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Prepared for August 9, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All
The Movies: Garden Theater
As the new breed of movie palaces steadily supplants
the old, the Princeton Garden Theater — long a fixture at the
corner of Nassau and Vandeventer, just across from Princeton
Firestone Library — closed its doors on Thursday, August 3. Yet
there’s light at the end of this particular tunnel. Renovation and
re-opening for the twin-screen cinema is promised by Princeton
the owner of the property, and Theater Management Corporation, which
leases and operates the movie theater, with completion possible in
time for the Thanksgiving and Christmas movie season.
The renovation is expected to keep the theater dark for about 12 to
16 weeks, says Theater Management president Louise Stephens.
the age of the building and the possibility of encountering
conditions once we begin the work, we can make no guarantees as far
as the date when the theater will be back in business," she says.
The extent of necessary work cannot be established until construction
The Garden Theater, originally conceived by a leasing group of
citizens as a place to accommodate the university’s Triangle Club
and other live performances, opened its doors on September 20, 1920,
with a screening of "Civilian Clothes," starring Thomas
The silent film featured a live orchestra and palms and ferns arranged
on the stage. The fabled Triangle Club never performed at the Garden,
and in 1929 it opened its own newly-built permanent home, the
McCarter Theater, named for alumnus donor Thomas N. McCarter, and
upgraded recently with a multi-million dollar renovation. The Garden
was maintained as a movie house by the leasing group, known as the
Princeton Theater Company until 1975 when the Sameric Corporation
assumed control. Sameric turned the facility into a twin theater in
1981, and ran it until 1988, when United Artists then operated the
facility for four years and then let it go dark. The Garden was
by Theater Management Corporation in 1993.
The scope and exact cost of the Garden’s current renovations will
not be clarified until work begins, but Robert Durkee, Princeton
vice president for public affairs, says the university expects to
spend more than $600,000. The renovation will be overseen by two
and one general contractor: Princeton architect George Fett, who has
experience on several area residential, historic, and commercial
New York City architect Robert Strada, who is internationally renowned
for designing interior retail environments; and New York City general
contractor Stephen Ventor, who specializes in movie theater
Structural renovations, such as repairs to the roof and electrical
system, are planned. The project will also significantly upgrade the
movie-going experience by installing new seats, bathrooms, and
"The Garden is an important facility for the university and the
broader Princeton community," says Durkee. "Louise [Stephens]
has done an excellent job in selecting movies and responding to the
interests and special requests of students and student organizations,
alumni, and local residents. But anyone who has sat in the Garden’s
seats or used its restroom facilities knows that the theater is in
need of significant improvement and upgrading. The Garden is not
into a multi-plex or moving into a mall. Its charm is that it will
still be a two-screen, downtown theater — but now it will be able
to offer a degree of comfort that movie-goers have a right to
Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed, who helped get the theater
in 1993, says that having a theater downtown is critical to the people
who live in Princeton Borough. "The residents and the students
need a facility within walking and biking distance from their homes,
so they are not trapped in a situation where they have to drive
miles to get to a theater. The theater at that location also makes
an important contribution to the after-hours liveliness of the
During the past few years, the theater also has played an integral
role in community life by hosting fundraisers, movie premieres, and
special programs for community groups such as the Arts Council of
Princeton and the Eden Institute, and for university groups.
Theater Management Corporation, which operates neighborhood theaters
throughout the northeast, assumed management of the Garden in 1993.
At that time it had been dark since October, 1992, when United Artists
decided it was no longer financially viable. Although the university
and Theater Management have spent nearly $200,000 on the building
over the past seven years, Durkee said "it became clear that we
needed to make a more significant investment to keep the movie house
running, and that the extent of renovation would require temporarily
closing the facility."
— Nicole Plett
Confirm titles with theaters.
disguised as a grandmother protecting a woman from an escaped convict.
screen dedicated to current art films. Mercer.
about a flock of English chickens who want to fly the coop. AMC,
Destinta, Loews, Marketfair.
directs this film about an aspiring novelist with a talent for
whose 8-year-old self doesn’t like what he has become. AMC,
Loews, Marketfair, Regal.
Roman epic drama about loyalty and passion. AMC, Mercer.
Brothers (`There’s Something About Mary’) comedy about a Rhode Island
State Trooper and both his personalities. AMC, Mercer, Regal.
directed by John Woo. AMC, Mercer,
Mercer, Montgomery, Regal.
epic that’s been dubbed `Lethal Musket.’ AMC, Loews,
becomes big screen fiction. AMC, Destinta, Loews,
summer teen horror flicks. AMC, Destinta, Loews, Marketfair,
the iconic 1971 private eye. Mercer.
in a comedy about an ex-bank robber who wants to retire with his wife
(Tracy Ullman). Mercer.
of Hungarian Jews facing the fallout of the postwar Communist legacy.
By director Istvan Szabo (Mephisto). AMC, Regal.
mutants. AMC, Destinta, Loews, Marketfair, Montgomery,
AMC Hamilton 24 Theaters, 325 Sloan Avenue, I-295 Exit
65A, 609-890-8307. 24-screen, stadium-seating. $7; $5 matinees &
Destinta, Independence Plaza, 2465 South Broad Street,
Hamilton, 609-888-4500. Stadium-seating 12-screen. $6.75; $5 matinees.
Loews Theaters, Route 1 South, New Brunswick,
Stadium-seating multiplex. $8.50 adults; $5.25 matinees.
MarketFair-UA, Route 1 South, 609-520-8700. $7.50
adults; $4.75 matinees.
Mercer Mall General Cinemas, Route 1, 609-452-2868.
$7.25 adults; $4.75 matinees.
Montgomery Center Theater, Routes 206 and 518,
609-924-7444. $7 adults; $4.25 matinees.
Regal Cinemas Town Center, 319 Route 130 North, East
Windsor, 609-371-8473. Stadium-seating, 15 screens. $8; $5 matinees.
Corrections or additions?
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