Friday, January 20, 2012

The Maple Theatre, still growing: The short death and long life of an Art House theater.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Local film lovers got a major shock on Wednesday, when various media reports surfaced that the Maple Art Theatre in Bloomfield Hills would be going dark by the month’s end. The rumor, that the Maple’s owners, the indie-flick specialist Landmark chain, had lost its lease, was confirmed with a press release: “Unfortunately, we have lost our lease and will cease operation at the Maple Art theatre at the end of this month.  It saddens us to leave this historical landmark and we would like to thank our loyal patrons who have supported us for the past thirteen years. We love the city of Detroit and will continue to operate the Main Art in Royal Oak.”

So wrote Ted Mundorff, Chief Executive Officer of Landmark Theatres.

The beloved, three-screen theater, tucked behind a shopping center at Telegraph and Maple, has attracted area cinephiles for decades. Opened in 1974 , the Maple has changed hands several times, most recently when Landmark purchased it from AMC in 1998. Landmark was bought by iconoclast billionaire Mark Cuban. Throughout all the changes, the Maple continued to be a showplace for independent, foreign and unconventional cinema, which often couldn’t be found on any other screen in town.

Detroit Film Critic Society member jJohn Monaghan shared a few of his favorite Maple moments: “The preview screening of Reservoir Dogs where about half of the elderly audience walked out at the ear-cutting scene, heads shaking. Second greatest: Liquid Sky (the new wave/alien vampire romp). Probably looks ridiculous today, but I thought it was the COOLEST in 1982.”

Message boards and social media lit up with outpourings of shock, regret and warm memories of good times spent at the big little popcorn palace. A wave of melancholy washed over movie buffs, until an

acorn of hope sprang up through the cyber weeds. Late Wednesday night, a commenter named Jon Goldstein responded to a thread about the Theatre’s closing on one of the Patch community news web pages. “Rumor is correct. The theater will not close but just change hands on February 1st. We are going to do a complete renovation of the theater in the late spring/early summer. Hope you will come in to check out our plans!”

By Thursday, Goldstein was making the rounds to various outlets, assuring fans that the Maple would be back, and better than ever, after a brief shutdown to remodel, with a planned grand reopening in mid spring. Goldstein, a Bloomfield Township resident, is an investment broker, who also has a stake in the Emagine Movie chain, and will operate the Maple through his company Cloud Nine Theater Productions. Check this space for updates as renovation progresses.

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