Bellevue Theatre, 260 Bellevue Ave. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Bow Tie Cinemas chose not to renew its lease on Montclair’s Bellevue Theatre, according to the attorney representing the theater’s owner.

And the theater chain is also reportedly planning to remove the Bellevue’s projection equipment and other fixtures, which it owns, and which could mean complications for the 95-year-old movie house’s future.

Nutley-based attorney Angelo Cifelli represents Jesse Y. Sayegh, whose LLC has owned the theatre for the past 20 years. He said that Bow Tie opted not to renew its lease on the Bellevue when negotiations began several months ago.

“It just seems a bit disingenuous to tell you the lease expired,” Cifelli said Friday afternoon during a phone interview.

Bow Tie representative Jared Milgram said via email Thursday that Bow Tie’s lease on the theater had expired, and that the last day of screenings would be this Sunday, Nov. 12. The final showing will be “A Bad Moms Christmas” at 7:45 p.m. Sunday.

Representatives for Bow Tie Cinemas did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Cifelli said that Bow Tie intends to remove the projection equipment from the theater. “That’s a real blow to the future of the theater,” he said.

Without the projection equipment, he said, it would be hard to find another private entity that would be willing to continue running the theater as a movie theater; it would cost a great deal of money to install new equipment. “We just don’t see a private entity coming in to operate that theater.”

He noted that Bow Tie is within their rights to do so, since the projection equipment has belonged to them since they took ownership of the Bellevue Theatre from Clearview Cinemas. “It’s their equipment to take.” However, he said that his client had offered Bow Tie a significant amount of money to keep the equipment in place.

Cifelli added that neighborhood movie theaters have faced substantial competition over the past several years, including from large multiplex theaters at shopping malls, and more recently from Netflix and DVDs.

Negotiations between Sayegh and Bow Tie had been going on for the past several months, Cifelli said. He added that Bow Tie made its intentions known regarding the theater about six months ago.

Cifelli said that Sayegh had put out feelers in the movie theater and entertainment industry to try to start finding a company that would be interested in taking over the Bellevue Theatre, “but no one has stepped up.”

It might come to pass that a public entity, such as township or county authorities, might be able to run the theater, even if in another purpose such as an art house theater, Cifelli said.

He added that the theater means a great deal to his client, noting that Sayegh had shared a lot of information and trivia with him about the theater’s founding and history.

“He would like nothing better than to have that continue … but it doesn’t look bright if the equipment goes,” Cifelli said. “My client’s first preference would be for the theater to continue,” and as a profitable operation. “He’s willing to work with anyone who wants to operate it.”