Updated at 1:49 p.m. Aug. 23
WESTFIELD, NJ — The nearly 100-year-old Rialto Theatre has closed, catching municipal officials and the public by surprise.
The marquee of the movie theater on Friday advised that the theater is closed and told the public to call New Vision Cinemas for refunds. A message left with the number for New Vision Cinemas advertised on the marquee was not returned.
Mayor Shelley Brindle in a statement said officials were caught by surprise by the closure. Brindle said the municipality was discussing several projects with the theater and had scheduled a meeting at the now-closed location for Friday.
“It was as much of a surprise to us as it was to the employees who were notified late yesterday,” Brindle said. “I know that an event like this invites speculation and rumors, and I want everyone to know that we are diligently working to obtain more information about the decision and any related transactions or plans that may be in the works for the property.”
Screenings for AddamsFest, the town’s celebration of town native Charles Addams, have also been planned for the theater.
In June of last year, Rialto Holdings LLC, the property owner, sought to evict New Vision Cinemas LLC, for failure to pay rent, a notice filed in Superior Court in Elizabeth shows.
A message left with Daniel R. Bevere, the attorney representing Rialto Holdings, was not returned Friday.
Justin H. Scheier, the attorney representing New Vision Cinemas, declined to comment Friday. He cited the ongoing litigation in the case as the reason.
In a counter-claim filed against the property owner in June of last year, New Vision Cinemas claims Rialto Holding breached its lease agreement by failing to address a leaky roof.
“The water leaks have and will continue to cause substantial damages to plaintiff’s business at the Westfield premises,” the lawsuit says.
The theater in Westfield has been a staple of the downtown since 1922. Its sister theater, the Cranford Theatre, remains open.
New Vision Cinemas had purchased the Rialto Theatre in Westfield and the Cranford Theatre in 2017 from Carmike Cinemas, a subsidiary of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. The purchase followed a U.S. Justice Department order requiring AMC divest numerous of its operations to maintain price competition.
The closure of the theatre prompted an outpouring of support on social media, including a “Save the Rialto” Facebook group, which garnered nearly 500 followers as of 1:45 p.m.
For refunds, the public has been asked to call New Vision Cinemas at 866-640-9040.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh