Main Art Theatre Closed, But Marquee Message Was Mistaken

Main Art Theatre Closed, But Marquee Message Was Mistaken

(Crystal A. Proxmire, June 15, 2021)

Royal Oak, MI – As the image of the iconic marquee of the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak with text announcing its permanent closure made the rounds online, scores of comments railed against the idea of a landlord displacing such a treasure.  However, when the marquee announced “Landlord kicked us out, It’s been a fun ride – Main Art Crew R I P 1941 – 2001,” it wasn’t accurate according to The City of Royal Oak.

Todd Fenton, Royal Oak’s Economic Development Director, told Oakland County Times that he’s been in conversations with the property owner, AF Jonna, and that the company did not kick out the tenant.

The Main Art Theatre is owned by Landmark, a national company.  “We’re expecting a press release from Landmark soon that includes this as one of many locations being closed,” Fenton said.

“This was not a landlord issue,” he said.  “The owner, Landmark, made the decision to close.”

When asked about the marquee, Fenton said “I don’t know if it was an unhappy employee, or what happened, but when Landmark, the owner, found out about it, that marquee was taken down very quickly.”

The misleading statement led people to respond angrily towards the owners, who Fenton says were trying to work with Landmark to keep the theatre there. “The rent wasn’t paid for over a year, and the landlord stepped up and paid the taxes that the owner didn’t pay,” he said.  “They were trying to work with them.”

State Representative Jim Ellison, who previously served as Royal Oak’s Mayor, took to Facebook to dispel the myths, sharing many of the points confirmed by our interview with Fenton.

“We all, myself included, jumped to too many conclusions, and in the end, it was a decision made by out of state operators that closed the Main Theater. My experience with the Jonna Co. has always been positive and I would expect that they will be good stewards of the property until such time its future has been determined,” he posted.

Neither AF Jonna nor Landmark returned Oakland County Times’ request for comment. There is pending litigation between the parties.

Questions remain for the fans of the iconic movie house.  What is the future of the property?  Is there a way it could be saved?

Fenton said that it’s unlikely the building at 118 N. Main Street will survive as a theatre.  The building itself is in need of significant repairs, and the projection system and other technologies would also need to be replaced. Also, he said, “This is the trend we’re seeing.  Small theatres across the country are closing, not opening.  You can blame the pandemic.  You can blame Netflix. You can blame people’s changing habits. There are a lot of reasons, but this isn’t something unique to Royal Oak.  It’s the trend across the country.”

He said there are no plans in the works for the property, since the owner had been working to keep Main Art Theatre in the building until this point.  “The owners have said they are sensitive to the place Main Art Theatre has in the hearts of Royal Oakers, and whatever they do will in some way pay homage to what that corner was.”

As the public comes together with memories, there is even a memorial gathering planned for Wednesday evening at 6pm called “Main Art Love In,” with details here on Facebook.

Oakland County Times is also gathering photos and memories for a larger remembrance piece.

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