Tenafly Theater Averts Curtain Call

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Tenafly Theater Averts Curtain Call

Serenity Cray, Senior Editor

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On Thursday, November 15th, Bow Tie Cinemas, one of Tenafly’s most popular downtown attractions, shut down. The movie theater has been a part of Tenafly for decades, first opening its doors as a film house in the 1920s. On Friday after the theater closed, Tenafly citizens were left in shock. The theater’s website did not mention any reason for its sudden closure. Local movie-goers bombarded surrounding businesses, all asking the same question: Where did the theater go?

Tenafly movie theater in the 1920s

In early November, the Tenafly mayor, Peter Rustin, and the town council held a meeting to discuss the possibility of deeming the Tenafly theater a historical landmark. The Tenafly Historic Commission had recommended that the property become landmarked in March 2018, in order to protect the building from any exterior changes made by the company. The debate on the building reached a standstill at the early November meeting. The theater sent an attorney and historian to argue that the building was not historic. After no consensus was made, the company threatened to shut down the theater if the town decided to designate the site as a historical landmark. The mayor and council decided to postpone the decision and reconvene on November 19th, 2018. Between the time of the meetings, the theater closed its doors and covered up its windows.

The immediate closing of the theater sent a shockwave of concern through citizens and local business owners. The theater is an attraction that creates revenue for other businesses in the downtown Tenafly area. “Within the few weeks that the theater has been closed, the downtown has been decimated,” said Mayor Rustin. “A lot of businesses depend on the theater to attract customers.” Many business owners believed that the absence of the theater would negatively impact all local business. Christine Evron, president of the Tenafly Chamber of Commerce, stated that making the theater a historical site would improve business. “Keeping and restoring a charming historic look has been identified as one of the best ways for small downtowns to remain vibrant and avoid becoming nothing more than service stores, professional offices, and restaurants,” said Evron in an article published in The Suburbanite.

Tenafly downtown area

Though opinions on deeming the building historic are divided, designating the building such would cause issues for the company. Bow Tie Cinemas not only owns the theater but the entire building. If the property were deemed historic, the theater would be closed indefinitely, and renting the space would be prohibitive. The company fiercely opposed the plan for the theater to be turned into a historical landmark and stated that it would reopen immediately if the building were not deemed historic. “We do not want our building to be hampered in any shape or form,” said Joe Masher, the COO of Bow Tie Cinema. Masher declined further questions until after the board met.

Update: On November 19th, 2018, the mayor and council decided against the theater being deemed a historical landmark. Tenafly Bow Tie Cinema reopened on November 20th and will continue to be an important part of the downtown area.


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