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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...



This theater was built as Powers' Opera House in 1873 by William T. Powers, and opened on May 12, 1874. Entrance for stage people was from a stairway in the Arcade. Houdini once performed on its stage. The theater was gutted by a $28,100 fire on November 13, 1901, resulting also in the death of the building's caretaker. The city directory for 1909 is the first to list it simply as the Powers' theatre, although the building is listed as both Opera House and theatre from then until 1919, after which it is known as Powers' theatre. Jack Loeks opened the theater as the Foto News in the fall of 1944, for continuous showing of wartime newsreels. He installed a movie projection booth that covered the old third balcony, or "Nickel Balcony," with its curved hard wooden seats. Loeks worked hard to crack the distribution ring that operated at that time, which made it difficult for independent theaters to continue in business. Because of the monopoly, Loeks was only able to show newsreels, cartoons, and short subjects for the first few years of the theater's existence, hence its name, Foto News Theater. The market supported the one-hour news format. Loeks joined other independent theaters in suing to break the monopoly, and in 1948 the practice was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Foto News closed for remodeling, and reopened as the Midtown theatre on December 25, 1948. Loeks operated the theater for Butterfield, for Goodrich / Murray, and for Harry G. Sommers & Co. of New York, NY. It was noted for its perfect acoustics. The seating capacity was given in various places as 1,000, 1,200, and 1,700 (the last two figures are from the February 7, 1934, information in the Grand Rapids Public Library); and the interior was nearly six stories in height. The lobby ran straight along the east side of the building; patrons turned left and went into the auditorium facing west. Remembered for running The Sound of Music for over a year in the mid-1960's, the theater closed Wednesday, September 20, 1972. The last movie was Cabaret, with Liza Minnelli. The city issued a demolition permit for the building to Capitol Wrecking on December 26, 1978. (Old # 59. Cf. David Nicolette, "Midtown Theater to Close," GRP 09/17/1972 1H. Joel Clark, “100 Years of Magic . . . Dying, Dying . . .," GRP 02/10/1975 1B.)

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Address123 Pearl ST NW 49503
CreatorFather Dennis Morrow
Also Known AsFoto-News

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