BRADLEY BEACH — The future of the borough’s only movie cinema is in doubt, but the president of the borough’s historical society is calling for the building to remain what it has been for nearly 100 years — an entertainment destination.
Paul Neshamkin, president of the Bradley Beach Historical Society, said the cinema has been around since before World War I, when the building served as a vaudeville theater before switching to the silver screen.
“I think this is really tragic to our town to lose this theater,” he told the borough council Tuesday night. “I do want to try to get like-minded borough residents who want to save it to try to put together a plan to do that.”
Last month, owners of the ShowRoom Cinema announced they were closing the theater for good due to the economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do not want this theater to become something else, to be torn down to become condos or a permanent church. I do not think that adds to the life of our town,” Mr. Neshamkin added. “This has been an essential part of Bradley Beach for so long, let’s try to make sure we don’t lose it.”
He is not the only one in the borough who wants the theater to continue to operate as it has done for more than a century. Co-owner Mike Sodano said that around a dozen interested buyers have taken a tour of the facility. At this point, he said, there is no final deal and “all options are open.”
He added that there has been interest from some in keeping the building located at 110 Main St.
“It’s very important that we not lose our arts and cultural destinations. Even though the pandemic has pretty much crippled us, all the hope is that these types of properties and destinations can continue once the vaccines have been developed because everybody is going to need arts and culture back in their lives,” said Mr. Sodano, who owns the cinema with Nancy Sabino. The pair also owns the ShowRoom Cinema in Asbury Park.
The borough has previously purchased property to preserve historic buildings in the town. Earlier this year, the borough council voted to purchase the historic First United Methodist Church on Lareine Avenue after a group of residents, which included Mr. Neshamkin, petitioned the borough to buy the building for $1.5 million to prevent the building from being torn down and replaced with homes.
A repeat of that is not currently in the cards for the theater, but the borough’s mayor said that he would like to see the building remain an entertainment establishment.
“I understand the economy right now couldn’t be worse for someone involved in a business that brings people indoors next to each other in seats, but that is going to change hopefully next year,” he said, hoping for a vaccine to come out next year.
“Whatever goes there should have a positive impact on the rest of the block in terms of people wanting to go to get a pizza afterward or go to D’Arcy’s [Tavern],” he said, adding that once the residential development is completed at 301 Main St., the building would be a natural location for a theater.
“That building is a big part of Bradley Beach and it would be a disgrace if it wasn’t kept as an entertainment destination,” he added.
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