Movie-goers can rejoice as movie theaters can open in limited capacity on Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
RAMSEY — The Ramsey Theatre has survived 93 years, even through digital upgrades, but may not survive its newest challenge: COVID-19.
Owner Hala Alain has posted a for-sale sign on the marquee, and tenants Laura and Dave Rose said they are not optimistic it can be saved, as their application for a loan to buy the theater was too late.
“We can’t do any more,” Laura Rose said Monday. “We’re crushed. This is our livelihood.”
After New Jersey theaters were ordered closed in March due to the pandemic, the Roses attempted to keep interest alive with impromptu drive-ins at Smith School on Monroe Street. The Borough Council suspended restrictions to allow for the showings.
Laura Rose said the couple’s 15-page application to the Small Business Administration for assistance in buying the building from Alain was “too little, too late.”
The Ramsey Theater on East Main Street has posted a for-sale sign on its marquee. (Photo: Marsha A. Stoltz)
“They said our numbers were strong but we were a little light on the down payment,” she said. “If we had applied five months sooner, it could have been different.”
They held drive-in movies on four weekends in July. The shows will continue this fall at $25 per car, with reservations at driveup.ramseytheatre.com.
“We’ll continue until it gets too cold, probably late October,” Dave Rose said.
The theater has been the mainstay of residents within a 5-mile radius for generations. The northernmost theater in Bergen County is 5 miles from its closest competitors, the Lafayette Theater in neighboring Suffern, New York, to the north and Bowtie Cinemas in Ridgewood to the south.
Originally one theater, the 200-seat auditorium was split into two in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Generations of children ran back and forth across the front of the theater during endless birthday movie parties, and parents appreciated the small-town “safe haven” feeling of a carefully supervised showplace.
“We had such great plans,” Laura Rose said. “We were going to install modular seating with tables for stand-up comedy nights. We wanted a space for birthday parties in the building so they didn’t have to leave after the movie.”
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The first challenge was the impending digitizing of the movie industry, scheduled for 2014. Old-time theaters were challenged to purchase expensive conversion equipment or stop showing movies. In August 2013, Alain had just purchased the building from owner Peter Vivian.
At the time, the Roses ran the Planet Swirl ice cream parlor next door. However, they signed a five-year lease to operate the theater at 125 E. Main St. To finance the conversion to digital, the Roses created a Kickstarter account to raise the $125,000 needed.
“It took a lot out of us,” Laura Rose said. “The thought of going through that again … I get tired just thinking about it.”
The option to reopen Sept. 4 was diminished with the imposition of a 25% occupancy limit imposed by the state.
“We wouldn’t be able to open anyway,” she said. “The rates are too high for us to operate at that level.”
Laura Rose said they have “always had a good relationship” with Alain, who declined to comment.
“Right now we’re hurting,” she said. “So many people are reaching out. We hope to come to an agreement.”
Marsha Stoltz is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @marsha_stoltz
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