The Washington Theatre opened on July 21, 1913, on the northwest corner of Washington Boulevard and Clifford. Designed by Arland W. Johnson, the Washington was part of the empire of theater chain pioneer William Fox, the New Yorker responsible for movie studio giant 20th Century Fox.
Built in the Renaissance Revival theater style, the Washington blended in almost perfectly with the Statler Hotel, which opened next door in 1915. Many of the theater’s 1,862 seats were often filled by the Statler’s guests.
In 1915, Fox formed the Fox Film Corp., which allowed him to make movies and then show them in only his theaters. In 1919, the Washington was renamed the Fox Washington, though the marquees said “William Fox Washington.” The name change was in part to let people know where they could see such Fox Film movies.
Fox’s make-‘em-and-show-‘em-yourself strategy — coupled with his introduction of organ music to accompany silent films — brought him incredible fortune. In turn, the incredible fortune led him to start erecting movie palaces across the country.
Notable for being one of the earliest, if not the first, theater to be built on Grand Circus Park and apart from Detroit’s long-established entertainment center on Monroe Street, the Washington Theatre was closed on June 3, 1928, when it was deemed no longer necessary. It had been replaced by 5,041-seat palace Fox Theatre just up the road, which was designed and built by theater master C. Howard Crane. The Fox Theater opened Sept. 21, 1928.
The smaller Fox Washington, which had existed for just 15 years, was sadly razed.