Jason Krzysiak, of Pleasant Ridge, speaks to a group assembled for a “Love In” at the shuttered Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak June 16.

Jason Krzysiak, of Pleasant Ridge, speaks to a group assembled for a “Love In” at the shuttered Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak June 16.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Royal Oak’s Main Art Theatre shutters permanently after 80 years

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 21, 2021

 A group rallies at the closed Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak June 16. Individuals shared memories made at the venue and brainstormed ways to preserve the venue as an independent theater.

A group rallies at the closed Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak June 16. Individuals shared memories made at the venue and brainstormed ways to preserve the venue as an independent theater.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Pam Murray, center, holds a sign with a hopeful message during a “Love In” at the shuttered Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak June 16.

Pam Murray, center, holds a sign with a hopeful message during a “Love In” at the shuttered Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak June 16.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROYAL OAK — Earlier this month, the iconic marquee on the historic Main Art Theatre sported an abrupt goodbye message: “Landlord kicked us out. It’s been a fun ride. — Main Art Crew RIP 1941-2021.”

The message, which has been contested as a possible stretch of the truth, was later taken down, leaving the board blank.

The theater temporarily closed as a result of hardship from the pandemic in April.

According to the theater’s website, Landmark Theatres managed the property. The website states that Landmark has grown to include 45 theaters and 229 screens in 26 markets since its founding in 1974.

Landmark Theatres could not be reached for comment by press time.

Fans of the Main Art and independent, foreign and avant-garde films organized a “Love In” at the shuttered theater June 16.

Jason Krzysiak, of Pleasant Ridge, created the event on Facebook a few days prior and said he was pleased with the turnout of approximately 40 people. He said the group plans to continue meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesdays to rally for the theater and commiserate over its loss.

“People were really supportive,” he said. “It’s a really valuable part of our cultural landscape. Everybody was pretty much in agreement — when we lose places like the Main Art, we lose so much more than a building. It’s really about the heart and soul of what we are as a community and what we value as a community.”

He said the group is looking to identify ways to help preserve the theater and intends to continue the conversation and create more distinct objectives, as well as show up at city meetings to get the ball rolling.

The new Facebook page created to centralize the grassroots efforts is “Friends of the Main Art Theatre,” which had more than 400 members as of press time.

Krzysiak said he has been a regular at the Main Art since the early 1990s, and part of the reason he purchased his home in Pleasant Ridge in 2001 was because it is a 23-minute walk to the venue.

“When the marquee popped up over the weekend, I was pretty upset,” he said. “It was very sudden, although in retrospect, it seems it was developing and I had been really nervous, obviously, with the pandemic and everything.”

Krzysiak said the theater was the source of unforgettable memories with his wife, children and friends over the years, and it is disappointing to lose it. He said he understands the business arguments pushing for the demise of art house cinema, but that the experience cannot be replaced by at-home streaming or mainstream theaters.

“The cultural landscape of southern Oakland County is very different than 20 years ago,” he said. “It’s very barren, and we’re losing a lot of the reasons people live in this area. To me, it seems like a telltale sign of what direction it’s going, which is really disconcerting.”

Stephen Fleck, a psychologist and co-owner of Changez Salon, said he and his husband, Jason Rice, of Royal Oak, enjoyed walking to the theater for date nights half a dozen times a year and that the closure of the Main Art was saddening.

“It’s been there forever, and we’re a big advocate of helping other small businesses in Royal Oak,” Fleck said. “We liked the fun, independent movies they showed.”

He said that while the closure is sad, it does not surprise him.

“Nowadays, people rent a lot of movies at home,” he said. “It also hasn’t been renovated in forever, and it had old-fashioned chairs that were smaller and a little lumpy. The person who sold you your ticket also got your popcorn.”

He added that the addition of Emagine Theatre behind Main Art also may have contributed to the smaller theater’s demise.

The Main Art Theatre is located at 118 N. Main St., north of 11 Mile Road.