It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, for local independent movie goers this summer. 

The Pandemic Forces Theaters to Shutdown

Nancy Sabino, former co-owner of both ShowRoom locations in Bradley Beach and Asbury Park, believes the pandemic is to blame for the demise of both theaters. 

“We were doing very well before the pandemic,” Sabino said. “We had been running the ShowRoom Asbury for eleven years, but the ShowRoom Bradley was open for only seven months before we were forced to shut down on March 16, 2020 in response to the pandemic.“

The theaters reopened two years ago, but the rising costs for cleaning and the limited allowable capacity for patrons (25%) created huge losses for Ms. Sabino and her partner, Mike Sodano, forcing them to sell both ShowRooms. 

The Bradley by Cinema Lab Coming Soon in Bradley Beach

Coming Soon: Cinema Lab to Bradley Beach

Luke Parker Bowles is CEO of Cinema Lab, a community-based theater development company dedicated to preserving and saving old movie theaters. Bowles has restored and opened theaters in South Orange NJ, New Canaan CT and Canon City CO.  Another project in Great Barrington, MA is also underway. He spoke about his vision for The Bradley.

Bowles believes the key to a sustainable cinema is community. “You really must know your market,” he said. “The Bradley will have a beautiful bar area where patrons can relax, have a drink and food – we are partnering with Vics, a popular Bradley restaurant.  Screenings will include indie films, blockbusters and live comedy shows. It will be a whole experience.”

The funds for the Bradley project were raised mainly from the local community on Kickstarter.  Cinema Lab also created partnerships with Bradley Beach Chamber of Commerce Alliance to strengthen community support.

Bowles says, “We will be open by the end of the year.  Originally, we were set to re-open in July 2021, however, pandemic-related delays in shipping and decreased fundraising have pushed that date back to sometime later this year.”  

Cinema Lab continues to push full steam ahead with its relaunch of The Bradley.  

Future of the ShowRoom Cinema Asbury Park Uncertain

The future of Showroom Cinema Asbury Park, however, seems up in the air as there have been no scheduled show times for several months.  Sources close to  current owner, Daria Parr, say the shutdown is due to technical difficulties. The theater is still open for private rentals, although the facility’s equipment is limited. Asbury Movie Club, for example, still meets there on Wednesday evenings, but the club must supply its own projector. The Asbury Park Reporter reached out to Ms. Parr for comment, but there has been no response to date. 

Since its relaunch in October 2021 under the current ownership, the Asbury ShowRoom has struggled to fill seats.  Ms. Sabino believes the industry has changed significantly because of the pandemic as everyone became used to staying in and streaming entertainment.  

“It’s coming back, it’s just coming back slowly,” said Ms. Sabino

The Cinema Lab approach may be something the ShowRoom Asbury could try. Until then, the question everyone is asking remains unanswered – “Will the ShowRoom Asbury ever open its doors again?”

Brenda Hamlet is a journalist covering trends in the media and arts. Brenda lives in Asbury Park and teaches writing at Kean University. Her contributions will focus on the state of the Arts in Asbury Park.

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