Owners of Ambassador Bridge buy Detroit shopping center with city's only movieplex

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — The real estate firm controlled by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge has bought the shopping center that houses the city's sole multiple movieplex that runs mainstream films. 

Bel Air Luxury Cinema

Crown Enterprises LLC  bought the Bel Air Centre, 8500-8920 E. Eight Mile, for $6.7 million in October, property records show.  The 450,000-square-foot shopping center includes the Bel Air Luxury Cinema, which has 10 movie screens. Other tenants include Forman Mills department store and a medical marijuana facility.

Crown Enterprise President Michael Samhat told Crain's Detroit Business earlier this week the shopping center would be "repurposed" and added that retail wasn't the reason for buying the property.  Samhat also indicated some businesses could stay open. On Friday, Samhat wouldn't provide any further comment. 

Bel Air Luxury Cinema hopes to stay and has 15 years left on its lease, said Johny Thomas, general manager of the multiplex. "We've talked to representatives for the new owners. They are kind of vague about their plans," Thomas said. 

Crown Enterprises is the real estate arm for the billionaire Moroun family. Manuel Moroun and his son, Matthew Moroun, own the Ambassador Bridge, which connects the U.S. and Canada, and trucking and logistics firms based in the U.S. and internationally. Entities linked to Warren-based Crown own considerable Detroit properties. The Morouns have generated controversy for years for lengthy and costly battles to prevent the planned Gordie Howe International Bridge, as well as efforts to expand the Ambassador Bridge.

The group has also raised much ire in various communities regarding the condition of some of its properties. 

The Bel Air Shopping Centre isn't far from where automaker FCA  intends to invest $1.6 billion to convert two existing Mack facilities into a new assembly site for Jeep SUVs and next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokees, along with electrified models. The first vehicles are expected to roll off the line by the end of 2020. 

No one could be reached from the Bel Air Luxury Cinema early Friday. Plans for two movieplexes within Detroit city limits are underway. 

In June 2018, Austin, Texas-based cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas LLC said it plans a nine-screen theater on a vacant site at 90-114 Stimson in Midtown. 

In February, Emagine Entertainment Inc. and musician Big Sean announced a joint venture to build a new movie theater and music venue. The group is still looking for a Detroit location, a spokeswoman said Friday. 

 Midtown is also home to Cinema Detroit, which offers independent, foreign and art-house films. The Detroit Film Theatre, a part of the Detroit Institute of Arts, also offers independent, foreign and art-house films. 


Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN