By TALIA WIENER
Clairidge Cinemas will reopen this October after a renovation by its new operator — Montclair Film.
The nonprofit, responsible for the Montclair Film Festival, said Monday it had signed a long-term agreement with current building owner Dick Grabowsky to operate Clairidge Cinemas.
“We believe in the power and importance of the shared cinematic experience to bring people together,” Montclair Film Executive Director Tom Hall said in a press release. “The opportunity to work with filmmakers and distributors will ensure that theatrical moviegoing remains a central part of our community’s rich cultural life, and is the core of Montclair Film’s mission.”
Previously owned by Bow Tie Cinemas, Clairidge Cinemas had been closed since the March 2020 lockdowns Gov. Phil Murphy ordered to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Bow Tie CInemas was one of a group of movie theater chains that, alongside the National Association of Theatre Owners, sued Murphy in July 2020, saying it was unfair and unreasonable to keep theaters shut. The lawsuit was later withdrawn, when theaters were allowed to reopen in September 2020 at limited capacity. The state no longer has capacity limits for indoor or outdoor venues.
The 12,700 square-foot space inside the historic Hinck building will be re-imagined with “the goal of creating a safe, welcoming, inclusive and contemporary cinema,” according to the Montclair Film release. RHG Architecture+Design, which designed Montclair Film’s current space, will work with Mulvey Custom Contracting on the renovations.
Built in 1921 by theater architect William Lehmann, the Hinck building originally featured silent films and vaudeville shows, according to the Montclair Film release. The building, which sits across the street from the Investors Bank Film & Media Center, Montclair Film’s location since 2017, was purchased in 2003 by Grabowsky.
“The Clairidge Cinemas have been a mainstay of downtown Montclair,” Montclair Film founder and board Chairman Bob Feinberg said in the press release. “Operating the Clairidge Cinemas, which are located across the street from our home at the Investors Bank Film & Media Center, will allow us to reach more people than ever and continue to expand our impact as one of the region’s leading film non-profits.”
The Clairidge Cinemas will continue to showcase independent, non-fiction and international films, according to the press release. Additionally, Montclair Film will utilize the Cinemas to host screenings, conversations, and educational programs with partners, non-profits and other organizations throughout the community, the release said.
The renovations will be completed by October 2021, and a grand reopening is scheduled to coincide with the 10th annual Montclair Film Festival, taking place Oct. 21 to 30. The new design of the cinemas will ensure that coronavirus protocols for audience and staff safety will be “the cornerstones of the reopening,” according to the press release.