drawing from original design of building



The theater was originally designed with a Japanese motif and included murals, stenciled-designs, grills, and other decorations. Above is the architect’s drawing of the design he put out to bid. It is displayed in the lobby.

After Pearl Harbor, much of the Japanese-style decoration was removed, painted over or covered up. Chandeliers were removed. Iron was desperately needed for the war effort, so the decorative vertical marquee sign and its massive iron supports were removed for war scrap iron. The 1960’s brought even more changes to the building.


Before restoration 

Photo Redford Theatre


After Restoration


Japanese murals



Using nearly total volunteer labor, the society began restoration of the theater in 1978.  Step by step the members and volunteers would work on one small area at a time removing layers of paint, 1940’s and 1960’s panels, and other changes to reveal the original designs. Stencils of original designs were made and they began painting. Through the last decades, the seats were refurbished, carpet was replaced, light fixtures restored or added. Thankfully some light fixtures were donated from the old demolished Oriental Theatre in Detroit.  You’ll find a fascinating history of the various projects over the years at their website.  The current project under restoration is the restrooms.



lobby concessions


light fixtures




light fixtures2


light fixture



lighting collage



The lobby was restored with stencils and vintage movie posters. T shirts are available for purchase.



lobby posters and t shirts






Look outside through the lobby doors.


lobby facing front doors



Walk up beautifully designed steps to the second floor balcony.



Japanese theme throughout theatre






For first floor seating, walk through the inner doors from the lobby to the concessions and then more movie seats.


lobby doors










The seats are comfortable with plenty of leg room. Overhead, a deep blue sky was sprinkled with stars while fluffy clouds appeared to float by.



view of 1st floor and ceiling




Several weeks ago my family and I attended a showing of The Wizard of Oz at the Redford Theatre. It was the first time we had seen it on a big screen. As always, we had a wonderful time for only $5 a ticket. We always arrive early so we can listen to the 30 minute organ show before the film. First a stage-sized flag is lowered as we all stand for the Star Spangled Banner played on the organ.


national anthem before every show - stage size flag is lowered to stage



Then the guest organist plays a variety of tunes; it’s great fun. We also enjoy catching up on the latest projects completed in the building. Each one adds another dimension to the intricate design.



wizard of oz ad


 Photo via Redford Theatre







I hope you enjoyed our visit to this old movie palace. It’s a great place for a classic film, local theater, and other special events. All proceeds from tickets, t shirts, and concessions are used for the restoration and maintenance of the theater and organ. All theater workers are volunteers. The society has NO paid workers or officers.



wall sconce under the balcony



Past activities at the Redford Theatre have included a Jackson Browne concert, Pink Floyd: The Wall screening, Detroit Blues Celebration, a visit by Rita Moreno to the showings of West Side Story, ballet performances, a local theatre production of Matilda, and a visit from the cast of “A Christmas Story” to the screenings of the movie. Fall schedule can be found here and includes lots of vintage Halloween fun and the annual Noir City  Detroit  Festival.



view of stage from balcony



vintage poster 'Wings'







I suggest you also investigate any beautiful movie palaces that have survived in your area. Saving these architectural jewels is a marvelous thing. For a list of 50 Movie Palaces still in use, check out Paste Magazine‘s post, American Movie Palaces.



Redford Theatre today



Redford Theatre collage




Redford Theatre inside collage







Let's have fun this summer!


Choose all posts for everything or just what you like!

[email-subscribers-advanced-form id=”1″]




Please see my Link Parties page for the parties where this post was shared.










I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

42 thoughts to “Redford Theatre”

  1. A great old theater with flair, which hopefully future generations will enjoy? I think the new sky of the theater is very special, fantastic and beautiful!

  2. Carol, this post ticks all my boxes in many ways. For a long while I have been extremely interested in classic American movie theatres (well, any theatre, actually), and like you, visit one when I can. I am always so impresed by the commitment and dedication of volunteers to such worthy projects. There are a number in Michigan that have been restored but I was not aware of this one and will be sharing this post with a friend who is not only a member of the Theatre Historical Society but whose husband also is a member of an international organ society. With their combined interests and the conclaves both groups offer with tours to various cities around the country and the world, you might be interested in checking it out!

    Somehow, a theatre such as this in Redford had completely escaped my attention so I am thrilled with the terrific photos you shared as well as all the background information. It really is lovely and now I must add it to my ever-increasing to-do list!

    While you are in the Detroit area you might want to check out the Fox on Woodward (enormous) where the primary debate took place a few weeks ago. I think they may offer tours but even the lobby is lovely. There are other theatres in the Detroit area that are also restored. But somehow I don’t think you’ll find as good a deal as a $5 ticket! Thanks for this one — it made my day!

    1. Oh I have been to the Fox multiple times and it is indeed stunning. The cost for the live performances and events makes it only an occasional venue for me. It is a “special” place where I’ve watched plays, ballet, etc but on my retirement budget, it’s not somewhere I visit much at all any more. The Redford Theatre is smaller and less grand and more like an old friend. I go there every time I’m in Michigan. I’m upset I won’t be here for the fall showings of Young Frankenstein, West Side story, etc. There is a beautiful old movie palace in downtown Tampa that I will tour this fall. Their schedule is more intellectual speakers than classic movies though they show some occasionally. I hope to do a post on it in a few months if they allow me to take lots of photos.

      1. I have been to the Tampa theatre and it’s really lovely. We were there for a PBS gig years ago and I took a fair amount of photos but it was with a less than great camera and the lighting didn’t rock. I believe we heard the organ there. I’ll look forward to the post! (I know — it’s not really in my retiree budget either, the Fox, unless it’s something I had to see! I was there for opening with Liza, Frank and Sammy shortly before he retired because of his throat cancer. You’d never know it from his singing. Quite an experience! And saw Lawrence of Arabia on their big screen when the re-released it a number of years ago. It’s been a long time!

        1. To be honest it’s been almost 20 years since I was at the Fox. It is gorgeous. I’ve wanted to go to the Tampa Theatre for some time and decided I’d start with their tour. It looks gorgeous from the photos. There is a lovely old theatre down in Miami I used to go to decades ago. I read last year they are doing massive restoration and it will be used more like the Fox so I doubt I’ll be there again. It’s on my wish list!

  3. Hello, it would be a treat to see the Wizard of Oz on the big screen. It is a beautiful theater. I am glad it was restored!
    Enjoy your day, wishing you a great weekend ahead!

  4. Such a beautiful old theatre; many of the ones near us are seeing a comeback as playhouses. I just love going to watch a play in the same old theatre I saw so many favorite childhood movies like Annie with my grandmother.

  5. Truly beautiful restoration of the theatre ~ We have 2 in Beverly MA that were restored and they both are magnificent ~ The Cabot and the Larcom ~

    Happy Day to You,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  6. Do you know I missed my connection in Detroit last year and was stranded? If only I’d known about the Redford Theatre, it looks an amazing renovation. How fun to see the Wizard of Oz there! Lovely that everyone is a volunteer, what a beautiful community and building – it continues to be a tremendous way to bring people together. I really enjoyed this post.
    Wren x

  7. That’s a beautiful old theater. Love all the wonderful detail. Like stepping back in time! Too many of these have been neglected and lost across the country. So glad to see this one’s been restored.

  8. What a fun theater! The restoration is lovely. Recently I went to Santa Barbara and was so pleased to see that the old, classic theater downtown is still there. It’s been 40 years since I went to college there, so it brought back great memories!

  9. Beyond wonderful Carol! I’d love to see a favorite old movie in that incredible theater (the one you saw would be high on my list). What a fabulous job the volunteers did.

  10. Thank you for the photo history of the Redford Theater. It is so good to know it has been restored. Thank you! Have a wonderful day!

  11. Carol – what a wonderful success story! Too many times we hear about historic buildings that are torn down when the money cannot be raised. And kudos to all the past and current volunteers who are keeping it running! I will look for any vintage movie theatres in our area – sounds like so much fun. Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday, and have a terrific week.

  12. I always give a little sigh of relief when I hear that such fabulous places are being restored. The cinema where I grew up (Whiting, IN) has been saved as a heritage site, too.

  13. It makes me so happy to see a beautiful place like this restored to it’s original beauty and enjoyed by everyone! I loved old movie theaters when I was growing up…such a big part of my life! Thanks for sharing the gorgeous photos of the details too! Hugs!

  14. What a stunning old theatre and great that it is restored and fully in business. In the early 1900s Japanese style was popular also in Europe. We have a few old cinemas / theatres left in Helsinki. Some have found a new business, some show still movies. Great post, happy MM.

  15. It’s lovely to see old buildings like the Redford Theatre be restored and preserved. And to be used, too! It looks like a beautiful building and a great place to see the old classic movies!

  16. What beautiful art in this theater. As someone who grew up in New York City, i was fortunate to have both Radio City Music Hall (still in operation) and the Bronx Loew’s Paradise, which I graduated both junior high (dating myself) and high school in. The Loew’s is now a church but it had been abandoned, I believe, for many years. This inspired me to partially rerun one of my blog posts from years ago, and I’ve included a link to this blog post. It will post tomorrow.

  17. I enjoyed reading about the theatre’s restoration. Sadly in Greeley, CO the old movie theaters have either been torn down or repurposed. What a treat to see favorite classic in classic theatre.

  18. I love old theaters and found all the information about the restoration very interesting. We had a magnificent old theater in Trenton NJ when I was growing up. Unfortunately, no one could afford the upkeep and it was eventually torn down.

  19. Thanks so much for linking up your Redford Theatre post at the #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 3! Shared.

I love to make new friends and get to know you.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.