MADISON, NJ - More than 300 area residents have petitioned the Mayor and Council to save the Madison movie theater after the cinema’s unexpected Memorial Day weekend closure earlier this year.

“This theater has served residents for generations and has enriched our lives and our community,” residents said.

For nearly a century, the building has been a fixture in downtown Madison, “an integral part of the Lincoln Place streetscape,” petitioners said, and was recently sold to Saxum Real Estate of Parsippany. Saxum said the Lincoln Place theater would still show movies once the purchase was complete, but Mayor Conley said Bow Tie Cinemas had other plans.

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“It would still be a theater today if Bow Tie didn’t decide to end its lease,” Conley said.

Residents are worried about Madison’s historical integrity, the petition said, citing the owner’s possible intention to demolish the 1920s theater and build condominiums.

“This site is simply too important to lose to private development that would forever change the nature of our Historic Downtown District,” they said.

Mayor Conley said there are “no formal plans” to demolish the theater, designated as a historic building by Madison’s Historic Preservation Commission. Saxum Real Estate could not be reached for comment.

If Saxum redevelops the property, it must first file an application with the borough’s Planning and Zoning Boards and have the plans approved by the Historic Preservation Commission before any construction begins.

Many current and former borough residents left comments on the online petition that showed what the Madison movie theater meant to them.

“I loved having my kids go downtown on their own to the movies!” Margaret Duffy said. “It made Madison so special. We don't need more condos, we need to keep the community feel of Madison.”

Saxum’s intent to tear down the theater has not been formally confirmed, but Madison residents have already offered their own solution.

Through the petition, they asked the 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.”