Maple Theater refocuses on movies post-COVID
By Kevin Elliott
As struggling movie theaters look for new ways to expand their offerings in the battle for post-pandemic entertainment dollars, the long-running Maple Theater, 4135 W. Maple, in Bloomfield Township, is returning to what it does best.
“We had a difficult two years,” said Jon Goldstein, who purchased the Maple Theater in 2012. “Clientele at this theater is a bit older and bit slower to return to the theater. But we know the first floor plan was probably the most magical The Maple has ever been. It was a wonderful place. People would come before and after a movie, and they would stay and listen to music or go to the theater, and they would stay and have a cup of coffee or wine. People would work there during the day and have coffee. It really was a nice atmosphere, and we are trying to get back to that original plan that seemed to work very well for us.”
Billed as an upscale, neighborhood theater, the Maple Theater focuses on independent and vintage films, featuring a stylish bar and event space, often hosting pre-show music and post-movie discussions. In early 2019, the interior of the building was renovated to expand kitchen and restaurant operations. However, Goldstein said the food service side of the business has been difficult, and near impossible post-COVID.
“A lot of people asked for food, so we thought we would get into the restaurant business,” Goldstein said. “We tried that for a while and realized that we’re popcorn salesmen, not restauranteurs.”
In 2021, the theater partnered with Peas & Carrots Hospitality, which opened a Como’s Restaurant pop-up location, modeled after its popular Ferndale location. Despite the efforts, Goldstein said the location isn’t ideal for a restaurant. The theater will now reduce the size of its kitchen area and reduce the number of seats in the restaurant to free up space in the lobby. The changes – which were approved on Monday, October 11, by the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees – will be a return to operations as set out in 2012.
While kitchen space is being reduced, the theater will continue to offer food at the concession stand, bar area and VIP Club seats in the theater. The menu includes appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and pizza. Goldstein said he hopes to begin work as soon as possible.
“The most important season starts in a few weeks, and we would like to announce The Maple is back to what it was, and get our clientele back for the holiday-Oscar movie season,” Goldstein said. “It’s been a labor of love for my wife and I. We are in the theater business and have multiple locations, and this one is our favorite because it’s our neighborhood theater. It’s what reflects the most on us. We could have closed this theater many times over the last two years, but I’m a glutton for punishment, and keep wanting to get it right.”
In addition to cinematic offerings, The Maple Theater is available for use as an event and banquet space for private parties and gatherings. The theater’s Maple Club offers luxury seating, free popcorn, special discounts and offers. The theater’s Secret Cinema program plays surprise “old Hollywood” (before 1967) every first Thursday of the month, and “new Hollywood” films every third Thursday of the month. Secret Cinema titles are announced at showtime.
As the movie theater industry was particularly hard hit by the pandemic, some are changing hands or falling to the wayside. The historic Birmingham 8 movie theater was sold last year to Emagine Entertainment and renamed the Birmingham 8, Powered by Emagine. Royal Oak’s Main Art Theater was closed in June and demolished in July of 2022.
“I am glad you stayed,” Bloomfield Township Supervisor Dani Walsh said. “That’s the theater I grew up with, and I live about a half mile away.”
Trustee Neal Barnett agreed.
“I’m glad you didn’t close the theater. It’s really a gem for the entire community,” Barnett said. “It’s the fabric of the community. There aren’t too many businesses like yours. Going back to the opening, what you and your wife have done over the years is certainly appreciated by the community.”
Trustees voted 6-0 to approve an amendment to the theater’s liquor license, which operates under Cloud Nine Theater Partners, with trustee Valerie Murray absent.
“It really is a landmark, not just for Bloomfield, but I think for greater southeastern Michigan,” Bloomfield Township Treasurer Brian Kepes said. “I commend you and your team for everything you’ve done in the past, and for really being diligent to do whatever you can to keep it open … I commend you for trying different things, and when they didn’t work, I commend you for recognizing that – but you do make good popcorn.”