Back in March 2018, there was a plan to bring the Bellevue, Upper Montclair’s beloved and historic theater which closed its doors in November 2017, back and better than ever with six screens, reclining seats — and a restaurant serving liquor, possibly by January 2019.
It’s January 2019, and the movie theater is still dark, but Highgate Hall LLC., a team comprised of Luke Parker Bowles, Steven Plofker, Larry Slous, Patrick Wilson, Vincenzo Onorati and Andy Childs, are still in negotiations with the landlord of The Bellevue Theatre more than 12 months since its closure, says Parker Bowles.
“We expect to reach an agreement, despite the time it is taking and look forward to giving Montclair the theatre they deserve and the iconic space they are missing, complete with a smorgasbord of new bells and whistles but maintaining the pedigree and history of the place,” says Parker Bowles. “The plans are drawn up and the right people are in place. Despite the arduous process, we are as determined as ever and will keep all informed as and when we can come to an agreement.”
First Ward Councilor Bill Hurlock and Mayor Robert Jackson have told Baristanet that the town would support a plan that would bring movie goers back to the Bellevue.
Regarding the efforts of Parker Bowles and partners, “the town is committed to working with that group or any group that can come up with a viable plan,” says Hurlock, adding that initially at least two groups had come forward with interest in keeping the theater operating.
The loss of the theater is felt by area businesses as it had been anchor of sorts in Upper Montclair, Hurlock said, adding that the theater was also greatly missed during the Montclair Film Festival.
The township could support Highgate Hall’s plan by granting a special limited liquor license held by the municipality. The town would have to be the initial leasee on the property and then would sublease it to the group who would run the theater/restaurant. The license would not be transferable and could not be sold. It would only be operational if the premises were run as a movie theater/restaurant.
In its 95-year history as a functioning movie theater, the Bellevue included amenities including a balcony, and a second-floor restaurant, named the Highgate Hall, that offered full meals such as lobster Thermidor, sirloin tips, or stuffed turkey, according to Friends of Anderson Park’s
Lisanne Renner, who gave a lecture on the Bellevue’s history as an architectural treasure at Montclair History Center in January 2018.