JACKSON HISTORY: The Family Theater, 1913-1963
One of Jackson’s old movie houses, the Family Theater, still intrigues even after being shut down for well over 50 years.
Back around 1911, downtown Michigan Avenue was called Main Street…and Pearl Street didn’t stop at Mechanic…it cut straight through and ended at Loomis Park. But where Pearl Street ends today at Mechanic, there used to be a little street that cut through from Pearl, and curved a few feet through to Main St. This little street was the original Michigan Avenue, which kept heading in a southeast direction, bypassing Cortland & Washington streets ending just north of Wesley. This early Michigan Avenue was also referred to as Otsego Street.
On that curved road off Pearl were a few establishments, including a livery stable. In 1913, the stable was turned into “Jackson’s Newest Amusement House’, the Family Theater, seating 800 movie-goers and vaudeville audiences.
By the 1950’s the vaudeville and burlesk shows were fading out, and movies were the Family Theater’s prime fare…but competing theaters like the Michigan and Capitol were showing all the “A” films – the major releases from Hollywood, while the Family was showing the lesser “B” and lower films, like “Francis In The Haunted House”.
The Family Theater was not “family-friendly”, as it became rundown with bats, rats, mice, insects, and other critters constantly invading the folks who were trying to watch a show.
Finally, in 1965, a fire broke out, spelling the end of the structure, which had already closed for business around 1963. The fire was believed to have been accidentally started by homeless people squatting in the building.
According to the March 18, 1965 edition of the Jackson Citizen Patriot, “Other buildings which absorbed quantities of smoke and are due to be demolished along with the theater are the U.S. Trading Store, the Ira Scott upholstery store, and the Royal Banner Cigar Store, once owned by Lyle Burden”.
All the above info is what I have pieced together from different sources. If there are any corrections or additional details on the Family Theater they will be more than welcome!
PHOTOS OF THE FAMILY THEATER ARE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO FIND.
Do you know of anyone who has some to share?