BRADLEY BEACH — A group seeking to purchase the shuttered ShowRoom Cinema has asked Bradley Beach to enter into a $300,000 shared financial agreement in exchange for having access to the space for borough events and activities, Mayor Larry Fox said Tuesday night.
According to the mayor, Cinema Labs proposes to use the requested infusion of municipal funding to help pay for the remodeling of the theater.
The mayor said that he, the borough attorney and council members have received briefings on the proposal from Cinema Labs, but no formal negotiations have been entered into as of yet.
Cinema Labs, a group of movie and theater industry professionals had announced their interest in acquiring the former movie house in January.
The borough council unanimously approved a resolution expressing support for the group’s “efforts to purchase, renovate and re-open the now-vacant theater at 110 Main Street for the benefit of the Borough of Bradley Beach,” while reserving the borough’s “right to separately review any future approvals and/or permissions sought by Cinema Lab.” Mayor Fox said the group “is nearing a close on the property,” and added, “We want to signal, as a community, our support and our desire for them to succeed.”
However, Resolution 2021-70 does not address the Cinema Lab request for $300,000 in municipal aid, spread over seven years, “to assist them in their renovation in exchange for some defined benefits passed on to our residents,” in the form of the facility’s availability for the borough’s use.
The aid proposal needs to be “better framed, communicated to the public and debated” over the next few months, Mayor Fox said. Council members expressed reservations about the idea during Tuesday’s meeting.
Councilman Randy Bonnell said that he had concerns that the public had not yet been informed that Cinema Labs had come to the borough seeking a $300,000 “donation.” Mr. Bonnell, repeated his general support for the theater’s success, but said that his understanding of the aid request was that “we are going to get something in return for that, we aren’t going to get paid back, other than some discount for local residents and use of the facility for some public events we may want to hold there.”
Council President Al Gubitosi also said that he is very supportive of Cinema Labs’ plans for the facility, with the hope it would bring more foot traffic to Main Street, but said that there were “many considerations” that needed to be taken into account before the borough committed any funds to the project.
Referring to the potential reaction of borough residents and other businesses, Mr. Gubitosi said he wanted to have a discussion of “the perception of how any financial support being made to this private enterprise would be viewed in contrast to other private enterprises up and down Main Street … many of whom are struggling financially and many of whom have, at least temporarily, have closed their doors.”
Councilman Tim Sexsmith voiced similar concerns.
Councilman John Weber said he would be in support of the measure “if push came to shove” and it was the only way to save the theater, but he finds it difficult to stomach using public funds on one business at a time when multiple establishments are having difficulties. “There are a lot of different folks on Main Street, how do I look them in the eye and say ‘well we are not supporting your business with town money,’” Mr. Weber said. “Does it make sense to use taxpayer dollars for this one business when we are not using it for other businesses in town.”
The ShowRoom Cinema closed down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Cinema Labs last month held a fundraiser via the website Kickstarter to help finance the cost of the theater. Originally planning to raise $50,000, the group has so far been able to raise $63,000 through online donations.
As envisioned by the group, the single-screen movie house would be relaunched as The Bradley, a multi-use “community-based cinematic experience,” with “three auditoriums, a large stage for live events, an expanded lobby with lounge space, elevated concessions and bar service.”
The changes would require a number of applications and approvals. However, the group has hopes of opening The Bradley this summer, according to Cinema Lab, which says it will also foster strong ties with the Bradley Beach community at large.
Cinema Lab is made up of Patrick Wilson, an actor and local resident; Bradley Beach resident and IFC Films President Arianna Bocco; former BAFTA New York Chairman Luke Parker Bowles; film marketing executive and former Studio Movie Grill CMO Brandon Jones; Andy Childs, original member of the Soho House North American team, who acts respectively as the chief executive officer, chief marketing officer, chief operating officer of Cinema Lab and The Bradley; and Vincent Onorati, an entertainment industry veteran who ran marketing for a cable TV distributor working with major Hollywood studios.
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