While construction continues on the Ventnor Square Theatre, the same developers continue to expand their growing network of movie theaters.
Brett DeNafo, along with his business partners Clint Bunting and Scot Kauffman, now plan to renovate the Tilton 9 Theater and IMAX in Northfield.
The developers finalized an agreement this week with Max Gurwicz enterprises, the company that owns the building and operates the shopping center.
“The movie-going experience here in South Jersey is about to change, and we are very excited to be a part of this venture,” Executive Mitchell Gurwicz wrote in a statement.
DeNafo said the building became available after Frank Theatres vacated the property. Frank Theatres filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy over the summer.
This isn’t the first time that DeNafo has followed the path left behind by Frank Theatres. He and his partners purchased the Ventnor theater from Bruce Frank and settled on the property in August.
Frank Theatres also owns Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township, which is currently still open. The company could not be reached for comment.
DeNafo, who was also the driving force behind the revitalization of a theater in Stone Harbor, plans to keep the IMAX and upgrade the building’s interior.
All seven regular theaters in the Tilton will be outfitted with reclining chairs.
DeNafo said the building is already in good condition and won’t need the same level of restoration as the Ventnor theater.
“There were so many moving parts in Ventnor when the Tilton is already a theater,” DeNafo said.
DeNafo plans to have the theater, to be known as the Tilton Square Theater and IMAX, open by the beginning of March.
“We want to get that open because we don’t want to lose our train of thought on Ventnor. We want to try to get this done in the next month or so and then get back to Ventnor again. Because by then Ventnor will be full speed ahead,” he said.
After a lengthier planning process that included applying for a liquor license, work on their Ventnor project continues, DeNafo said.
City officials said having a theater in Ventnor will rejuvenate the neighborhood and serve the community.
Millie Davaila, who lives a block away from the theater on Hillside Avenue, said she saw movies at the old theater in the 1980s.
“It has the same location, the same format that it had, so I’m very excited,” she said.
Davaila, who has a 19-year-old daughter, said she’s eager to have these kinds of memories continue for the next generation.
“The teenagers need that just as much as us adults,” she said.
A site plan approved by Ventnor officials Dec. 12 shows developers plan to revamp all three levels of the building while also staying true to its historic Art Deco origins.
The Tilton theater will feature an upgraded snack bar while the Ventnor theater will house a restaurant along with its three theaters.
The main theater in Ventnor will hold almost 300 people and two smaller theaters will hold about 80 each.
Neighbors support the theater, but hope the city will work to find a solution such as residential parking spaces or permits.
If everything continues according to plan, DeNafo said, Ventnor Square Theatre will open after the Tilton at the end of May.