It was on this day, March 7, 1917, Detroit’s Madison Theatre opened.
Designed by renowned architect C. Howard Crane, it cost $500,000 to build (about $8.5 million today, when adjusted for inflation).
The Madison was part of magnate John Kunsky’s theater empire and the first on what was to be known as Kunksy Circle because of the park’s circular shape and the number of Kunsky-owned theaters along it.
Located on eastern Grand Circus Park, the 1,806-seat theater’s opening night fare featured Mary Pickford in “Poor Little Rich Girl.” Also part of the bill on opening night: a Pathe-Hearst newsreel and the Madison Famous Orchestra and Organ, and performances by a tenor and a soprano.
The Madison’s lobby was long and narrow with the auditorium entrance on the left and stairs to the loge and balcony on the right. Its screen was 18 by 21 feet; the stage spanned 63 feet across and was 25 feet deep.
The Madison was the first theater in Michigan to screen a full-length talking picture, “The Jazz Singer,” which opened on Dec. 25, 1927, and was seen by more than half a million people in a three-month run. Daily shows ran from noon to 11 p.m.
The theater portion of the Madison was razed for a surface-level parking lot in the early 2000s. By 2012 it was acquired by Dan Gilbert, the first on nine buildings he would acquire downtown.