The Bellevue Theater’s future appears to be uncertain. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS and GWEN OREL
moss@montclairlocal.news
orel@montclairlocal.news

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be ending its 14-year run of showings at the Bellevue Theatre this weekend, an announcement that has raised questions about the future of the popular Montclair movie house.

The Home of Happiness, a group that has been presenting the cult movie classic at venues on the East Coast since 1998, said Wednesday that its last two performances at the Bellevue will be this Friday and Saturday because the theater is closing this weekend.

A woman who answered the phone at the Bellevue manager’s office declined to comment and referred all questions to the theater’s operator, Bow Tie Cinemas LLC. The movie chain, which is based in Ridgefield, Connecticut, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

But on the Bellevue Theatre’s website and popular sites such as Fandango, there are no opportunities to purchase movie tickets at the venue beyond this Sunday, Nov. 12.

The issued was raised because of Home of Happiness’s post on Facebook.

“All good things must unfortunately come to an end,” the post said. “The Bellevue Theatre, which has been our home since Sept. 6, 2003, is shutting its doors this weekend,” the post said.

We asked for one last chance to perform at at the place that we’ve called home for the last 14 years,” it said. “We were graciously extended two. We will be doing a show on Friday, Nov. 10, at midnight and Saturday Nov. 11, at midnight.”

At the screenings, a cast of actors performs with the movie. “Known as ‘shadowcasts,’ troupes of Rocky performers have been around almost since the movie’s release in 1975,” according to The Home of Happiness website.

Larry Viezel, cast leader for The Home of Happiness, confirmed that “The Rocky Horror Show” will have its final Bellevue performance on Saturday. But beyond that, Viezel said that he could not comment for the Bellevue.

The Home of Happiness has lined up a new area location to show the cult classic, but Viezel declined to say where it is.

The Bellevue Theatre has a storied past, according to local historian Lisanne Renner. It opened May 13, 1922, and the first movie shown there was D.W. Griffith’s “Orphans of the Storm,” starring Lillian Gish, Renner said in an email.

An ad announcing the opening of the Bellevue Theatre in 1922. COURTESY LISANNE RENNER

“This Tudor-style theater was designed by J.H. Phillips, a New York architect perhaps best known for designing the Spanish-style Ringling Art Museum in Sarasota (1930) and the crypt for John Ringling, the circus magnate,” Renner said. “The theater’s interior was also Tudor style, with tapestries on the walls, wooden beams, and — standard for a theater of its day — a balcony.”

The slabs of slate on its roof “are smaller near the peak and larger as they descend toward the eaves, creating the illusion of a roof that is steeper than it truly is,” according to Renner.

“Above the theater was Highgate Hall, a fancy tea room with murals on the walls,” she said. “The theater received attention in national magazines, including Architectural Forum, The Architect, Architecture, American Theaters of Today, and The Moving Picture World.”

The Bellevue Theatre “is a key building in the township’s Upper Montclair Historic Business District,” with its Tudor design reinforcing “the English village ambiance of the Upper Montclair shopping district,” Renner said.

The theater was built by Robert Anderson, a son of Charles W. Anderson, who earlier donated the land for Anderson Park, according to Renner.

“The theater replaced a building that Charles Anderson had erected probably around the late 1890s, which people called the Trunk Building because of its shape,” she said. “Its history if vague, but reports say the Trunk Building contained a large hall for church and civic gatherings, shops, offices and apartments.”

Bow Tie Cinemas is a movie-theater chain that was founded roughly 100 years ago by B.S. Moss.