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Jersey Shore locals and visitors have visited it on Main Street for more than a century. And celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Philip Roth and Danny DeVito caught flicks there.
But, as a result of the ongoing pandemic, the historic single-screen movie theater in the coastal New Jersey town Bradley Beach — which opened as the Palace in 1915 hosting vaudeville acts, switched to film exhibition in 1925 and has gone by numerous other names since then, most recently the ShowRoom — was forced to close in 2020.
In 2021, however, it may find new life.
A group of film industry insiders connected to Bradley Beach — including the Emmy-nominated actor Patrick Wilson, a longtime local — have formed a venture called Cinema Lab, which intends to preside over the restoration and expansion of not only their local theater, but also others impacted by the pandemic.
Cinema Lab’s principals are producer Luke Parker Bowles, a former chair of BAFTA New York; marketing vet Brandon Jones, ex-CMO of Studio Movie Grill; and Andy Childs, an original member of the Soho House’s North American team. The men will act as CEO, CMO and COO of Cinema Lab and, if they can raise an additional $50,000 via Kickstarter to close their purchase, the Bradley Beach cinema itself, which they plan to rename the Bradley.
“From first-run films to live performances, the revamped Bradley will be leading th charge with the latest technology and a hometown feel, while providing a boutique theatrical experience for Bradley Beach and the surrounding community,” Wilson said in a statement. “Getting into this side of the business has been a passion project of mine for a long time and I’m excited that I can contribute in my own backyard.”
Bradley Beach mayor Larry Fox added, “Main Street in Bradley Beach, and for that matter America, has taken some real hits with the pandemic. Our Main Street Task Force has already been focused on improvements, and the potential for a professional entertainment group for the theater couldn’t be better news.”
If the Kickstarter is successful, Parker Bowles tells The Hollywood Reporter, the property will be expanded from a single screen to include three auditoriums, a large stage for live events, event space and more. And, pandemic-permitting, it would open as soon as this summer with a slate of the latest studio and indie films, live performances and community programming.
Arianna Bocco, a Bradley Beach local who serves as the president of IFC Films, has been the main point of contact for the Cinema Lab team. “This theater is a vital part of the history of Bradley Beach and an essential cultural center which has been devastated by the pandemic,” she says. “As a year-round resident, I could not be more thrilled to work with an amazing group of passionate film professionals to save this landmark as a movie theater for our entire community to enjoy.”
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