Maple Theater brings back summer moviegoing experiences

Kaitlyn Luckoff
The Detroit News

Have you ever purchased a movie ticket without knowing which film you would see?

As the lights come down and the feature presentation begins, moviegoers participating in the Maple Theater's Secret Cinema program are pleasantly stunned with the movie choice, said theater owner Jon Goldstein. These customers purchased a ticket without knowing what they would be seeing, but with trust in the theater's staff to provide an iconic movie presentation. 

The Secret Cinema program is one of the three moviegoing experiences offered  this summer at the Maple, and it's been a fan favorite for the past 10 years.  With tickets priced at $6 for general admission, the most exciting aspect is that the bi-weekly movie selection remains a mystery until it begins.

 As one of his favorite parts of his business, Goldstein said the Secret Cinema program is the first program that came back strong after the pandemic.

"Every first Thursday, you can see a movie from pre-1967 and every third Thursday you’re going to see something post-1967 that’s going to be good," he said. "I get a lot of crazy movies that people want to show and I try to work very, very hard making sure that what we show is going to appeal to everybody in the room, not just a few people. So, I think that having that attitude of thinking about everybody that’s there, all age groups, all genders, all races, and just hoping that every movie will appeal to everybody is a very important part of the program."

The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills is bringing back three movie experiences for the summer.

Following the film, there is a question and answer session with a guest speaker to discuss the film. Goldstein added that over the past 10 years, customers have grown to trust the movie selection process.

"The other thing that’s really great about it is the speaker, somebody who has selected these movies because these movies have meant something to somebody," Goldstein said. "When we have a great speaker and the movie means something to them, it ends up meaning something to the audience more than if you just watched it on television."

After two summers of outdoor activities due to the pandemic,  the Maple Theater is also offering the James Bond Film series and Late Friday Nights in hopes of encouraging people to return to routine movie viewing. 

The Maple has been a metro area landmark theater for more than 40 years. When Goldstein took ownership of the Maple in 2011, his vision was to create a pleasant movie theater experience for community members. 

“At the time, The Maple was very old and needed to be renovated," Goldstein said. "So the initial vision was just to bring a nice, comfortable place to see movies to the neighborhood. It’s my neighborhood, so driving by it everyday and looking at it sort of made me upset that my local theater wasn’t up to the standard that I wanted. Luckily, I was someone who could do something about it, so I did.”  

The Maple Theater reopened in early February of 2021, after shutting its doors the previous November due to COVID-19 shut-down mandates. After being fully reopened for nearly 10 months, Goldstein said many of the theater's customers are hesitant to return to movie theaters, despite being comfortable with indoor dining.

"The Maple has this unique circumstance where the majority of our customer base is over the age of 50, and so that’s been the last demographic to come back to the movies," he said. "I don’t think going to a movie theater is any more dangerous than going to a restaurant, and in fact the data and studies show that it’s less dangerous."

Among Secret Cinema every first and third Thursday of the month, the Maple will also host a James Bond film series as well as a Friday Late Night series.

The Bond Series was suggested by a frequent customer who will organize the series.

Managing Partner Ruth Daniels said that in addition to staying open later on Friday nights, the Friday Late Night programming will also present comedy and improv acts. 

"Some weeks are Motor City Nightmares in our Fright Night Series, and with each of those movies they do something special like with the Vampire Virus, they’ll have Vampire bingo," Daniels said. "We have a couple of times where we’re doing improv and a movie. Improv before the movie hour that will be performed. One night is comedy and a movie, so there’s going to be a few comics before the movie, some standup comedy. And some nights it’s just the movie.” 

Goldstein attributes his customer's hesitancy to come back to the theater to falling out of habitually attending movies. He hopes the summer programs will help customers return to movie theaters.

"It’s really just been a combination of people feeling safe, and also, I think with my customer base, the over 50 customer base, it’s like people lost the habit of it... I really think going to the movies, like anything, is a habit," Goldstein said. "Once you break the habit, like the pandemic did for a lot of people, you just need to be reintroduced to the experience. And then when you go, you’re like oh I’ve watched so much at home this is so much better than that, and I'd like to do this once a month." 

Looking ahead, Goldstein shared that his goals for the future of The Maple are dependent on customers continuing to return to the in-person movie experience, as he believes it does not compare to the at-home viewing experience. 

“My longest-term goal is for the theater to exist," Goldstein said. "Right now, it’s not a foregone conclusion that The Maple will survive the pandemic. I will do everything in my power to do so, but what I really need is for my customers to feel safe and come back...My goals are just to continue to provide the big screen audience experience for people. I get it, everyone can watch movies at home and that’s great. I watch movies at home, but to me, my favorite special effect at the movie theater is the audience... I have the one thing you don’t have at home: I have people that you can share the experience with."

For more information and to buy tickets, visit themapletheater.com.