Renovation and reopening plans in store for Montclair’s historic Bellevue Theatre

Movie lovers may be able to take in a film once again at one of New Jersey’s historic theaters – one that has been closed for some time.
The Bellevue Theatre in Montclair opened its doors to moviegoers nearly a century ago on May 13, 1922, according to movie fan and local preservationist Ilmar Vanderer. Vanderer grew up seeing movies at Bellevue Theatre.
“I would come here two, three times a week. Sometimes two, three times a day,” Vanderer says.
The theater closed in 2017 and negotiations with a new operator did not result in a deal.
Doreen Sayegh's family owns the theatre and announced plans on Thursday to renovate and reopen.
"I love the movie business. I believe in it. Movies were made to be seen on the big screen,” Sayegh says.
The renovation plan includes new seats, amenities and equipment - pending local approval. Montclair's mayor believes the theater is an important anchor in the Upper Montclair neighborhood.
“It all connects. The ice cream shop opening up depends on how well this place is doing. The stores around here depend on each other,” says Mayor Sean Spiller.
The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to destroy the movie industry by shutting down production and closing many theaters for months, delaying releases. But Sayegh believes there is a bright future post-pandemic.
Officials hope that the renovations will be completed later this year and that the theater can reopen in time for its 100th anniversary.