There is a movement to restore and revive “main streets” in towns large and small throughout the entire United States. One only needs to look at places where revitalization has been successful to realize that a theatre is the focal point, providing the necessary anchor for success. In our area, the Delaware Valley, we find the Majestic in Gettysburg, the Colonial in Phoenxville, the County in Doylestown, the Keswick in Glenside, the Ambler in Ambler, the Anthony Wayne on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne, the Bryn Mawr also on Lancaster Avenue, the HiWay in Jenkintown, and the Bala on Bala Avenue and City Line Avenue. All of these are on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. One finds much less interest on the New Jersey side, although there are some encouraging signs. Broadway in Pitman is seeing a rebirth thanks to the completely refurbished and restored Broadway Theatre. Peek at the Broadway’s outstanding website: Broadway to get a taste of what a real performing arts/film schedule looks like! Millville is soon to follow with expectations of a gala reopening of the restored Levoy Theatre later this year. (to celebrate the Levoy’s 100th!) (Levoy) Studies are underway for the restoration and redevelopment of the Opera House/Rialto Theatre in Woodbury, and most recently, Vineland joined the list to have a restored showplace anchor its main street redevelopment! (The Daily Journal)
Now let’s look at another former South Jersey entertainment capital, Camden County; once home of the Stanley Theatre, Savar Theatre, Towers Theatre, Chubby’s, the Latin Casino, and many other important live and film venues. They’re all GONE! And, if we’re not careful, we could lose our last opportunity to provide all residents of Camden County with a first class performing arts/film center with easy access throughout the County, and Philadelphia as well! On Haddon Avenue, in the Westmont section of Haddon Township, sits “The Grand Old Lady,” the WESTMONT THEATRE. This historic building is centrally located between Collingswood and Haddonfield, is served by several bus routes, the PATCO rail line, and also offers easy access by automobile. It can seat 1300 theatre-goers, has a balcony complete with restrooms, and most importantly, a full stage complete with orchestra pit as well as a fly loft capable of handling most traveling Broadway shows and operas. Of course it also has a projection room ready to handle all modes of theatrical projection and spotlights!
All that is needed is a vision, foresight, and of course financing! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Camden County Freeholders could have the bold and forward thinking to become involved in this project as actively as they did the with the failed “arena concept” at the Pennsauken Mart location? Haddon Township does have a “request for proposals” out for developers for this historic theatre. Let’s hope and pray that that this last majestic entertainment center can be saved to serve all of us once again!
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT AND CHECK OUT THE LINKS IN MY POST TO SEE HOW OTHER TOWNS ARE REVITALIZING THEIR “GRAND OLD LADY’S”