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Despite restrictions, Emagine Royal Oak opening Friday for Juneteenth Film Festival

Theater plans to open to show effectiveness of new social distancing practices

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Emagine Royal Oak will reopen its doors on Friday for a film festival honoring black performers and filmmakers. 

The opening defies the MI Safe Start protocols Gov. Whitmer has in place for reopening the state. Under the current plan, movie theaters fall under a Phase 5 opening, while much of the state is currently in Phase 4. 

Emagine Royal Oak will open its doors Friday to host a film festival for black filmmakers.

"We made the decision to open," Emagine Theaters' Paul Glantz said Monday. "I wouldn’t say it’s against the order, per se, but we don’t have explicit permission."

Glantz, Emagine's chairman, says the choice to reopen is to show it can keep guests safe while raising money for a worthy cause. The Juneteenth Film Festival, which will include showings of "Do the Right Thing," "If Beale Street Could Talk," "The Color Purple," "I Am Not Your Negro" and more, will give net ticket proceeds to the United Negro College Fund.

"This is not designed in any way to be adversarial with the governor," says Glantz. "It’s simply we think now is a great time to be able to raise money for a terrific cause, and we think it will do so and it will demonstrate that we can do so in a safe and effective manner for our guests."

Emagine Theaters has been closed since March 13. Earlier this month, the theater re-opened its theater in Geneva Lakes, Wisconsin, in accordance with that state's reopening guidelines. Emagine has 10 theaters in Michigan in addition to its theaters in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois.

Among the protocols in place for the Royal Oak theater on Friday are new social distancing measures including one-way lanes for entering and exiting theaters and additional hand sanitizing stations in the lobby and hallway areas. Parties will have two empty seats between separating them from others inside theaters, measures Glantz estimates will put theaters at approximately 60-65% capacity. 

Glantz plans to have movies running on all 13 of the theater's screens. Additional downtime will be added between showings to allow time to clean theaters. 

Plans for the Juneteenth Film Festival came together in the last week or so, Glantz says. Tickets will cost $10. 

A full list of films will be posted on Emagine's website. The fest is scheduled to run for at least a week.

As for re-opening in defiance of the governor's orders, "I don’t aspire to be the Owosso barber of movie theaters. That’s not my goal here," he says. "My goal is just to raise a lot of money and implement the protocols we have in place so we can demonstrate for the benefit of the administration just how safe we can make it so we can come back to the movies.  

"We’re optimistic," Glantz says.