Business & Finance

Mayor and Council Accept Madison Movie Theater Petition After More Than 1,000 Signed

The Madison movie theater closed its doors May 30 after Bow Tie Cinemas terminated its lease with Saxum Real Estate, which recently purchased the property. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
“Many said it’s too late to save the theater,” said petitioner Sandy Kolakowski, who spoke at Monday's meeting. “I told them I had to try, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t.” Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Kolakowski wrote and promoted the petition with the help of former Mayor Ellwood "Woody" Kerkeslager (pictured here), who spoke Monday on behalf of the theater. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
“The movie theater meant a lot to everyone,” said Luke Shuster, 14, an incoming freshman at Madison High School. Credits: Lindsay Ireland
Many who spoke Monday, like 15-year-old Dennis Collins, said Madison’s theater had its own special charm, something the town should hold dear. Credits: Lindsay Ireland

MADISON, NJ - Madison’s historic movie theater is a place where some have seen their first movie. A place where parents and couples can enjoy date night or a night out with the kids. A place with nearly a century of history downtown. Now the theater has closed its doors, and residents are crying out for help from the local government.

An online petition, which has now gained more than 1,000 signatures, asked the Madison Mayor and Council to provide “emergency interim funding to rescue the theater and allow community groups to develop a plan for its use as a not-for-profit movie, arts and cultural center,” said petitioners Sandy Kolakowski and former Mayor Ellwood “Woody” Kerkeslager.

Mayor Conley announced at Monday’s council meeting that the council had accepted the petitioners’ proposal and would meet with Kolakowski and Kerkeslager in the coming weeks to review the request and discuss next steps.

Sign Up for E-News

Kolakowski said she was happy to see such a large response from area residents in just a few short weeks. At the council meeting least 60 people showed up to support the theater in person.

“Many said it’s too late to save the theater,” she said. “I told them I had to try, and I could not live with myself if I didn’t.”

The petition now has more than “300 comments describing how the movie is an essential part of the best of Madison; a place where you can go as a family or feel comfortable letting your kids go with their friends,” she said.

Resident Outcry

About a half dozen people spoke on the theater’s behalf Monday, sharing memories and lamenting its closure.

We’ve lost “something that brought vitality to downtown, that brought people out on the streets, that appealed to everyone whether it be old, young, single, couples with children,” said Almond Pippa of Ridgedale Avenue.

Some families have lived in Madison for years, when the theater only had one screen. For other, newer residents like Claudine Besti of South Street, the movie theater played a huge role in their decision to move to Madison.

Besti said that when she and her husband had dinner with their realtor at Takuma Japanese Restaurant on Lincoln Place, she was surprised at the old-world feel that encompassed the downtown area and culture.

“We watched kids and teenagers walking back and forth from the movie theater to Romanelli’s pizza place,” she said. “It was like another era. My husband and I decided that this is the place.”

Even a handful of Madison’s youngest residents showed up Monday to express their feelings about the theater’s recent closure.

“The movie theater meant a lot to everyone,” said Luke Shuster, 14, an incoming freshman at Madison High School. “People could spend time together at the movie theater. Overall it benefited the town as a whole.”

Many who spoke Monday, like 15-year-old Dennis Collins, said Madison’s theater had its own special charm, something the town should hold dear.

“It helped our town to have something unique like that instead of another bank or another restaurant,” Collins said. “It was something important that we should really keep.”

Not only does the theater have a special place in the hearts of Madison residents, but it also affects local business.

Kerkeslager said he spoke with several downtown business owners, who told him the theater helped drive traffic to their stores and restaurants. The owners said they “can tell when the movie is over” because people start flooding in.

To Demolish or Not to Demolish

Rumors have arisen that the current owner of the 1920s theater, Saxum Real Estate, plans to demolish the building and replace it with condos.

Borough Assistant Administrator Jim Burnet said he thought the confusion came from a demolition permit obtained by the previous owner late last year to remove an oil tank on the property, a requirement before the sale could be completed.

No applications have yet been submitted to the borough that would suggest what the owner intends to do with the property, he said, so the owner’s future plans are currently unknown.

Despite this, the public outcry against more condos in Madison has been significant.

“If we continue to allow our...local landmarks to be built over with more and more multiple dwelling structures to accommodate all the would-be Madisonians in our world, the Madison that we all know and love; the special character that draws people to our town in the first place, will disappear,” said West End Avenue resident Kathy Dailey.

Bow Tie had negotiated a lower month-to-month lease with the previous owner, who attempted to keep the company in operation at the Madison theater, according to Burnet. That lease was honored by the new owners but despite this, Bow Tie gave a one-day notice—allowable by the terms of its lease—and ceased operations on May 30, he said.

Borough Attorney Matthew Giacobbe said he advised the council not to comment on future or pending applications the theater owners may submit.

“If this property—which is owned by a third party—goes before the planning board or the zoning board, it’s very important that these members of the governing body do not in any way infect the process,” he said.

That is not to say the Mayor and Council are not addressing this, Mayor Conley said.

The theater is “very important, and we hear the passion,” he said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Hanover/Florham Park

Outstanding Citizens To Be Honored at the Boy Scouts of America 23rd Annual Morris County Lifetime Achievement Awards Dinner

March 17, 2018

WHIPPANY, NJ - Boy Scouts of America, Patriots’ Path Council will be honoring local community members at the Boy Scouts of America 23rd Annual Morris County Lifetime Achievement Awards Dinner to be held on the evening of April 19 at The Hanover Marriott in Whippany at 6:30 pm.  This year’s honorees are Reynaldo Caudillo, Bruce Jones, Michael Lupton, Ron Morano, Lou ...

Belmar/Lake Como St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Where Everyone is Irish for the Day

March 5, 2018

BELMAR/LAKE COMO, NJ — As the sun played hide and seek with the clouds yesterday afternoon, the Belmar/Lake Como St. Patrick's Day Parade marched down Main Street — in step with Irish tradition and community spirit.

As the sun played hide and seek with the clouds yesterday afternoon, the Belmar/Lake Como St. Patrick's Day Parade marched down Main Street — in step with ...

Recipe of the Week: Citrus Marinated Steak


1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce
1 TBS garlic, minced
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. thyme & 3-4 sprigs
Juice of one blood orange
1 ½ lb. steak

To make the marinade, in a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients.  Using a plastic storage bag that closes ...

Sparta High School Students Create Donate Life Club

March 20, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta High School students held their inaugural meeting of the Donate Life Club on Wednesday, March 14. Minutes after the walk out in solidarity with Parkland school shooting victims, thirty students met in a classroom during lunch to hear from the NJ Sharing Network about organ donation.

Many of the students were classmates of Isak Anderson, a boy who passed away suddenly ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 13

On this episode of AtlantiCast, new clinical studies in the fields of cardiology and immunotherapy, national and statewide recognitions for Atlantic Health System medical centers and the inaugural AtlantiCast Collab Challenge!


Upcoming Events


Wed, March 21, 8:30 AM

St. Vincent Martyr School, Madison

Open House for Preschool, Kindergarten & First ...



Wed, March 21, 6:00 PM

Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center, Conference Room A/B, First Floor, Livingston

Colon Cancer Screening Education Program at Saint ...

Health & Wellness

Wed, March 21, 7:00 PM

Livingston Public Library, Livingston

Empowering Women to Take Control of Their ...

Business & Finance

Frank J Smith School Hosts Scholastic Book Fair March 21-22

March 20, 2018

EAST HANOVER, N.J.- The East Hanover PTA is sponsoring The Scholastic Book Fair at Frank J Smith School this week, Wednesday and Thursday. Opportunities are still available to volunteer and donations will go directly to books for the school as all donations will be matched by Scholastic. Shopping on line is also available by clicking here. 

Joey Bella Memorial Fund, Inc. Band Beer Beefsteak

March 19, 2018

Joey Bella Memorial Fund, Inc. Band Beer Beefsteak  On-line Ticket Sales 

The 29th Annual Band Beer Beefsteak will be held on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 "under the tent" at Gardner Field, Savage Road and Route 46W, Denville.  Tickets are $60 per person and include an all-you-can-eat Beefsteak Dinner served by Giresi Caterers and 15+ microbrew beers.  Entertainment will ...