Jon Goldstein has had a busy 18 hours. The new leaseholder of the beloved The Maple Art Theatre in Bloomfield Township hoped for a seamless transition without much fanfare by taking over operations of the three-screen cinema on Feb. 1.
But he said that plan abruptly ended late Wednesday when officials with Landmark Theatres confirmed to Bloomfield Patch that they lost their lease after 13 years.
"I was being respectful of their plans to keep this hush-hush, just quietly have this transition, and then announce what our plans are. But I guess that's not the plan anymore," Goldstein said this morning after calling into the "Stoney and Bill Show" on 97.1 FM to discuss his plans.
It was one example of several media interviews and emails responses he said he felt compelled to do today to dissuade fears that the beloved theater would be shut down.
Landmark officials Wednesday confirmed losing their lease at the end of the month. They did not address questions regarding the future of the theater or the employees. The California-based company operates more than 50 theaters across the country, including the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, where it will remain business as usual.
Goldstein said he signed a 10-year lease with Grand Sakwa Properties with two five-year options. The business deal was sealed in the fall, but he said officials at Landmark asked him to keep the change quiet so they could continue to operate through the holiday movie season and through the end of January. Messages left with Grand Sakwa officials today were not immediately returned.
Goldstein said he anticipates keeping the current employees who don't stay with the Landmark company.
Goldstein said he will operate the theater at status quo for two months while planning for at least $1 million worth of renovations is completed. The theater will close in April for roughly six-to-eight weeks of construction and he hopes to reopen in June with a charity benefit.
The theaters will have significant upgrades, including expanded, digital screens and wider rows for leg room, he said. The seats will be new, but they will not be stadium-style, as he said the sight lines will already be improved.
The entrance and main lobby will be remodeled and will feature a tile fireplace created by Pewabic Pottery of Detroit, he said. It will be just one of many Michigan-made products Goldstein said he intends to use.
"Everything we'll do in there will be kept local," said Goldstein, a Bloomfield Township resident.
That includes the collection of microbrews he hopes to serve on tap at the revamped concessions. A formal liquor license application was submitted to Bloomfield Township government and should be up for consideration shortly, he said.
Any significant renovations must also be approved by the Bloomfield Township Planning Commission and Board of Trustees. A traffic study for the location near the southwest corner of Telegraph and Maple roads is under way.
Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie said he and Township Planning Director Patty Voelker met with the developers a few weeks ago and that many details must still be worked out before proposals are ready for consideration. But there's genuine excitement about what's been discussed.
"It's definitely in its infancy," he said Thursday. "I do think what they're talking about doing is outstanding. They're taking a complex that has not been upgraded really since since it was built and it looks like they'll make improvements that could help make it successful for years to come."
Most importanly, Goldstein said, he plans to keep the 38-year-old Maple Theatre's character and longstanding reputation for showing quality artistic and independent films intact. But don't be surprised to see some commercial blockbusters, when appropriate.
"Yes, we'll be showing good art films, but not only art films. We'll be playing great stories. Good, upscale film," he said, describing films comparable to the critically acclaimed The Help, and Oscar-winning The King's Speech, which screened at the Maple in 2010.
Goldstein said he also wants to offer unique programming, including early weekend showtimes for children's films and movie clubs. He also wants to start a weekly "X-flicks" feature, where club members and other movie buffs will "know they're going to see a great movie of the past, but won't know which one until they get there."
Advance ticket purchases and showtimes will always be available at the theater's website www.mapletheater.com, which will launch shortly.
An Eye on the Future
Goldstein is self-professed movie fanatic who has been in the movie-property business for about a decade. The Maryland native graduated from the University of Michigan and is married to Lauren Fenton, an Andover High School alumnus who grew up in West Bloomfield. She is also a partner in the Bloomfield Hills-based Highline Investments LLC business that Goldstein operates and brought their family back to Michigan from the Chicago area in 2007.
Goldstein said he was mentored by Paul Glantz, founder and president of Emagine Entertainment, and has stakes in several Emagine theaters in Metro Detroit, and others in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He was part of the investment group that was to build a theater at the Bloomfield Park development before plans failed.
Both Goldstein and Savoie said the experience with the Bloomfield Park proposal, which also included a liquor license request, should help the planning process on all sides.
"I was a trustee on the board when that was considered, and at first, I thought it was an unusual request," Savoie said. "But I know it's happening in other places and seems to be a draw."
Despite challenges due to its size and age, Goldstein said he eyed the Maple for two years because of its location and history as a local and statewide landmark. He bided his time until he knew the current lease was expiring and made a push with other investors based on positioning the theater for future profitability. He said that as a Maple patron he enjoyed the movies, but felt the experience was lacking.
"I'm a theater guy, and I can't go there," he said bluntly. "I was tired of seeing films there in uncomfortable seats and walls that were seeping water."
The cosmetics and atmosphere will change in the months ahead.
"The Maple is where people come from all over the state to see a movie because it's one of the few places that will show certain films," he explained. "If they make the drive, we want to make sure that when they get there, it's something special and somewhere they enjoy being."