Plan to convert Royal Oak movie theater into remote learning facility on pause


  • Emagine Theater, via Google Maps/Street View
  • Emagine Theater in Royal Oak.

A Royal Oak theater hit yet another snag in its attempt to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, this time for renting out empty screening rooms to serve as additional off-site classrooms for a nearby Catholic school.

As of Tuesday, the City of Royal Oak has halted Emagine theater's plans to serve as optional remote learning for Shrine Catholic School students in grades 7-12. The school announced its partnership with the Troy-based theater chain last week, in which Shrine planned to rent 10 or more screening rooms as part of a hybrid learning plan would have allowed students to alternate between in-person learning and virtual learning. On virtual learning days, students could choose to work from home or utilize the Emagine classroom.

Emagine CEO Anthony LaVerde told Crain's Detroit Business that the city of Royal Oak concluded that the theater's “temporary learning facility is not in compliance with Michigan building code.”

“We look forward to reaching an amicable agreement with governmental agencies that will allow us to utilize the building in this fashion,” he said of the arrangement.

This is not the first time Emagine has made a move to reopen in some capacity.

In June, chairman Paul Glantz attempted to host a Juneteenth film festival at the theater's Royal Oak location. The event was shut down just before it was set to take place, sparking contention between Glantz, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and AG Dana Nessel. A federal judge later sided with Whitmer and Nessel after Glantz suggested the state's order was a violation of his First Amendment rights.

“The hypocrisy of our Governor’s orders is unfathomable in magnitude,” Glantz said. “Strip clubs are open, massage parlors are open, and yet there is alleged ‘science and data’ to support the continued closure of movie theaters. It is okay to walk arm and arm with folks in Highland Park for a photo op in violation of social distancing guidelines, but we allegedly pose a threat to the life and safety of our guests. If there is anything more arbitrary and capricious in governmental behavior, I certainly haven’t experienced it in my lifetime.”

Gov. Whitmer is expected to make an announcement regarding the reopening of bowling alleys, gyms, and movie theaters on Wednesday, which could further quash Emagine's classroom concept.

According to Glantz, Emagine has suffered a revenue loss of more than $40 million since the beginning of the pandemic.

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