The Bellevue Theatre, 260 Bellevue Ave. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL and LINDA MOSS
roll@montclairlocal.news
moss@montclairlocal.news

To the shock and dismay of many township residents, Bow Tie Cinemas’ last day of operation at the beloved Bellevue Theatre in Upper Montclair will be this Sunday, Nov. 12, a spokesman for the company said Thursday.

Jared Milgram, Bow Tie’s vice president for marketing, food and beverages, said in an email Thursday that the company’s lease on the theater had expired.

“However, we continue to serve our loyal customers in the greater Montclair area with a huge selection of movies and exceptional service in our Caldwell and Clairidge Cinemas,” he said in an emailed response to Montclair Local.

Reports of the 95-year-old theater’s possible closing began spreading over social media Wednesday after it was announced that the long-running screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” would be moved to another venue, and that ticket-selling websites were not showing any movie times for the Bellevue after Nov. 12.

The Tudor-style theater building is owned by Jesse Y. Sayegh of Coral Springs, Fla., according to records at the Township Tax Assessor’s Office.

On social media Thursday fans of the vintage theater, many of them local residents, were lamenting the venue’s closing. Some suggested that the theater’s patrons organize and mount an effort to save it. Many wondered if Montclair Film, which has held many of its festival events at the theater, could somehow swoop in and rescue the movie house.

Still others expressed hope that another movie chain or independent company will step up to lease the local landmark and keep it as a film theater.

“The theater has been a staple and foundation to our Upper Montclair business community,” Jodie Dawson, president of the Upper Montclair Business Association, said in an email Thursday.
“It has added diversity and arts to the village and has been a draw for people to come from surrounding areas to visit our town,” said Dawson, a co-founder of Java Love Coffee Roasting Co. “We hope the tradition continues with another theater to continue adding vibrancy to the area.”
Java Love operates a coffee shop near the theater.
“As for Java Love, we definitely love having the theater a few doors down as it is a draw for people to walk along Bellevue Avenue and stop in for coffee,” Dawson said.
Longtime Montclair resident Joe Kavesh, a member of the Township Board of Education and chair of the Montclair Civil Rights Commission, described the Bellevue as his childhood movie theater. He estimated that he has seen more than 150 movies at the venue.
“This is terrible news, a big blow to the Upper Montclair business district, restaurants like De Novo,” Kavesh said. “Hopefully, there is still a place for movie houses, as opposed to the drab cine-plexes of Route 3, 17, etc.”

On Change.org, a petition to save the theater, started by Montclair resident Lena Fine, had garnered at least 200 signatures as of Friday morning. “This space is iconic to Montclair and beloved by many, it would be a shame to let it waste away into another gentrified retail or office space,” the petition said.

This is a developing story. Follow Montclair Local for more information.