If all goes well this month, The Bellevue, Upper Montclair’s beloved and historic theater, which closed its doors in November, could be back in business by January 2019 with six screens, reclining seats — and a restaurant serving liquor.
“This operation will not happen without a liquor license,” says Luke Parker Bowles, who along with actor Patrick Wilson and former cable marketing executive and indie book store owner Vincent Onorati, are the three brains behind a big picture idea for The Bellevue.
Ok, but which liquor license?
“We are in the process of acquiring it, but I can’t say anything more than that,” says Parker Bowles of the mystery Montclair liquor license.
A film producer and board member at Montclair Film, Parker Bowles says he’s not trying to be sneaky, but he is superstitious.
He did want to dispel any rumors about the latest liquor license purchased in town that was previously used at Dai Kichi & Upstairs, saying he and his partners did not purchase it for the Bellevue. “It’s for the Marzullos space,” said Parker Bowles, referring to the venture in the works by adjacent Corner restaurateur Jeff Munoz.
Back to the Bellevue Future
Parker Bowles says key to the trio’s plans for the historic theater include keeping the look, feel and authenticity of the Bellevue while creating a new energy and experience.
“People won’t be pressing buttons and having food delivered to their seat,” says Parker Bowles, who says the new Bellevue will be nothing like the experience moviegoers get at a dine-in theater like Essex Green, but something akin to The Angelika in Manhattan, with a more Montclair sensibility.
“There will be a healthy, sophisticated, delicious, but simple menu which will be provided by a restaurant group who are fairly local, but who we can’t reveal just yet.”
Dinner won’t cost a fortune and will be family friendly, but not the “shitty chicken fingers” you overpay for at a dine-in theater.
Food and drink are very important because Bowles wants The Bellevue to be a destination in Upper Montclair, even if you aren’t coming to see a movie.
“When you get off the 66 bus on Bellevue Avenue and look across the street, you will see people having coffee and working; going in to see a movie; having an afternoon beer; or grabbing a flatbread,” says Parker Bowles, of what he, Wilson and Onorati, all Montclair residents, hope to create.
The three partners on The Bellevue venture, who know each other professionally and as fellow Montclair parents, all had the same reaction when they heard the news of the Bellevue closing. They – along with their wives and children — were heartbroken.
“There are people who talk about things and there are people who do things. We are doers. So when it was apparent that we might lose this place, we knew we needed to come up with something and we brought that idea to investors who wanted to be part of it,” says Parker Bowles.
The deal for a new Bellevue Theater is in the final stages of negotiation with Bellevue building owner Jesse Sayegh and could be done by end of next week. The space, empty after Bow Tie Cinemas ripped out everything, will need a complete refurbishment — new screens, seats and more, and Parker Bowles hopes to source as much locally as possible.
Finding partners in the community will be easy because Parker Bowles, Wilson and Onorati have already received a tremendous amount of support and enthusiasm from people who want to support their vision for the future of the Bellevue.
“The response has taken our breath away.”