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Royal Oak’s Main Art Theatre has gone dark; Birmingham 8 looks to ‘pick up the slack’

It appears the final credits have rolled at the Main Art Theatre, a Metro Detroit moviegoing staple for decades and a home for independent and arthouse fare that opened film fans’ eyes to a world beyond Hollywood blockbusters.

“Landlord kicked us out,” reads the theater’s iconic marquee, along Main Street just north of 11 Mile in downtown Royal Oak. “It’s been a fun ride. … RIP 1941-2021.”

In April, theater reps announced the three-screen cinema was temporarily closing its doors. At that time, Margot Gerber, VP of marketing and publicity for Los Angeles-based theater owner Landmark Theatres, said, “It really just comes down to finances and attendance.

“The decision has been made to try and keep theaters closed that aren’t covering their expenses,” Gerber said. “As far as when it will reopen, I’m not exactly sure.”

Landmark reps could not be reached for comment immediately on Saturday.  Emagine Royal Oak’s parking lot shares a landlord — with the Main Art, A.F. Jonna Management & Development Co.

Paul Glantz, chairman of Emagine Entertainment, said Saturday he thinks it’s a “mischaracterization to say, ‘the landlord kicked us out.’ Landmark just didn’t pay their rent.”  Glantz said Emagine’s Birmingham 8 theater will be looking to “pick up the slack” of the Main Art’s departure, but he has no interest in acquiring the building.

“I’m afraid the building itself is not in good condition,” he said, saying disrepair inside the theater suggests a better future in development as something else. “I don’t see it coming back as a movie theater.”

The Main Art specialized in art films and independent fare, and showed cult films during midnight showings on Friday and Saturday nights. The theater showed mainstream films prior to its arthouse makeover in the early ’90s.

Chene Koppitz managed the theater from 1998 to 2005. In summer 1999, the Main was one of 15 theaters in North America playing “The Blair Witch Project,” and Koppitz remembers selling out every show on the schedule and people coming from as far away as Indiana and upstate New York to see the indie horror sensation. Lines of filmgoers wrapped around the building, concessions were sold out — even the low-sellers, like Jordan Almonds, she said — and there was so much money piling up that employees had to make bank runs every few hours.

Koppitz said the Main offered films that not only catered to those who wanted to see quality films from the American independent end of the spectrum but also foreign films, “stupid” cult films like “The Room” and movies that were nostalgic for somebody who was born in 1985, like “The Goonies.”

It was also a theater that showed many LGBTQ+ films and was a place “where queer folks could gather, feel safe, feel protected and see their lives on screen, and that is so valuable,” Koppitz said.

“That will always be legacy of the Main. It showed Metro Detroit that people truly loved film and wanted to be in community with film, even if they hadn’t taken a film appreciation class, even if they didn’t know who Kurosawa was,” Koppitz said. “To be part of that legacy is amazing, and I’m so happy I am. I’m so happy I got to spend that time with people who just loved going to the movies.”

Trixie and Scott Fabijanski went by the theater during a Saturday morning walk and stood stunned after seeing the marquee. The 20-year Royal Oak residents said they went to the theater when they were first dating in the 1990s and were heartbroken it closed. “It’s a big deal for us,” Trixie said. “We’ve got a lot of salons. We’ve got a lot of restaurants. But art we’re losing. It’s a shame.”

Scott said they made a point to go to the theater because they were afraid they “were going to lose it. I’m just shocked to see this.”


Posted By: The Detroit News on June 12, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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