Town Supports Cinema Reboot

By Evan Hofsess

Big changes could be in store for the Bradley Beach Showroom Cinema, the beloved movie theater which has entertained residents for more than 100 years but has been closed since last spring due to the pandemic.

 At the most recent Bradley Beach Council Meeting on February 9, the council passed a resolution to support the purchase and renovation of the cinema by Cinema Labs, a group of film industry investors which is planning to expand and reopen the theater as “The Bradley” this summer with a musical theater, a cocktail lounge, and three movie screens.

Cinema Labs has already raised more than $64,000 in a Kickstarter campaign, and the council is currently deciding whether to give the group a requested $300,000 over seven years  in exchange for allowing access to the space for borough events, according to a Feb. 10 article in The Coast Star by Michael Nunes.

 I interviewed Paul Neshamkin, President of the Bradley Beach Historical Society, who was kind enough to provide a little bit of a background on the theater. I interviewed him by email. Mr. Neshamkin said, “The theater building opened in 1915 and was originally a vaudeville theater. It was called the Palace Theater. Vaudeville was a type of life entertainment. Various short acts would come out on the stage to sing or dance, perform comedy routines, or novelty acts like juggling or acrobatics.” 

But they shortly changed how they did theater. They started to actually play short films and movies. During that time in the 1930s, they used palace fliers to help advertise their theater. Palace fliers are basically fliers you use to advertise your product or thing. Tickets ranged from 9 cents to 50 cents. Then, in 1976, the theater was re-christened to Beach Cinema and John Espisito became the venue’s owner the following year. 

In 2015, Bradley Beach Cinema marked one of the many celebrations in its history. This one was for the movie theater’s 90th anniversary. They are one of the few theaters which serve popcorn with real butter and only have one screen. They kept a lot of their old artifacts including their original ticket collection box. But that is not all. Inside the box, there were 9-cent theater tickets, old horn speakers, and old carbonard projectors. Mr. Neshamkin said, “We all hope to keep the new Bradley Cinema alive in the same building where famous Bradley Beach residents and friends like Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Bruce Springsteen, and Cesar Romero went to the movies.”

Theater owner Michael Sodano, who also owns the ShowRoom theater in Asbury Park, said that from 2018 to 2019, the Bradley Cinema spent a lot of time and earnings doing major renovations on the theater such as a new roof, floor, chimney, heating and air conditioning. They constructed a second screening room with brand new equipment, and they renovated the doors, the lobby, and the curtains, and reupholstered more than 100 theater seats. The theater closed in the spring because of Covid, he said. I also interviewed him by email. 

According to the Kickstarter page, Cinema Lab is made up of “Bradley Beach-resident and IFC Films president Arianna Bocco; Film and Television industry veteran and former BAFTA New York Chairman Luke Parker Bowles; film and exhibitor marketing executive and former Studio Movie Grill Head of Marketing Brandon Jones; and Andy Childs, original member of the Soho House North American team, who act respectively as the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and Chief Operating Officer of Cinema Lab and The Bradley. The executive team is rounded out by actor Patrick Wilson and entertainment industry veteran Vincent Onorati.”

Councilman Al Gubitosi is very supportive of the reopening of the movie theater. He says that he hopes that it would bring more foot traffic to Main Street, which would benefit businesses. But the request for taxpayer money has prompted many questions. Some of them are: “Should the council give the money to the cinema or other businesses that have struggled since the pandemic?” and “Where will the parking be?” (Since the only parking is on Main Street and the cinema doesn’t even have designated parking in the parking lot next to it!)

What do you think? Leave your comments below. Meanwhile, if anything happens, or if any more questions pop up, I will keep you updated. 

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