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Alger Theater in Detroit to show movie for first time in 30 years

Jun 11, 2015

The Alger Theater on the corner of Warren and East Outer Drive in Detroit hasn't shown a movie for 30 years.

But come Sunday, members of the Friends of the Alger Theater will get the chance to watch Young Frankenstein inside the partially renovated theater as part of the groups' summer fundraising effort. The "Brew and View" series will offer a monthly screenings through August.

The theater is perhaps best known for its marquee, said Helen Broughton, president of the Friends of the Alger, a non-profit group that has been working to restore the space since 1986.

The sign out front rotates between "Happy Birthdays," "Congratulations," and other paid messages, switched out weekly by the same volunteer.

"The only thing that people have seen change is that marquee," said Broughton. "We have been doing events inside the theater here and there just to kind of show some activity, but we really need to show that that building is alive."

The Alger Theater before it was closed in 1981
Credit Courtesy of Friends of the Alger

The marquee has provided much of the income that has allowed the Friends group to make a lot of less-visible progress. They've paid off $20,000 in back taxes, achieved historic designation, and continued making structural repairs where they could. The almost-thirty years of dedication ultimately won an award from a fellow non-profit group for "being so loyal and never giving up," Broughton said.

They hope a revived theater will serve as a catalyst for development for the rest of the neighborhood.

"If you have a theater you might need a place where someone would go out to eat, if you have a theater you might need a coffee shop, that sort of thing," she said. "We really hope that reviving the Alger can help invigorate our area."

There's still a lot of work to do. Broughton described the inside as "crusty, dusty, and the best word is 'raw.'" She said it depends on funding and manpower, but the group would love to have the theater open to the public in a few years.

- Paula Friedrich, Michigan Radio Newsroom