After 95 years, the Bellevue Theatre in Montclair, New Jersey announced that their days of screening movies at their theater would come to an end. The theater officially held its last movie screening on Sunday, Nov. 12, but there might still be hope that the theater will continue to operate.
According to reports, the Bow Tie Cinemas movie chain chose not to renew their lease at Bellevue Theatre to keep them operating. It is thought that negotiations broke down between Bowtie and the owner of the building, which resulted in the announcement of the theater shutting down.
Bowtie intends on taking all of its camera equipment and vacating the building by Nov. 30 which put them at a disadvantage to finding a new movie theater operator. According to an article published by the Montclair Local, Angelo Cifelli, the attorney for Bellevue owner Jesse Sayegh, said they received interest from a few movie theater operators. Sayegh plans on meeting with them to discuss the matter further over the next few weeks.
Nothing is decided yet so the people of Montclair will have to wait to see if there is a chance for the theater to stay open. The news of the Bellevue Theatre closing left students and faculty at Montclair State University heartbroken about this piece of local history closing its doors.
“My jaw completely dropped,” said senior communication and media arts major Nicolette Cetrulo.
The Bellevue Theatre opened in 1922 and since then, it has been a place for people in the area to go see a movie and go out to eat or get drinks at restaurants nearby. The adjacent restaurants, along with accessible parking and public transportation options, make the Bellevue a popular spot.
“The Bellevue Theatre is a staple in Upper Montclair,” said Vienna Bonato, a senior theatre studies major. “It is very popular, so it was surprising to find out that it was closing.”
Along with screening popular movies, the theater company, the Home of Happiness, has been putting on live shadowcast performances of the Rocky Horror Picture Show on Saturdays for the past 14 years. The group is continuing to perform at other theaters, but students like Cetrulo and Bonato will always remember the memories they made while seeing the Home of Happiness perform at the Bellevue.
“My first memory with the Bellevue Theater was seeing the Rocky Horror screening with the Players cast last year as a cast bonding event,” Cetrulo said.
Bonato said she saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time with a group of friends at the Bellevue. She said she got to perform in the show as part of one of their theme nights.
“They had an audience participation night where you apply to play characters and they pick someone, and I was picked as Magenta,” Bonato said. “It’s going to be very sad knowing that I won’t be able to go there on Saturdays at midnight to see the Home of Happiness perform anymore.”
Director of Programming for the Film Institute Susan Skoog teaches in the film program and has attended the theater for years with her children.
“I’ve lived here for 15 years and just go there all the time,” Skoog said.
Skoog also said the closing of the Bellevue will have an impact on the Montclair Film Festival. The festival is held every spring and has been celebrating the work of filmmakers for the past five years. It uses different venues to screen the films, including the Bellevue Theatre. Skoog said an email was sent out by the festival saying they are looking for an alternative theater to replace the Bellevue, but no exact details have been given.
Locals are very upset over the news because the Bellevue Theatre has become part of the Montclair community. There is currently a petition on change.org to save the Bellevue, which has garnered over 5,000 signatures as of Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Despite the theater’s last movie screening taking place on Sunday, Skoog still hopes the theater can be saved. She said that Montclair is a very film-centric town and locals will have to go to other theaters further away to watch the next big blockbuster.
“As a filmmaker and film person…that’s what we do,” Skoog said. “We go to the movies, and when you lose a movie theater, it’s really sad.”