The plan to use a Royal Oak movie theater as classrooms for a Catholic school has been stopped abruptly in its first week.
Shrine Catholic Schools announced last week it would be renting Emagine Royal Oak to use as extra Shrine Catholic Schools class space for students from seventh to 12th grades.
But the theater has hit the pause button on the idea, which was supposed to be happening this week.
In a statement given to the Free Press Wednesday morning, Emagine Entertainment CEO Anthony LaVerde said, “We respect the city’s decision in informing Emagine Royal Oak that the use of the building for a temporary learning facility is not in compliance with Michigan building code. Therefore, we regrettably informed Shrine that we must temporarily halt the use of the facility.”
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LaVerde also said, “We look forward to reaching an amicable agreement with governmental agencies that will allow us to utilize the building in this fashion.”
Royal Oak City Manager Paul Brake said the city made it clear Emagine Royal Oak could continue to operate the temporary classrooms, but it first needed to answer some questions on safety issues through an architect and do an update inspection.
“We’re open to a dialogue,” said Brake, adding that the city did not ask the theater to stop the plan.
Brake said Royal Oak had been contacted informally about the alternate use of the theater by a state of Michigan department involved with fire safety.
Neither Emagine Royal Oak nor Shrine Catholic Schools would comment on exactly when the plan was stopped. Students were supposed to begin using the theater Monday.
Under the plan, spending the day at Emagine Royal Oak would have been an option for students from Shrine Academy and Shrine High School on alternate virtual learning days from home.
Emagine Royal Oak remains closed under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The school did not contact the state about using the theater for the plan, according to Christine Renner, the Shrine parish marketing and communications director.
Roughly 10 of the Emagine site’s 13 screening rooms were to be utilized. Students would have been required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. They would have connected to their classes individually through laptops and, sometimes, as a group through the actual movie screens in the auditoriums.
In June, Emagine Royal Oak scrapped plans for a Juneteenth benefit film festival at the location after the state Attorney General’s Office warned Emagine chairman Paul Glantz in a letter that criminal charges would be filed if the event proceeded.
Emagine Royal Oak sued Whitmer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and another state official, but a federal judge sided with Whitmer and denied the suit’s claim that the state’s order essentially violated constitutional rights covered by the First Amendment.