Theater Info

One of only a few remaining 1920s Detroit movie houses, The Senate has the unique distinction of offering silent films and cinema classics accompanied by our Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. The 800-seat theater is located in Southwest Detroit in one of Michigan Avenue's most intriguing historic buildings.

Location

The Senate Theater is located at 6424 Michigan Avenue, one block from Livernois.

Parking

We are happy to say the Senate's is a safe neighborhood in which to park. Follow the regular Detroit street parking rules, leave nothing visible in the car, keep things in your trunk.
There is parking along Michigan Ave, Gilbert Ave, and in our gated parking lot on Gilbert.

Admission

$5 for movies unless otherwise noted
$10 for Silent Films
The Senate box office and concessions stand accept cash, checks and credit cards.

Booking

Theater rentals are available for Special Events
for independent filmmakers, fund-raisers, weddings and parties. Please e-mail rentals@SenateTheater.com for more information.

History

Built in 1926, the Senate Theater was designed by architect Christian W. Brandt, who designed a number of smaller Detroit movie houses like the Times Square Theater and LaSalle Garden Theater, most of which have not survived.

Remodeled sometime in the 1930’s in an Art Deco style, including a new facade and tall vertical marquee, the Senate Theater was remodeled again in 1949, this time in an Art Moderne style by architect Ted Rogvoy. It continued to operate until 1958 when it was closed.

The theater was acquired by the Detroit Theater Organ Society (DTOS) in 1963 and renovated to house the original pipe organ from the Fisher Theater. The acquisition was due to the vision and generosity of George Orbits who bought the Wurlitzer Opus 1953 pipe organ from the Fisher Brothers and saw it safely installed in the Senate. The DTOS renovated the theater, reducing seating from 1,200 to about 800 in order to create the pipe chambers and install the organ which had been briefly housed the Iris Theater from 1961-1962. The "Mighty Wurlitzer" was famous for it's unique design and sound, and it's impeccable condition. It was about as perfect as a pipe organ could get, and maintained and tuned to very high standards.

Since then, the Senate Theater has been home to the DTOS, a private membership organ club primarily featuring monthly organ pops concerts. Organists from all around the country have come to play the Wurlitzer.

Over the decades, with a declining DTOS membership, and in need of repair, the Senate once again closed in December of 2009. In February 2011, volunteers began working to reopen in May that year and two years later the organization added a movie screen and opened its doors to the public, scheduling several films per year. The Mighty Wurlitzer is featured before each film, introducing the organ to a new generation of film lovers.

In 2017 the Senate presented its first full year of film programming since 1958! We even installed a popcorn machine so that our patrons can enjoy freshly popped popcorn. As we work toward making the Senate a cultural and economic anchor within Southwest Detroit and along our stretch of Michigan Avenue, we will continue to partner with the city and the community to develop exciting and entertaining film programming. As we grow our attendance, we will gradually bring the Senate to its former glory.

The Opus 1953, Our "Mighty Wurlitzer"

The Opus 1953 was originally installed in the Fisher Theater, Detroit MI. The organ was not a standard model, but was highly customized. The organ was built with several unique features including a Cor Anglais, a Harmonic Flute, a grand piano, and a console in highly ornate Mayan decor to match the Fisher Theater's original motif.

The organ was removed around 1960 during an extremely extensive remodelling of the Fisher Theater by George and C.W. Rapp -- their last major renovation. It was purchased by George Orbits. George and other local enthusiasts founded the Detroit Theater Organ Club. The organ was installed first in the Iris Theater and later in the Senate Theater, Detroit, where it remains today.

The organ is almost entirely original, and still runs on its electro-mechanical relay. We are pleased that we can offer several silent films per season accompanied by our Mighty Wurlitzer as well as organ overtures at the beginning of each film.