It looks like the Bellevue Theatre has a new lease on life.


Bellevue owner Jesse Sayegh has signed a lease with Highgate Hall LLC, a company backed by a number of prominent local residents, to restore and modernize the movie theater that served area moviegoers from 1922 to 2017, Montclair Local has learned.

Highgate Hall LLC consists of film and television producer Luke Parker Bowles, actor Patrick Wilson, developer Steven Plofker, corporate strategist Andy Childs, lawyer Larry Slous, marketer Vincent Onorati, and Brandon Jones, former partner of the in-theater dining chain Studio Movie Grill. All but Jones, who currently lives in Texas, are Montclair residents.

The team, doing business as Bellevue Enterprises, expect to begin construction on the theater in November 2019.

Expected renovations include the addition of in-theater dining options and a bar space, Parker Bowles said.

"This is going to blow people away," said Parker Bowles, operations and managing partner for Highgate Hall. The LLC is named after a bar that was located in the Bellevue in the 1930s. The partnership formed in the aftermath of the theater's closing in November 2017.

At the time, Parker Bowles called the Bellevue the "beating heart of Montclair." He described his team's vision for the Bellevue as a hub of activity, adding space to sit, meet, eat and drink before and after seeing movies. People would feel free to linger and write in their journals, check emails and relax, he said.
“In this day and age a movie theater alone cannot sustain business. Studios used to take 50 percent of ticket sales. Now it's starting to be 65 percent," he told Montclair Local in 2017. “As a film producer this is completely tragic to me. To Patrick as an actor it’s completely tragic. Who’s to say it wont go to 80? Let’s get ahead of the game. I’m thinking five years in the future. We won’t put our names to something that’s going to fail. Life’s too short, we don’t want to disappoint the community. We get one shot at this.”

Following the signing of the new lease this week, Parker Bowles said that the mayor and the council are supportive and happy.

"Since Mr. PB and his team approached me some two years ago with this project, it has been one of the most exciting prospects that we've had in Montclair," Mayor Robert Jackson said. "I am thrilled that now he and his team are going to bring it to a reality."

The sudden closure of the Bellevue Theater stunned Montclair residents. News first circulated when Home of Happiness told its followers that its Nov. 11, 2017, showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" — a staple of Saturday nights at the theater since 2003 — would be its last. Then-tenant Bow-Tie Cinema declined to renew its lease, and turned down a six-figure offer to keep the theater’s furniture and equipment in place for a future tenant. The last screening, on Nov. 12, was of the film “A Bad Moms Christmas.”

After the theater closed, a small rally took place at the cinema at 260 Bellevue Ave. A petition directed at Bow Tie that brought in more than 5,000 signatures. Resident Ilmar Vanderer started a dedicated Facebook page called "Save Montclair's Historic Bellevue Theatre," dedicated to the theater's history and cultural value.

The theater first opened in May 1922, with a showing of “Orphans of the Storm” starring Lillian Gish. With its English Tudor beams, slate roof, indoor balcony and second-floor tea room, the Bellevue Theatre attracted architectural attention, according to Lisanne Renner, historian for Friends of Anderson Park. The Tudor design supports an English village ambiance in the Upper Montclair shopping district, Renner told Montclair Local in 2017.

The Bellevue was designed by Robert Anderson, son of Charles W. Anderson, who had earlier donated the land for Anderson Park.

With the Bellevue closed, Montclair currently only has one commercial movie theater within its borders, the Clairidge Theater on Bloomfield Avenue, also owned by Bow-Tie.