Morristown has top-notch restaurants, new luxury housing, a bustling downtown and a train to Manhattan.
But after May 19, 2013–and apparently for the first time in more than a century–it won’t have a movie theater.
Employees of Clearview’s Morristown Headquarters 10 cineplex have been told the curtain is coming down this month.
Although Cablevision is selling its Clearview chain to Bow Tie Cinemas, Morristown is among six venues that Bow Tie does not want.
“I’m going to miss it after being here so long,” said Eric “Fluffy” Glover, an employee in Morristown since AMC opened the complex at HQ Plaza in 1987.
Now, he is crossing his fingers that he will get transferred to another Clearview property, at least for a few months until the Bow Tie deal closes.
Based in Ridgefield, CT., Bow Tie is acquiring 41 Clearview theaters in the tri-state region, including 21 in New Jersey.
The acquisitions will make the family-owned chain–established more than a century ago in the era of nickelodeons and vaudeville–the nation’s eighth-largest.
Bow Tie has pledged to install digital and 3D projection and spruce up concession stands at former Clearview sites, said spokesman Chris Beattie. Some of Bow Tie’s theaters are in downtown settings. He could not say why Morristown failed to make the cut.
A 2009 planning report rapped the fortress-like design of Headquarters Plaza for creating a “pedestrian dead zone” that divided the town.
Local officials are counting on long-awaited redevelopment projects along Speedwell Avenue to revitalize the vicinity, and ideas are percolating about how to dress up Pioneer Park, outside HQ Plaza, with everything from beer gardens to converted shipping containers.
A Cablevision spokeswoman confirmed the Morristown cinema’s closing date, without elaborating.
“The lease is expiring at that property and it is not being renewed,” said Kelly McAndrew.
Also closing within the next two months: Chester Cinema 6, Kinnelon Cinema 3 and Allwood Cinema 6 in Clifton, Kelly said.
A call to the property manager at Headquarters Plaza was not immediately returned.
“It’s a terrible shame. I can’t believe this community could not sustain a movie theater,” said Cheryl Turkington, assistant archivist at the Morristown & Township Library and author of three books about Morristown.
Morristown once boasted four movie theaters, according to John Cunningham’s The Miracle on South Street.
Speedwell Avenue was home to the Palace Theater. Roth’s Park Theater was near the Presbyterian Church, and Roth’s Jersey Theater sat atop the Washington Street hill, near the Morris County Courthouse. The Mayo Performing Arts Center began in 1937 as the Community Theatre, a movie house.
The Palace came first, in 1911, followed by the Park in 1915 and the Jersey in 1927, Cheryl said. AMC opened 10 screens at Headquarters Plaza on July 31, 1987. They became part of Clearview Cinemas in 1998, according to Fluffy.
Morristown’s love of theaters pre-dates motion pictures; the Lyceum, once near the Church of the Redeemer on South Street, and Washington Hall featured live entertainment in the 19th century, Cheryl said.
Fluffy blamed the demise of Headquarters 10 on competition from the AMC Rockaway 16 complex, and from bootleggers who secretly record and sell new releases.
Aspiring directors also have premiered their films at the cineplex. That’s where Morristown High School graduate Ben Donnellon test-screened his first feature movie, Know Your Logic, on a Sunday morning in March.
“I guess I was lucky I got to do so,” said Ben, who grew up watching films at Headquarters Plaza, when tickets were cheaper, the projectors didn’t break so often, and a Sam Goody record shop and other stores made the mall more of a hangout.
“As a young filmmaker it’s always cool to see your film on a big screen in a real theater. And it was in my home town, and we filmed it in my home town, so it brought it all together, full-circle.”
For the record, Fluffy remembered these titles from opening day in 1987: Full Metal Jacket, La Bamba, The Lost Boys and Dragnet.
Rounding out the offerings, according to Cheryl’s sleuthing at the library, were The Living Daylights, RoboCop, The Untouchables, Roxanne, Spaceballs and Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.
It looks like Iron Man 3 may be the 2013 finale.