Another one closes: Toms River, NJ movie theater goes dark after 32 years
TOMS RIVER — A filmmaker says movie theaters need to remind moviegoers about how special the theater experience is as the screens at the AMC Seacourt 10 go dark next week.
The 10-screen theater on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, which opened as a Loews Theater in May 1990, has no showtimes scheduled on the AMC website after Sunday.
Employees are telling customers that they are all being transferred to the Brick Plaza 10, according to Jersey Shore Online, which was first to report the closure.
"AMC regularly evaluates its U.S. locations, as well as opportunities outside of its circuit, and makes decisions on a theater-by-theater basis based on what will best strengthen the company going forward," AMC spokesperson Ryan Noonan said in a statement to the Asbury Park Press.
Remaining movie theaters in Toms River area
The closure leaves the Marquee Orchard Cinema on Route 37 as the township's only movie theater. Besides the Brick Plaza 10, there is also the Regal Manahawkin in Stafford Township in Ocean County.
“We’re saddened to see the theaters which have been a great source of entertainment in Toms River for many years close,” Toms River Mayor Mo Hill said in a statement.
“The movie theater industry has been hard hit by streaming services and the COVID-19 shutdowns took a terrible toll on the industry.”
Pandemic struggles for movie theaters in NJ
The theater business struggled in 2020 as theaters were first shut by pandemic mandates and then opened under capacity limits.
The movie studios delayed the release dates of many blockbusters until capacity was closer to normal.
"It's expensive to release a film theatrically. The theaters themselves don't make a lot of money off of it," Rider University assistant professor and filmmaker Jay Stern told New Jersey 101.5.
Stern said movie theaters are a lot like another business affected by pandemic restrictions: shopping malls.
"These huge pieces of real estate taking up a lot of room that were really important for a long time but have been supplanted by other mechanisms. Just like pubic transit once people get off of it during the pandemic it's hard to go back to it," Stern said.
Watching movies at home
People who were not able to go to movies during the pandemic invested in home equipment like sound bars to improve their watching experience.
They will also find most new releases online within a week of their theatrical release, according to Stern.
"It's so much cheaper for the studios to do it that way not having to pay for an ad campaign for theaters themselves. They have much more direct access and you can gauge the reaction because people have to buy something," Stern said. "The middle man has become less important to the distributors."
The movie theater experience can be unique
Movies like "Top Gun: Maverick," which had its release date delayed, was made to be seen on a large screen.
"You're feeling like you're in those planes and hearing that soundtrack it's a visceral experience where the films themselves are made to be served better that way," Stern said. "The studios really have to make a point of doing that and be willing to take that financial risk."
Stern said that cinemas can also draw crowds with different types of theater experiences like serving meals and alcohol or making the screening more eclectic
"Maybe they show older films, new film with an older film. Or certain events where it's fun to be in a crowd with singalongs and the types of things you can't do at home," Stern said.
He said the best way cinemas can come back from the pandemic is to remind people about how special being in a theater can be. He almost cried when he went to a movie theater for the first time in over a year after the height of the pandemic.
"I did not expect the feeling of what it's like to be in a room when the lights go out, I don't have my phone, there are no distractions and I can sit and watch a movie for 90 minutes. Theaters have got to do a good job of communicating that feeling or making more of an event party of it to make it where it's a special event," Stern said.