Bellevue Cinema 4

260 Bellevue Avenue,
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043

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Bellevue Cinema 2

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The Bellevue Theatre opened in 1923 in a former horse stable. The building is in a Tudor style, as is most of that section of town. United Artists triplexed the theatre in the 1980’s, and an independent operator converted it into a quad, destroying all original design. Clearview took over in the 1990’s. In June 2013, Bow-Tie Cinemas took over, as it took most of Clearview’s locations.

Contributed by Joe Masher

Recent comments (view all 38 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 7, 2010 at 8:03 pm

I know why they Chop up beautiful theatres,but why this one?

Oleksij on September 30, 2010 at 9:48 am

I first went to the Bellevue Theatre on New Year’s Day 1965 to see “Mary Poppins.” It was the most elegant theatre I had ever been in. It exuded class with its Tudor décor, the ushers in bright yellow blazers, and from the fact that you had to purchase tickets to assigned seats, just as in a live theatre. I found it all so impressive and exciting, and still did so the following year when we went back to se Julie Andrews again, this time in “The Sound of Music.”

The Bellevue was the place which held roadshow engagements, and sold souvenir booklets filled with photos of the films being presented. (Does anybody do that anymore?)

The Bellevue was a place where, for many years, they played “The Star-Spangled Banner” before each showing.

The biggest hit I remember the Bellevue having was “Fiddler On the Roof”, which played for half-a-year back in 1972.

The Bellevue lost its aura once it was split up into a triplex. I still frequently went there because they had bargain matinees, but stopped once they ended that policy. I’ve only been there a couple of times since they remodeled it completely. I stopped going not so much because of the remodeling but because the same films are playing at theatres closer to my home.

Here is the current irony. In the old days, when theatres showed only a single film, you got to know a lot of theatres, because if you wanted to see Film A, you had to go to one theatre, but to see Film B, you had to go to a different theatre. Then changing economics demanded that these beautiful old theatres be cut up into several smaller cinemas in the hope that the profits from one hit film playing would make up for the deficits from the flops.

Now, however, I think these old cut-up theatres are going to do because so many big multiplexes have been built. Why sit in an old, cramped, charmless theatre when you can go to a multiplex? It too may be charmless, but at least it is big and modern. Especially when all the theatres are showing exactly the same movies. I think that’s what happened to the recently closed Cinema 23 in Cedar Grove. It couldn’t compete with the bigger, newer and equally convenient AMC at the Essex Green Plaza a couple of miles up the road.

Myself, unless I’m going to independent/at film at the Claridge in Montclair, I pretty much keep to the Clifton Commons or the Allwood, but they’re near my home. (And with all its faults, I often favor the Allwood because it is cheaper and usually less crowded. However, I get the feeling the Allwood is on its way out as well.)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 27, 2010 at 10:58 am

Thanks Alex great info.

pbubny on December 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

A delayed response to Barry M’s question of more than two years ago: yes, due to the Bellevue’s location near the Upper Montclair train station and a commuter line running about one hundred feet away, outside noise was an issue even in the single-screen halcyon days. I noticed it, albeit intermittently, from my first trip there (a “Sound Of Music” revival when I was about 13). Reminds me of the old Astor Plaza near Times Square (now the Nokia Theatre, a live venue), where the sounds of the subway trains below the auditorium made their presence felt.

joesavana on January 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm

I saw the ‘Sound Of Music’ at the Belleview during its Todd AO 70mm roadshow engagement in 1965. WOW!! I was 16 then and whenever I could scrape up enough money, I’d see it again and again. It must have played there almost 2 years. The Belleview had a humongous screen, very high and very wide. The bottom of the screen began at the stage and the top went almost to the high ceiling. There was a big beautiful blue curtain. Tickets were sold at the box office and seating prices varied. Music from the ‘Sound Of Music’ would be playing as people were being seated. The lights dimmed slowly and as the 20th Century Fox logo appeared, the big curtain opened, from the side as I recall. I can only describe the feeling I got during the scene of the helicopter approach to Julie Andrews before the ‘song on the hill’ as the closest thing to heaven.. chills running up my spine. The Belleview had great audio and a beautiful screen image. In those days the projection was illuminated by arc lamp and the image popped off the screen, unlike the dull theater images of today. The ‘Sound Of Music’ had an intermission, and the curtain closed when the word ‘intermission’ was on the screen. You never saw a ‘bare’ screen at the Belleview, the curtain always hid it until the movie started. When the intermission was almost over, the lights would flash to warn patrons that the film was about to start. It’s true that the Belleview was right next to the Montclair train station and a passing train was quite noisy. Still, the Belleview had class that has not existed in movie theaters for many years. It was a sad day when the Belleview was divided up into a multiplex. It is barely a shell of what is used to be.

BarryM on May 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Great description of THE SOUND OF MUSIC experience, JOESAVANA. And thanks, PBUBNY for answering my question from years back about the Bellevue noise problem. Sorry I only got to see this cinema in its cut-up state.

RHETT52 on December 27, 2013 at 9:11 am

It was a grand palace back in the day. Now it’s a shoebox. Will never go there again

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 13, 2014 at 6:05 pm

John H. Phillips, architect of the Bellevue Theatre, also designed the original building of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida.

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