By: Melissa Freed
Mark the day November 12, 2017, as the day the iconic Upper Montclair Bellevue Theater closed. Never again will the eager teenagers flock to this Montclair theater with bright eyes and a hunger for cinema. The buttery popcorn in the glass case shall never be scooped up and placed into a big ol’ bucket to be grabbed by the hands of young tots. The usher shall never rip the ticket stubs and point the way to which theater you should be entering. The light up path inside the theater will be extinguished and darkness shall overcome the walkway. The black leather seats shall never again be ‘saved’ for your family or friends by throwing a jacket over them. The lights dimming before the movie starts, will have dimmed for the last time. The theater has died.
All things, must come to an end, but I never thought this theater’s life would be taken so soon. The theater opened in May of 1922, and has been running for 95 years. The Montclair community tried one last attempt to have the theater rise like a phoenix from the ashes by gathering almost four hundred signatures on their petition called, “Keep the Bellevue Theater open” on Change.org.
Lena Fine started the petition and she recounts the theater as being “beloved by many, and it would be a shame to let it waste away into another gentrified retail or office space.” Alas, their attempt was a lost cause. On the last day of operation, the theater will be playing “A Bad Moms Christmas,” a movie that will not give the movie theater goers closure. Instead of, going out with a bang, they will be going out with a whimper. All the years running, and the best send off they could give to this beloved theater was displaying a sequel to a subpar comedy. It is downright degrading to bury the bones of an ancient and beautiful theater by showcasing that movie as the final showing. Of all the movies, in all of the world, the best they could come up with was “A Bad Moms Christmas.”
As far as I am concerned, there was no homage paid to this classic theater. I am truly disheartened that Bellevue Cinemas has been terminated. Bellevue Cinemas was one of my favorite theaters, and it saddens me that I will never be able to walk through those doors again to see a film with my friends. I can never see the marquee displaying the numerous titles of films that I longed to see. I can never again look forward to planning a time to go to Montclair and catch a flick. There has been so many memories for many others besides myself. There has been countless children, teenagers, adults, and seniors who saw their favorite movie in that theater. Many who shared a first date or even first kiss in that theater. That theater once knew the lives of many, but those days are done.
A theater is almost the hearth of the town, a center at which the town revolves and depends upon. It provides entertainment, and entertainment in itself becomes the great driving force that brings all near and dear closer together. President of the Upper Montclair Business Association, Jodie Dawson, said that the theater had been “a staple and foundation to the Upper Montclair business community,” such a loss to the town was harrowing to the local community. Many locals commented and reviewed the Bellevue Theater and had nothing but positive things to say.
When it comes down to it, the people don’t do the decision making. It was decided that Bellevue Cinemas will be dismantled because Bow Tie’s lease was expiring, and the company simply did not want to renew it. It was a cruel business decision. A decision that shattered the community. A decision that will forever prohibit starry-eyed kids and wistful adults from watching the great American pastime: film.