New owners, teen vampire flick mark reopening of theater

Photo by Tom Tigani

Photo by Tom Tigani


Jeff Wiewura (left) of Dearborn Heights collects his movie fuel from Christina Cornelius of Taylor on Thursday at the Spotlight Theater.

By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Twilight arrived at midnight Tuesday at 22265 Eureka Road, but it wasn’t because the sun went down late.

Patrons were gathered at the Spotlight Taylor movie theater to watch the premiere of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” marking the first time paying customers had set foot in the building since the AMC Star Theatre closed in December. Official estimates placed the crowd number at 130 to 160 for the first show.

“Considering we didn’t have a whole lot of advertising beforehand, we were very happy with the turnout,” General Manager Jake Stocker said Thursday.

He and his father, Ken Stocker, both of Farmington Hills, took over the building at the beginning of June and got it ready to open in about a month. They noted that while several theaters serve the Downriver area, Jake Stocker said, “all of them are fairly overpriced and are charging $9 for an adult showing at night.”

“We want to give moviegoers an affordable alternative that offers the same quality for a lower price,” he said.

Adult tickets after 6 p.m. are $7.50 and $6.75 for students. The cost to seniors and children ages 4 to 12 is $4.75 at all times. Matinees before 6 p.m. also are priced at $4.75.

“These are hard times,” Jake Stocker said. “Right now a lot of people don’t have $9 to go to a movie.”
At those prices it can cost $50 to $60 for an evening for a family of four, he said, but at Spotlight’s prices, plus an additional $6 for a special pop-and-popcorn package, that figure is closer to $30.

The Stockers are not new to the game, having run the Silverdome Drive-In in Pontiac from 2002 to 2006 and reopened it this year. Both venues are owned by The Theater Group IV of Farmington Hills, a corporation whose members all hail from Michigan.

“We’ve been wanting to expand to other theaters for a long time,” Jake Stocker said. “Originally Star was a prestigious name, and we want to bring that personality but a newer player to the area.

Going into their first weekend, business at the Spotlight dropped off some after Tuesday’s opening night.
“It’s a little slow right now, and that’s what we expected,” Jake Stocker said.

Part of the reason for that, he said, is that the former theater had a poor reputation in the recent past for not being well maintained and for patrons’ cars being broken into in the parking lot. To address those issues, the new owners will have security both in and outside the building to keep an eye on things. The theater employs about 25 people part time.

Showtimes begin about 12:30 p.m. daily. The last shows start at 9 to 9:30 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on weekends.

Six screens are featuring the theater’s opening lineup of films, which in addition to the latest vampire saga installment also include “The A-Team,” “The Last Airbender,” “Grown Ups,” “The Karate Kid” and “Toy Story 3.” Plans call for an additional two screens to open over the next month and the final two in December. The last two will be outfitted with 3-D and digital technology, which Jake Stocker said will be featured on all 10 screens within the next few years.

And yes, that means they’re planning to be around for a while.

“We want to operate a facility that provides exceptional customer service at an affordable price,” Jake Stocker said.

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