Bucks County Herald

Renovated, updated Hopewell Theater offers movies and much more

SUSAN S. YESKE



Cabaret tables are available in the area closest to the stage at the newly renovated Hopewell Theater.

The red carpet was in place and all 176 seats were filled on Sept. 7, when the Hopewell Theater in Hopewell, N.J., opened its doors for the first time since it was renovated and updated.

The circa 1930s movie theater looked much the same outside, but inside it had been rebuilt from the ground up, the project of owners Jon McConaughy, Liza Moorehouse and Mitchel Skolnick.

Initially, the partners thought they would make the theater into a fancy dinner club, Skolnick said. But over the course of the year it took to complete renovations, it evolved into a dine-in theater offering independent films, live music, speakers and performances with a variety of seating options and food from three well-known local food purveyors.

The end result “allows us to be as many things as possible to as many kinds of talent as possible,” Skolnick said.

Tables for four provide cabaret-style seating in the area closest to the stage, with banquette-style sofa seating along the side walls. There also is fixed traditional theater seating behind the tables and upstairs in the balcony, and some seats have counters where theatergoers can place their food while they eat.

A bright new counter in the lobby sells food from three local purveyors: hot macaroni and cheese, paninis and desserts from the Peasant Grill in Hopewell, locally produced charcuterie and cheese plates from the nearby Brick Farm, and ice cream from the award-winning Bent Spoon in Princeton, N.J.

Menus will change seasonally. For those who want something simple, there is popcorn and candy.

Offering food and a dine-in capacity was part of the plan to make the theater as warm and welcoming as possible, said Sara Scully, executive director of the theater. “It is a more intimate, casual setting.”

“We are building a reputation for good acts, good food and a comfortable venue,” said Skolnick. “We want people looking for a night out to think that even if they don’t recognize the name of the movie or the band, they know if they come here they will get good food and a good time.”

The initial list of shows includes a large number of independent movies and up-and-coming musical groups and solo artists. There also are special events that combine a film and discussion or a film and a question-and-answer session with the director.

On Sept. 24, the theater will celebrate Art House Theater Day with the film “Martha & Niki.” A supper club will be offered Oct. 21, along with the film “The Pine Barrens” and a discussion.

The owners see the theater as the perfect location between New York and Philadelphia, and expect to draw artists who are in the area to visit one of the cities. The theater also is available to rent to performing artists, or for events and meetings.

In past incarnations, the theater has served as a first-run movie theater, was owned by Gallup, Inc. the polling company, and was home to the Off-Broadstreet Theater for many years.

The theater is billed as “selectively eclectic.” To see the current schedule visit the website hopewelltheater.com.

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