CRANFORD — "If you reopen it, they will come. Opening November 2019." Those were the words that read from the Cranford Movie Theatre marquee around sunset on Tuesday.
TAPinto Cranford reported Tuesday afternoon that plans were underway for the Cranford Theatre to reopen. A few hours later, the marquee and Cranford Mayor Patrick Giblin's closing remark comments at the Township Committee meeting confirmed that report. Giblin stated:
“I’m happy to announce tonight that the marquee was changed. We had a meeting this afternoon with the family of the owner, and they have plans to reopen the theater with an estimated date of mid November. They’ll have more on that but I think it’s fantastic. I want to thank the Administrator and the DMC for all their work and conversations with that. This wasn’t an easy lift. We’ve done everything we can to let them know that we’re going to work with them to reopen within that timeline and to do what we can as a community and the downtown to support their efforts.“
Jesse Sayegh, owner of the Cranford Movie Theatre and Westfield Rialto properties, said he was caught by surprise when New Vision Theatres, whom he had been renting both theaters out to, suddenly abandoned the properties.
On Tuesday, Sayegh told TAPinto Westfield he plans for his own family to reopen the Cranford Theatre in November, and he will meet with officials in Westfield next month to discuss the future of the Rialto Theatre.
“We’re going to prove to those people that abandoning the theater was a mistake,” Sayegh said by telephone from Central America. “We are going to run the place under our own management in our own style, and hopefully the place will do well. We are looking at a different plan for the Rialto that will be the subject of discussion when I come back in October.”
Competition for audiences from the Westfield Rialto and Cranford Movie Theatre's counterparts in Mountainside and Watchung, Sayegh said, make it key that his team transforms the theater into a destination that attracts moviegoers from across the region.
“The theater cannot depend by itself on the local residents,” Sayegh said. “It needs to draw from the outside area.”
Though Sayegh will look to attract viewers from all over, Mayor Giblin stated during his closing remarks Tuesday that the Cranford residents need to support the theater upon its reopening if they want it to stick around for the foreseeable future.
“I hope this is one of those situations where the residents, you know, didn’t realize how nice they had something until it was gone," said Giblin. "Well guess what? You’re getting one more shot at this and I hope that you consider reallocating some of your entertainment budget to the Cranford Theatre for years to come because we do want to see them succeed.”