By Joan Slowey Dellet ~
If you’re a movie fan, you know there is no shortage of theaters at the Jersey Shore to see the latest blockbuster in 3D on an IMAX screen while lounging in a recliner.
But if your taste in movies runs more towards smaller releases, documentaries or foreign films, you owe it to yourself to check out The Showroom Cinema in Asbury Park, a gem of a theater that strives to create an environment that honors the movie going experience.
Owners Nancy Sabino and Mike Sodano came to Asbury Park in 2009 after hearing that the town was experiencing a renaissance. Impressed with what was happening downtown, they resolved to be part of the rebirth and opened the first movie theater in Asbury Park in over 30 years. Starting in a storefront on Cookman Avenue with a single screen and patio furniture as chairs, they discovered there was great interest in the kind of movies not readily available at the local multiplex. Nancy and Mike found that serious movie fans were willing to travel, even from out-of-state, to view a smaller independent film not showing anywhere else.
As the demand for independent films and their fans increased, Nancy and Mike looked to grow their business. After staring at the empty building across the street for three years, they finally decided to buy it and expanded to three screens. With the advent of Netflix, they strove to create a welcoming environment and deliver a movie going experience you couldn’t get locally. Being a small business in a small town is tough but Asbury Park’s premier Art House offer an exclusive form of entertainment differentiated by the customer service, the unique concessions and, of course, the distinctive films.
Each of the three theaters offers an intimate viewing experience. While the largest theater holds up to 75 in fixed theater chairs, a smaller room features only 25 seats. The most intimate of the Showroom’s theaters is located upstairs and comes equipped with 12 moveable club chairs. In addition to screening the latest films, this room is can also be used for receptions of up to 35 people. Always looking for different uses of their space during daytime hours, the room has been used for private movie parties, brunches and engagement parties in addition to business meetings, where a company can partner with local restaurants for a meeting and lunch.
Another aspect that makes the Showroom unlike your typical movie going experience is their concessions. In addition to offering the usual popcorn and soda, many of the concessions are from local vendors and feature gluten-free and vegan options you won’t find at the big theater chains.
The Showroom has become a destination for serious cinephiles who come for a particular movie and then stay to explore the rest of the burgeoning downtown. Nancy and Mike often get movie suggestions from their customers – suggestions they can take because of being independently owned.
Being part of the Asbury Park community is imperative to Nancy and Mike. Currently, they have the Dinner and a Movie deal with MOGO Korean Fusion Tacos on Wednesdays. They also have an agreement with Brando’s restaurant on Main Street who offer a free glass of wine or dessert with a ticket stub. Partnering with Paranormal Books, also on Cookman Avenue, the Showroom has also initiated “Horror Church” at 11am on Sundays showing horror classics.
What it comes down to is the kind of movie viewing experience you want. Viewing a movie on your phone will never compare to enjoying a movie on a big screen the way they were meant to be seen. Being part of a shared experience and being able to discuss it afterwards is why Nancy and Mike insist that #moviegoingmatters.
The Showroom is located at 707 Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. To find out more about the theater and which movies are currently playing, go to www.theshowroomap.com or call them at 732-502-0472.