Main Art Theatre remains hub for indie films, cult classics in megaplex era

main art by eric
Main Art in Royal Oak. All Photos by Eric Kiska
Eric Kiska 
Entertainment Writer

In an area brimming with eager artists, it’s unfortunate that metro Detroit doesn’t have more movie theaters dedicated to independent films.

I asked several aspiring filmmakers from Detroit where they go to premiere their movies, and many of them answered, The Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak.

Robert Anthony opened the cinematic lair on August 7th, 1941, as a one-screen movie house with a capacity of 800 people. In 1983 they added two more screening rooms and continued to feature art films instead of tacky big budget flicks. Since then, it’s filled a niche on Main Street.

main art seatingThe building has been updated, but the interior of the theater still carries a Hollywood, golden-age nostalgia. Red curtains hang to the side of the screens, and the biggest theater has small but classic Greek theater art on the wall.

There’s also a lobby showcase that presents creations from metro Detroit artists. A marvelous, multicolored paper maîche exhibit by David Moroski is currently on display. Moroski is a Detroit-based artist who explores his abstract ingenuity with music, paintings and sculptures.

main art artAside from premiering local films and hosting the annual Mitten Movie Fest (one of the few movie festivals around metro Detroit), the Main Art has intrigued film buffs with Midnight Madness. Each Friday and Saturday at midnight they present a cult film for metro Detroit movie-lovers.

Some moviegoers even arrive in costumes, making films like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Big Lebowski especially entertaining. Future showings include Howl’s Moving Castle, The Blues Brothers, Mulholland Drive, Rebel Without a Cause, Psycho and Watership Down.

main art royal oakThe movie-viewing experience is different than most. In a film culture that has been cluttered with iMax screens, 3D cinema and reclining seats, the Main Art is a unique cinematic experience. Even if the irritable employees look like they’ve haven’t left the projector’s room for 10 years, it’s all part of the atmosphere.

See what they’re showing next on the Main Art’s website.

Other entertainment stories:

Eric Kiska

Eric Kiska graduated from Northern Michigan with a BS in English and writing and minor in art and design. He’s also a former video editor at Detroit Public TV.

  • Harry Palmer

    Meh. DFT is a much better venue… Years ago, the Punch & Judy in the Pointes was also a better repertory/indie theater, but GP shut that down along with the Esquire (an original art deco building they bulldozed), and later to purge all movie houses, the Woods… guess they thought the movie going public was too “lowbrow” for their town.