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WHERE HAVE ALL THE MOVIE THEATERS GONE
The first movie theater on Long Beach Island was at 215 Third Street in Beach Haven. The structure was originally a wooden schoolhouse dedicated on May 1, 1885. It also served as a Catholic mission church. When the new Beach Haven School was built in 1912, the old schoolhouse was vacated. Sid Verts, a Philadelphia electrician bought the old schoolhouse and began showing movies four times per week in 1913. He quickly sold the building to Harry Colmer, another electrician, and his partner Leon Cranmer. They installed a balcony which expanded the seating to 50. They named the building the Colonial Theatre. The projector was hand cranked, and the lamp powered by a gasoline driven generator. The silent films were accompanied by the piano playing of Freda Joorman Cranmer. By the early 1920s, Colmer & Cranmer needed a larger theatre. They opened the New Colonial on the corner of Bay Avenue & Center Street. They kept the original Colonial for winter time use when the crowds were smaller. Today the building, after extensive renovations, is the Island Baptist Church.
Island Baptist Church (formerly the Colonial Theatre)
New Colonial Theatre
Colmer and Cranmer opened the New Colonial Theater on July 4, 1922 on the corner of Bay Avenue and Center Street in the heart of Beach Haven. Shortly thereafter, Cranmer exited the partnership. The new theater was constructed of wood and the four sides built in the Firman Cranmer Lumber Yard across the street and hoisted up with pulleys. A Robert Morgan organ was installed in 1927 to provide music to the silent movies. In the days before air conditioning, Colmer used ice blocks and fans to cool the theater. Colmer died in 1956, and his family continued to run the New Colonial Theatre and two others until 1964 before selling. Over the years, the outside entrance saw some minor modifications and the theater was split into multiple units in later years until finally closing in 2000. It is now an eclectic home furnishing store.
Opened by Frank Theatres in 1965 as a seasonal operation near the corner of Herbert Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard in the Haven Beach community, the Beach Theatre was upgraded over the years and eventually expanded to five screens. Frank subleased the theater to Australian-based Hoyts in 1996, taking it back in 2003. In 2012, Frank Theatres announced the closing of the theater so the site could be cleared for an Acme supermarket expansion, leaving the island without a theater.
The Beach Theatre is center background behind debris pile as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
Originally built in the late 1920s on the corner of 35th Street and Long Beach Boulevard by a real estate development company seeking to develop Brant Beach, the Colony Theatre was sold to Harry Colmer when the market didn’t pick up quickly enough for the investors. Colmer converted the Colony into a full time movie theatre in the late 1920s. This was the second of three theatres in his chain (along with the Colonial in Beach Haven and a third in Barnegat.) In 1964, the Colmer family sold all three theaters to Frank Theatres. The Colony Theatre was demolished in 2005, and the property converted to residential development.
Colony Theatre, Brant Beach
Manahawkin Fly-In Drive-In Theatre
In 1948, Ed Brown Jr, a former Navy Pilot opened the first Fly-In Drive-In movie theater in Wall Township, New Jersey. Several years later, he opened #2 in Manahawkin, NJ hoping to capitalize on the development of Beach Haven West and Ocean Acres and his belief that most Americans would own private planes the way they did cars. Next to the theater was the Manahawkin Executive Airport which constituted the fly-in portion. Planes could land and taxi to the movie theater and fan out behind the cars. Like conventional drive-ins, Brown’s fly-in included a concession stand (where the real money was made), restrooms and plenty of privacy for, umm, watching the movie. Brown’s Fly-In Drive-In theaters were a novelty in a larger industry that was already enjoying a growth spurt. By 1958 the number of drive-in theaters nationwide surpassed 4,000. It was all downhill after that with a steady decline during the 1960s and 1970s. The expansion of Beach Haven West and Ocean Acres, and the development of Colony Lakes in the 1980s spelled the end of Manahawkin’s drive-in theater. The land had more valuable commercial uses. Manahawkin Airport closed in the early 1990s to make way for a Walmart and Pathmark, and Home Depot occupies the site of Ed Brown’s Fly-In Drive-In Theatre #2.
Manahawkin Drive-In Theatre
The Fly-In component
Long Beach Island and Stafford Township are now served by the Manahawkin Regal 10 which is owned by the Regal Entertainment Group out of Tennessee. The amenities are excellent and the choices abundant, but there’s something to be said for watching a silent movie and listening to the organ from a balcony that holds fifty… or flying in and landing on a strip carved into the Pine Barrens to watch the latest feature film. Times change and we move forward, but we can never forget the past. It’s where appreciation for the present originates.
From your “Running Realtor” Andrew Gonzales…