By PETE WALTON
The president of the Bradley Beach Historical Museum plans an effort to preserve the former Beach Cinema on Main Street.
“We are losing our movie theater,” said Paul Neshamkin. “It would be really tragic to our town to lose this theater.”
Neshamkin, who helped organize support for the borough’s purchase of the former First United Methodist Church for use as a community center, said he was not asking the borough to buy the theater.
“I considered [buying] it,” he said, adding that he could not do so on his own.
“I’m willing to do the research on getting people to run it,” Neshamkin said. “I do not want this theater to become something else, to be torn down or become a permanent church. I don’t think that really adds to the life of our town.”
Most recently, the theater was operated by Nancy Sabino and Michael Sodano as the second location of the Asbury Park-based ShowRoom Cinema. The pair announced late last month that they could no longer afford to keep the two theaters open due to the financial burdens caused by the coronavirus response.
Sodano and Sabino have been approached by representatives of the Shore Christian Church, which is temporarily holding Sunday services at 9 and 11 a.m. in the auditorium of the Jersey Shore Performing Arts Center in Ocean Grove, the former Neptune High School building at 66 Main St.
The church is interested in purchasing the Bradley Beach facility, which opened in 1915 as the 750-seat Palace Theatre, which presented vaudeville shows and started showing films 10 years later.
The Beach Cinema, under the ownership of John Esposito, was the last single-screen movie house in full-time operation at the Jersey Shore.
The church held Sunday services at the House of Independents on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park before the state imposed health-related restrictions on performance spaces.
Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad has said he favors the continued use of the building at 110 Main St. as a theater. The mayor said he has contacted several developers to explore future use of the space.
Esposito sold the theater to Sabino and Sodano in 2018. Repairs and upgrades made by the pair caused the assessed valuation of the improvements to the property to increase by more than $445,000, according to Monmouth County tax records.
The 2020 assessed valuation for the land and building is more than $1.1 million.
Isaac Friedel, pastor of the Shore Christian Church, also founded the Neptune-based Jersey Shore Dream Center, which provides supplies and support to low-income families in the area.
During the church’s tenure at the House of Independents in Asbury Park, Friedel arranged for attendees to park in spaces at the city’s garage on Bangs Avenue. The success of Bradley Beach’s business district has led to a parking crunch along Main Street and adjacent avenues, an issue which would face any potential owner of the theater property.