PHOTOS BY BILL HANSEN
MECTEO BY :
iATE GRATED •
SET DESIGN By.
VICTO' SAROKI & ASSOC. ARCHITECTS
I 8 A INC.
JAMES PAP:MIDGE A.SSOCA:
A husband and wife in their 20s
bring the 1920s back to the
Birmingham stretch of Woodward Avenue.
RUTH LITTMANN STAFF WRITER
t was curtains for the Birming-
ham Theatre — until David and
Carole Trepeck came back to
After a two-year stay in Texas,
the native Detroiters have plans
to open a multi-screen cinema on
Woodward Avenue. Their choice
location: the once-popular Birm-
"Renovating the place is a
pretty substantial project," Mr.
That's putting it lightly. Mr.
Trepeck, 27, describes the cost
as "more than $1 million, less
than $5 million." The theater will
be transformed from one stage
to eight screens featuring first-
run motion pictures and art
To fit all the theaters under
one roof, architect Victor Saro-
ki drafted blueprints for gutting
the building, deepening its
ground level by 5 feet and in-
serting a second floor.
"We're actually building a
building inside of a building," Mr.
He and his wife, Carole, 28, a
daughter of pizza-sports mag-
nate Mike Ilitch, along with a
Dallas-based minority partner,
Bill Herting, signed a long-term
lease on the structure, owned by
Fuller Central Park Properties.
Renovations are scheduled for
completion some time during the
first quarter of 1996. Doors will
open before spring.
"We wanted to keep the Birm-
ingham Theatre a viable venue,"
Mr. Trepeck says. "We live in
Birmingham. We didn't want to
see an historical building go
The Birmingham Theatre was
built in 1927. At the time, it had
one auditorium with a stage for
live performances and a screen
for silent films. Before long,
tallies became the rage. Theater-
didn't enjoy the
Carole and David
Trepeck of Uptown show could opt
for bowling in
Max Horton, president of the
Birmingham Historical Society,
says the late 1960s and early
1970s delivered a blow to the
city's theaters. At the time, there
were three: the Birmingham, the
Bloomfield and Studio Four, an
avant-garde place south of
Brown Street. Overtaken by out-
side competition, the three
venues eventually shut their
"I think it was a matter of
parking," Mr. Horton says. "The
malls began to have movies.
They also had lots of parking."
The Birmingham Theatre
didn't stay dead for long, how-
ever. Harry Nederlander, oper-
ator of the Fisher, Masonic and
other venues here and in New
York, rented the facility for 15
years. He ran it as the suburban
address for live shows produced
by smaller-than-Broadway com-
Ted Fuller, who bought the
property in 1977, believes Mr.
Nederlander opted out of his
lease a year and a half ago be-
cause live performances just
weren't attracting the big crowds
."The generations today, the
younger generations, have been
brought up on television and
movies. They simply aren't go-
ing to live performances," he
Mainstream cinema, on the
-other hand, targets a local mar-
ket ripe with teen-agers who can
ride their bikes to the theater,
young adults who can bring their
dates, and parents who can drop
children off at the movies before
striking out for a few hours of
Birmingham shopping. The
Trepecks are confident their en-
terprise will attract a healthy
cross-section of people.
"Broadway musicals cater to
a more specific audience," Mr.
UPTOWN page 39