Ventnor and Beach theatres both threatened with demolition
VENTNOR CITY, NJ — The Ventnor Twin Theatre has a champion in local resident Marsha Galespie who, along with a group of local residents, doesn’t want to see the last remaining theatre on Absecon Island replaced with 24 condos. Challenges to The Ventnor have included a city that would like to redevelop the area, an economy that still relies in part on a summer influx of vacationers and a $1.75 million dollar asking price by the current owners. These aren’t the best of circumstances to launch a rescue.
The Ventnor Twin Theatre was opened in 1938 as The Ventnor Theatre after a fire destroyed the original 1921 structure. The art deco theatre was twinned in the 1960s or 1970s with a remodel that included a drop ceiling masking the original and blue and silver draping of the walls. The theatre was closed after a 1998 city inspection declared the structure on the verge of collapse. Then owners brought the theatre to code and it re-opened in 2000 but survived only until 2004 when it was shuttered.
In a recent article on CourierPostOnLine.com Fran Holden, executive director of the League of Historic American Theatres, an international association that promotes the rescue, rehabilitation and sustainable operation of historic theaters throughout North America, discussed the many drawbacks to saving theatres in current times. Chief among them are raising funds, the importance of the building to the community and igniting a passion to save the building. Holden stated “Saving a historic building simply because it’s historic is not reason enough unless you’re in the museum business. It probably wouldn’t be terribly successful. We are concerned about theaters obtaining sustainability. It’s a much harder nut to crack than committing to saving a historic building.”
The above article also discusses the Beach Theatre in Cape May, NJ, currently named the Beach 4 after a 1980 remodel that divided the 800 seat auditorium and most of the original lobby into 4 smaller theatres. The Beach was recognized by Preservation New Jersey as one of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites in New Jersey for 2008 and is currently protected only until April 2009 when the current lease runs out. A demolition permit was approved in 2007.
At this point chances don’t seem good for the either theatre.