Lansing’s Theater District has been gone for years and years. The 1870s saw Lansing’s Washington Avenue as one of THE places to visit, thanks to the Theater District…even Mark Twain was impressed enough to visit. Shows were live stage performances until motion pictures finally kicked in. Nine theaters eventually decked the area:
The Bijou Theater (Washington @ Michigan Ave),
Colonial Theater,
Empress Theater,
Esquire (122 E. Michigan),
Garden Theater (118 N. Washington),
Gladmer Theater (223 N. Washington),
Orpheum Theater (114 N. Washington),
Plaza Theater (211 N. Washington),
Strand Theater (later the Michigan Theatre, 215 N. Washington)
and Vaudette Theater…all offering stage plays, vaudeville and films.

It's a shame that today's generation watches most of their movies via the internet. What an event it was to go out for the evening to the local motion picture palaces. And palaces they were. As early as the 1870s, Washington Avenue was the “center of Lansing's theater district" so reads the historical marker. Very sad to see how Washington Ave. stopped embracing the theater...even sadder, these wonderful, decorative theaters were torn down.

The Empress Theater – which was, by 1927, called the Capitol (204 N. Washington) – presented the nation’s first talking motion picture, The Jazz Singer and the district was on its way to be forever changed.

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The old Bijou Theatre in downtown Lansing was located at the northwest corner of S. Capitol & E. Michigan, right across the street from the walkway leading up to the Capitol building. The Bijou Theatre was a very popular movie & vaudeville house and remained in operation from 1910 thru 1920. Then, in 1920, when the Bijou was remodeled, it gained a brand new name: The Regent Theatre. The Regent also did a decent business, hauling in many crowds that came flocking in to see the latest vaudeville acts, singers, comedians and the featured silent films of the day. Many dignitaries and politicians who visited our state capitol enjoyed the fact that they could just walk across the street into a theater for some entertainment. Then, in 1926, a fire broke out and destroyed the entire building...and the structure was a theater no more. The rebuilt structure is currently called the "George W. Romney State Capitol Building" and is used to house the governor's office.

The Michigan Theatre on Washington in downtown Lansing was built in the 1920s as the Strand Theatre. It was a majestic theater with plenty to do instead of just seeing a motion picture. It’s a shame that someone decided to shut it down; what a grand palace it was…

Take a look at the gallery below for photos of Lansing theaters and movie house memorabilia from days gone by…

Lansing Theaters and Memorabilia



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Vintage Photos of East Lansing

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