Beach 4 Theatre

711 Beach Avenue,
Cape May, NJ 08204

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Beach Theatre exterior

The Beach Theatre opened June 29, 1950, with 800 seats and the movie Spencer Tracy in “The Father of the Bride”. It was built by Cape May’s pioneer showman William Hunt. Philadelphia theatre architect William H. Lee won a national architectural award for his design.

Architect William H. Lee was a distinguished theatre architect whose career lasted more than half a century and a variety of styles. Some of the theatres he designed are still showing movies, including the Anthony Wayne Theatre and Bryn Mawr Theatre, on Philadelphia’s Main Line, and the West Shore Theatre in New Cumberland, PA. (closed in February 2018). Converted for live shows and movies are the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg, the State Theatre in Easton, PA (concerts, movies & stage shows) and the Miracle Theatre in Florida now a playhouse. The Landis Theatre in Vineland, NJ has been restored as a concert venue.

The September 20, 1950 Exhibitor magazine stated that ‘The architect blended his design of slender colonial like columns, lace-like balustrade and colonial lanterns to blend with the general mid-Victorian architecture of the resort. Natural wood panelling with exhibits of contemporary artists with an adjacent TV lounge were the special features of the foyer’. Television in the lounge could not actually be seen for another two years, though, as it was yet broadcast in Cape May. Lee included four gas lanterns as part of his revival design.

The large lobby could accommodate 200 people. It had a hand painted mural of the ferry coming into Cape May, and the mural included historic figures related to Cape May. The Hunt family rented space to a candy store. Behind the foyer candy counter, with its quilted leatherette front and glass top, was a comfortable lounge with tables and chairs. Crystal chandeliers hung from the acoustic tile ceiling.

Two eagles with wings spread full dominated the patriotic motif of the huge gold medallion mounted on the green side walls of the auditorium. Throughout the theatre, there was a green and gold color scheme, devised by decorators David Brodsky Associates.

In the 1980’s, the Beach’s auditorium was divided into four auditoriums. The outdoor flower gardens, which had hundreds of beautiful red geraniums, was removed.

Owner Frank Theatres closed the Beach Theatre and proposed demolition. On November 17, 2007 the theatre was reopened by the nonprofit organization Beach Theatre Foundation, Inc. under a one year lease. The foundation sought to purchase the theatre and change it into a two-screen movie house with a large auditorium of 500 to 600 seats, and a screening room with 75 to 100 seats.

In May, 2008. the nonprofit group Preservation New Jersey listed the Beach Theatre in its annual list of the state’s 10 most endangered historic sites. In September, 2009, the theatre closed after the summer season. Frank Theatres again announced intent to demolish the theatre. In 2011, the City Council overruled the recommendation of its own Historic Preservation Commission and took the matter away from the Zoning Board which had been holding hearings on the matter. In September, 2011 Frank Theatres had the auditorium demolished, in order to construct a condo residential building. By October 2019 this had not happened and the auditorium site is used for parking. The entrance, fa├žade & retail units are still there.

Contributed by tc, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 69 comments)

CSWalczak on February 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

The latest episode in the saga of the Beach 4: View link

CSWalczak on May 4, 2011 at 11:32 am

The theater now appears to be doomed; the City Council has overuled the recommendation of its own Historic Preservation Commission and taken the matter away from the Zoning Board which had been holding hearings on the matter. Story here: View link.

HowardBHaas on September 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Sadly, I’ve heard it is being demolished this week, but haven’t verified that info.

shany94 on September 29, 2011 at 8:25 pm

The theatre has been torn down

markp on September 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Article in todays Star Ledger reported that the permit was issued on Monday, and hours later heavy equipment was there tearing it down. Very very sad indeed.

HowardBHaas on October 1, 2011 at 9:45 am

Link to Star Ledger article (though not auto link)

amby_moho on November 1, 2021 at 11:22 am

I used to frequent this theater as a child in the 90s. So sad to learn of its demise.

Mikeoaklandpark on November 1, 2021 at 3:05 pm

The Frank Theater chain was beyond a disaster and horrible company. Once they got their hands on the Ocean City, Wildwood and Cape May theater they ruined them. So glad they went bankrupt

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on November 2, 2021 at 1:29 pm

My impression of Frank Theaters was that by the time they got involved, the theater was already doomed. This always leads me to wonder if it’s better to leave a theater empty and abandoned; or let it have one last hurrah doing what it was built to do, even if it’s painful to witness.

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