The Highland Theater was built in 1915 and was located at 13843 Woodward Avenue, near Gerald Street, in downtown Highland Park, Michigan. Highland Park is a suburb of Detroit, that is surrounded by Detroit, basically making it an extension of Detroit. The Highland Theater was designed by B.C. Wetzell, who also designed several other smaller theaters around Detroit. The Highland Theater was originally a live-show and vaudeville venue, but switched to motion picture theater with a few years. The Highland Theater was small and had only one screen, but it did seat up to 1,600 patrons. The Highland Theater was one of Highland Park’s only theaters. It served Highland Park’s residents, many of whom were Ford Motor Company employees.
In 1967, the Highland Theater was renamed the Paris Theatre, and began screening adult fare. In 1970, it received another new name, the Hiland Art Theatre. By 1981, the Hiland Theater had became an all-nude strip club, and was renamed the Fancy Pants. Shortly after opening the Fancy Pants, the owner was arrested for indecency charges. Wayne County prosecutors fought to have Fancy Pants shut down, claiming it was being used as a front for prostitution. The final blow came in 1982, when Chinese-American man, Vincent Chin, was brutally and fatally beaten with a baseball bat outside of the Fancy Pants club. The former Highland Theater has been abandoned ever since.
The Highland Theater had remained largely sealed shut since 1983. In 2011, a large fire had burned through the furniture store next door, doing some damage to the theater. The damage also included an entry point for scrappers and anyone else to enter the old, historic theater. The former Highland Theater was in rough shape. Most of the roof over the theater has fallen in, allowing the elements in and decay to take over. By 2012, the scrappers had removed everything of any value, including all the theater’s original chairs. The Highland Theater had become a shell of what it once was.
As of 2015, the former Highland Theater still sits abandoned and rotting away. It is located on a block of Woodward Avenue that is entirely deserted. It’s troubled location and advanced state of decay make it unlikely that it will ever be used again. There are no current plans for the historic structure.