Eight years ago the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (DSCDO) unveiled a newly-renovated Capitol Theatre. The 1921 theater, originally constructed as a silent movie house, went through years of neglect before ultimately closing its doors in 1985.
The huge renovation was complete in 2009, and took nearly 30 years to accomplish. Today, eight years after its grand reopening, the Capitol Theatre needs a bit of an update to keep it going strong for the next 30 years. So the DSCDO is hosting a fundraiser gala, Timeless, on Friday, April 21.
The historic theater was already on the DSCDO’s radar when the organization was founded in 1973, and the Capitol was one of the main drivers behind the economic development and success of the Gordon Square Arts District.
“When we were founded in the 70s we knew we could not let this place go,” says DSCDO managing director Jenny Spencer. ““Preserving the Capitol Theatre and the Arcade Building were essential for rebuilding Gordon Square.”
Today, the Capitol has all digital equipment on three screens and is operated 365 days a year by Cleveland Cinemas. The theater sees an average of 50,000 patrons a year and is a Gordon Square mainstay.
“We’re extremely committed to keep it open, as it’s an economic driver for the neighborhood,” says Spencer. “Even people who are window shopping or getting a bite to eat come by. This is very much a mission-driven thing, being an historic theater. It can attract new residents and keep the existing residential population.”
Spencer says the Capitol simply needs some upgrades to its equipment, as well as some plaster repair work. “It’s very, very old plaster and it just needs some more love,” she says, adding that previous years of exposure to the elements necessitates periodic maintenance to the plaster.
“The plaster was so compromised, it’s still recovering,” Spencer says. “We want to preserve what’s still there.”
Like all digital equipment today, the DSCDO also needs to upgrade the audio and visual technology to keep it up to date. “We’re not going to get rich operating a three-screen theater,” Spencer says. “We just want you to have a great theater experience where you’re just immersed in what’s on the screen — and that experience comes with great sound and visuals.”
The goal is to raise $70,000 through the Timeless event. Spencer says that amount will cover the digital upgrade and plaster stabilization and restoration, as well as create a repair reserve fund for future upkeep.
Friday’s Timeless event begins at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception, with free valet service beginning at 5:30 p.m. The VIP reception includes a silent auction preview and open bar. The main party runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with cocktails, a large spread of appetizers, the silent auction and a live Hollywood revue performed by local cabaret lounge singer, Lounge Kitty. Desert will be provided by Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop and Gypsy Beans will serve coffee.
At 9 p.m. a whiskey sour nightcap will be served in preparation for a viewing of the timeless classic Casablanca. “We thought a bourbon type drink would be appropriate, because Humphrey Bogart drinks it in the movie,” says Spencer. “And, of course, there will be popcorn.”
Tickets start at $100 for general admission and $150 for VIP admission. $83 of the general admission ticket cost is tax deductible, as is $122 of the VIP ticket. Donations to the theater fund are also accepted. All donations will be kept in the Capitol’s fund at the Cleveland Foundation.
“This is such an iconic place for the community, and this is an opportunity for people to reconnect and get excited about the theater,” Spencer says, adding that she recalls hearing many fond memories from longtime residents. “The amount of love stories I’ve heard, you would not believe how many stories.”