Sean Price, music director at St. James’s Church, has started playing the bells at noon every day during the pandemic since March 2020 in Montclair, NJ.

MOUNTCLAIR – The historic Bellevue Theater will reopen this fall, said Doreen Sayegh, who has owned the building with her father, Jesse, since 1996.

The iconic cinema, built in 1922, closed in 2017 after Bow Tie Cinema’s lease expired.

“Since then we have been trying to find a tenant and have finally decided to open it ourselves,” she said.

Plans by a group of investors to reopen the space as a theater that would also host community events, have a full bar and restaurant, and serve food to seated moviegoers, were tabled earlier this year in due to COVID.

Sayegh said this iteration will keep the Bellevue as a traditional movie theater that will show a mix of commercial, artistic, family and classic films. She plans to add another stage that will host live entertainment, such as comedy shows, TED talks, and book and poetry clubs. She is also hoping to secure the rights to the Metropolitan Opera live stream.

While they have no plans to restore beyond a concession stand, there will be two new businesses downstairs and one of them could be a food or beverage business. , she said.

A “complete renovation” will also add apartments on the second floor.

“We are thrilled,” said Sayegh. “I have a lot of ideas trying things out in other cities. I think Upper Montclair is the place to be for this type of content.”

The Sayegh family also owns cinemas in Caldwell, Westfield and Cranford.

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Mayor Sean Spiller said the Sayeghs had recently approached council for a vote of confidence, which is necessary to get films to first air.

“We all said yes, how can we support it,” Spiller said.

Historical curator Ilmar Vanderer and 1st Ward Councilor BIll Hurlock were also involved.

“It’s one of the gems here at Upper Montclair,” said Hurlock. “And that will help the restaurants come back and the Montclair Film Festival.”

Sayegh, who lives in Little Falls, said the Bellevue was “near and dear” to her family’s hearts.

It was the first theater her father watched a movie in after arriving in the United States from the Middle East, where he had been a projection technician, she said. When she was very young, she followed him to the theaters where he worked, selling his first popcorn at the age of 8.

“We love community theater and are excited to bring people home to the movies here at Bellevue,” she said.

“I hope people feel the same as I do when I walked into a movie theater. It’s a beautiful thing to escape everyday life for a few hours, especially these days.”

Julia Martin covers Montclair for For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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Twitter: @TheWriteJulia

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