Cars are seen parked outside of Spotlight Cinemas at the University Mall on Thursday morning. Credit: Nina Mahaleris / The Penobscot Times

An Orono movie theater will once again be home to a church congregation this year.

The Pines Church — which has a location in Bangor — is expected to open its new church at Spotlight Cinemas on Stillwater Avenue Sunday, March 7. The Pines is affiliated with ARC Churches, an international association of relational churches.

It’s not uncommon for new churches to get their start in movie theaters or other vacant rental spaces in Maine.

The Rock Church — which was one of Bangor’s fastest growing congregations — ran a second location at Spotlight Cinemas for about four years. Church leaders said they liked hosting services in the theater because it was nontraditional and gave the church a “cool factor.”

Lawrence “Buddy” Eckman, Rock Church’s pastor, previously said that the cinema provided ample seating with great acoustics and had an inviting atmosphere.

But the space was limiting in other aspects.

Eckman said there was one room for Sunday school and members had to set up and take down their instruments and audio equipment every week. People also had trouble finding the church in Orono because there were no permanent signs at the University Mall where Spotlight Cinemas is located.

The Rock Church moved to its current location in Old Town in 2019.

Matt Gioia will serve as the Pines Church’s new pastor. Services will be held at 9 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday and masks will be required, according to the church’s Facebook page.

Spotlight Cinemas is continuing to show movies while sharing space with the church.

Neither The Pines Church nor The Rock Church nor Spotlight Cinemas responded to multiple attempts for comments.

Information about the Pines Church can be found via its website.