A small-town theatre house that has been closed for years and seen better days gets a second chance to breathe new life into a town that needs hope to match its heart.
Sounds like the beginning to a trailer for a sleeper hit, right?
Well, maybe one day the real-life endeavor being taken on by Jared Pietz and Joseph Shirley can be made into one and shown in the very place they are working on re-opening.
Throughout the years since the 1920s, the theatre located on West Westfield Avenue right in the center of town started with the name Park Theatre and went through different monikers. Last known as New Park Cinema, the movie house has since had its marquee used for everything from political campaigns to billboards to impromptu business ads.
“I always wanted to start a business,” the 23-year-old MedForce EMT and Roselle Park volunteer firefighter said while sitting down for lunch and a conversation, “All the other stuff I looked at wasn’t really worth it and I passed by one day and gave a call to the number and it went on from there.”
He got in contact with Jardino Development and expressed interest in proposing a plan for the theatre. There was a get together – a sales pitch so to speak – with the business owner and Mayor Joseph Accardi to find which plan fit in best for Roselle Park from all interested parties. Going up against seasoned and older business interests, Jared was given 20 minutes at the end of the meeting to pitch his idea. He was ready with a business plan and accompanying charts.
“I think they thought of me as a kid but I thought it was worth a try to go ahead with it,” Jared remembered, “Why not? You never know what’s going to happen.”
He won Jardino Development over and got the call the next morning telling him the owner had chosen his proposal over all the others.
Overcoming the odds and the naysayers is just fine with Jared because he knows it is going to be hard work but sees the potential and has the gumption to make it happen.
Giving insight into his plan, Jared spoke of starting out by opening three of the five screening rooms. The first two on the left and the right for Hollywood movies. The center one at the end will have something different. As Jared explained, “That one is going to have live entertainment because it is designed for that. Things such as stand-up comedy, live local bands, high school bands, open mic nights, poetry readings. I’m open to all ideas.”
The most efficient effective use of the theatre is another objective Jared has in mind to make the entertainment complex a staple of the community once again. He is going to set up meetings with the Casano Center and Senior Spirit to see about showing classic films during the day as well as events that would be geared towards the seniors in town. On the other end, he plans to later on use the second floor of the theatre to rent out for birthday parties for little children as well as for use in business meetings and even mini-conventions. Finally, Jared is going to meet with Mrs. Sara Costa – the Roselle Park High School principal – to discuss about having programs and events geared towards the young people in town.
“I’d love to, after the movies are done, do like a game night. One theatre would have PS4 and the other would have Xbox. It’d keep the kids off the street and have something for them to do,” Jared stated, “I want the theatre to cater to everyone in the community.”
Jared and Joseph have known each other through college and when the opportunity presented itself, Jared turned to his friend to provide the other half of a successful theatre – the food and refreshments.
Joseph Shirley’s family moved to Roselle Park when he was 11-years-old. He graduated Roselle Park High School in 2007. Moving to Florida after graduating to do an internship for Disney in Orlando, Joseph moved back and began studying Business and Restaurant Management. Joseph’s family worked in the restaurant business and he got the call from Jared about going in with him to take care of the concessions.
“One thing Roselle Park is known for is our sense of family,” Joseph mentioned, “And our family loves that about it. When Jared wanted to bring us in, we became one big family and want to become a family-friendly place that everyone can go to.”
Joseph added, “Right now, as far as the snack bar is concerned, we’re going to have the old standards – popcorn, soda – but we want to add sandwiches, paninis. and other simple good food.”
The plan is to expand and maybe even combine two of the small rooms in the back into a kitchen to provide a buffet and more dinner-and-a-show style of entertainment.
To that end, Jared and Joseph want to have movie festivals on a regular – maybe monthly – basis where a string of films could be shown, say the Godfather trilogy or the Friday The 13th series of movies , and buffets could be provided so a day at the movies could turn into an event.
Joseph commented, “We want to make sure everyone knows that Park Theatre is going to be a different type of theatre.”
As stated previously, the two of the five screening rooms will be renovated when the theatre opens. Once they are finished, the two that were opened will then have their turn at a major upgrade. The seats and theaters will all be cleaned up when the theatre opens for business but they want people to have a reason to want to come back and providing improvements is the best way to keep moviegoers coming back. Revenues brought in will go back into renovating and, in turn, will generate more revenue.
Jared has even made it a practice to use as many local in-town businesses to invest in the Roselle Park: from the heating company to the carpets to general contractors. The front of the theatre will be given a facelift. The bathrooms will be fixed up and digital projectors will run the films. Jared has even hired an entertainment manager to help set up the schedule of films, and calendar of events. The lease will be signed within the next two weeks, which will remove the ‘For Rent’ sign and get the ball rolling.
The plan is to open between July and September.
“It’s important to have a sense of community and history, that’s why we’re going back to its old original name,” Jared said, even giving significance to the theatre’s history in his own life, “I remember for me, [New Park Cinema] was where I had my first date.”
Jared and Joseph have included in their plans to make people aware of parking that is available around the corner on Chestnut Street and set up arrangements to direct people to them. Joseph even wants to look into finding out if they could designate a safe drop-off/pick-up zone so parents could have their teenage children be able to go to the movies without having to cross Route 28. Joseph said, “Things like that’ll make parents feel more secure and it’ll keep kids in town and have something for them do to.”
Jared understands the task that lays before him and Joseph but he is ready to meet the challenge and succeed. He is also open to communicating with anyone willing to provide suggestions in order to improve the community. He remarked, “I’ll take any ideas under consideration from anyone who wants to help.”
It looks like the message left by a previous election campaign is coming to fruition through the works of Mr. Pietz and Mr. Shirley and family. Working together as a team and with the community, they plan to make Roselle Park even better.
As we ended our conversation, Jared wanted to summarize his thoughts about Park Theatre. He said, “It’s not going to be easy. I know that, but it’s worth it and that’s what counts. I’m not even looking to make tons of money, I just want to succeed and help the community. We want to be part of it. And you figure if you can reach one child from going to the street, it’s worth it.”