Michigan Theatre

217 S. Washington Street,
Lansing, MI 48933

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: W.S. Butterfield Theaters Inc.

Architects: Drew Eberson, John Adolph Emil Eberson

Functions: Office Space

Styles: Neo-Classical

Previous Names: Strand Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Michigan Theatre, Lansing, august 1977

Designed by architect John Eberson in 1920, the Strand Theatre was opened by Butterfield Theaters chain on April 21, 1921 with six acts of Keith Vaudeville headed by Herbert Clifton and a special presentation on the stage of the musical revue “My Soul Mate”. It was a vaudeville house for a while, but later started to screen movies as well, eventually switching to just movies.

It had a highly ornate terra cotta façade, and like many of John Eberson’s designed theatres, its auditorium was decorated with Neo-Classical touches.

The theatre was renamed Michigan Theatre on August 15, 1941. Still operated by the Butterfield Theatres chain, it closed as a movie house on September 1, 1980 with Charles Martin Smith in “Herbie Goes Bananas”. The theatre then sat vacant and decrepit until November 1883 when the auditorium and backstage area were demolished. In 1984 the front section was brilliantly transformed into a mixed-use office and retail complex, the Atrium Center, by the firm of Hobbs and Black & Associates.

Although the auditorium could not be saved (only the floor of the balcony seating area remains), its grand lobby, ballroom and storefront areas were transformed to their 1920’s grandeur. The focal point of the office foyer space is now the large marble staircase.

The façade was also repaired after damage inflicted on it during a “modernization” years before. Limestone of the same shade as the original terra cotta was used to replace sections of the original terra cotta that were lost.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

moax429 on September 1, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Didn’t “Grease” first play here in 1978? And, if it did, what other Lansing area theater did it eventually move to? (I’m guessing the Meridian 8 in Okemos.)

My family and I moved to the Chicago suburb of Glenwood, Illinois on June 18, 1978 (we lived there until 1983, when we moved to New Jersey), and I do remember reading in the Lansing State Journal two weeks before we moved “Grease” was at the Michigan first (I first saw that movie at the Orland Square Cinemas in Orland Park, Illinois, on Friday, August 11, 1978; “Grease” was also the very first movie I ever heard in true Dolby Stereo, something very much taken for granted today).

rivest266 on September 5, 2016 at 2:05 pm

This opened as Strand on April 21st, 1921. Its grand opening ad can be found in the photo section for this theatre.

rivest266 on September 6, 2016 at 2:32 pm

August 14th, 1941 grand opening ad as Michigan in the photo section.

DavidZornig on August 8, 2017 at 6:32 am

Library Of Congress link with a 1980 photo of the closed Michigan Theater.


MSC77 on December 27, 2017 at 11:01 pm

moax429…. Per a check of the Lansing State Journal newspaper, “Grease” 1978 first run in the Lansing area was:

Michigan 6/16-9/7
M78 Drive-In 8/30-9/19
Plaza (Mason) 9/13-10/3
Meridian East 9/20-11/2
Meridian West 11/3-12/5

DavidZornig on March 8, 2018 at 8:51 pm

1958 photo added courtesy of Dan Barber. Circa 1966 photos added courtesy of Gary Boynton.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 10, 2018 at 3:31 pm

When the original Italian Baroque interior of the Strand was partly torn out and replaced by the more modern look of the Michigan Theatre in 1941, the architects who handled the job were… John and Drew Eberson. The ornate original facade was simplified at the same time.

DavidZornig on October 3, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Link with two 1927 photos of a street car promoting 2 films at the then Strand Theatre.


DavidZornig on July 9, 2020 at 11:13 am

Closed Monday September 1, 1980 with “Herbie Goes Bananas”. Grand opening as Michigan Theatre was Friday August 15, 1941. Articles for both events added, as well as several auditorium photos.

Also Water Winter Wonderland website below with multiple images not in gallery and from 2011.


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