The Forum Theater: What's Going On?

| 109 Comments

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 2704397575_d6105ac889.jpgWho hasn't gone riding past this vintage mainstay of Main Street Metuchen and asked themselves, "What's going on here?" An occasional Indian dance recital or piano performance . . . for a theater that was a famous bastion of cultural arts in Central New Jersey, the Forum holds only the secret promise of the future and the fascinating memories of the past. But what about the present? As the redevelopment of Main Street and downtown Metuchen moves forward in 2009, what role will the Forum play?

Owned by Peter J. Loewy, a resident playwright/producer, the Forum was once an actual movie house as well as a performing arts center. Presenting children's programming, sponsoring movie events, offering its stage to various local dance and theater workshops, the Forum provided a fantastic gathering point for the arts in downtown Metuchen. There are rumors that the theater will be split into two parts and become a cineplex for Asian film. Throughout the 2008 Borough Council Campaign, each candidate sadly discussed the high cost of buying the place and making it a working theater once again, one  that would draw visitors from all around the area and help elevate the viability of our downtown.

We are hoping that Mr. Loewy or the present leasee will comment so that we can figure out what's happening here.

109 Comments

On parking -- maybe the Forum can make some kind of arrangement with the pediatrician office next door? They have the parking lot on Amboy & Graham, which is empty exactly when the Forum would need it -- nights & weekends. Seems like a good shared use of the space.

I don't believe parking is really a huge issue. The Halsey Street parking area is in close proximity and I'm sure arrangements similar to the free Saturday parking in the Pearl Street lot could be made for the Forum Performances. It's also quite possible that some type of valet parking could be arranged for those that are unable to navigate the short walk to Halsey Street. The most important thing is the Forum is BACK!

C'mon folks! What a wonderful thing it would be to have an indie arts theater right here in Metuchen! Let's put our petty differences aside for the greater good of the community, its businesses and residents, and work towards a common goal of seeing a genuine art theater in our time.

I agree, the Forum SHOULD be a great venue and downtown Metuchen SHOULD be something similar to Westfield. A major problem though (no surprise to anyone) is traffic congestion and lack of adequate parking.

Thank you Tara for your support. Yes I am bringing children's theatre back to The Forum, Running Rabbit this summer and A Kids Forum will be returning this fall.
I look forward to seeing you on the 14th!

I'm thrilled to learn the Running Rabbit Family Theatre (formerly A Kids Forum) may be returning to the Forum Theatre. We were very sad when they left, having attended most of their shows since we first moved here. There were a few where the real story line went over my young kid's heads, but they still wholly enjoyed the life acting and dancing and most of the shows were just great. Lots of them had laughs just for the adults too which is always appreciated. And we had a very fun birthday party for my daughter there one year. I would also love to see independent and foreign films shown at The Forum, and partnering with the Raconteur. Second run shows for kids of all ages is also a great idea. I'll be at the Forum Town Hall meeting to give whatever support I can! I hope it can be a productive meeting with progressive ideas rather than getting mired down with some of the negative thoughts I read in several of the previous blog entries.

On Thursday evening May 14th at 7PM The Forum Theatre will host a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the future plans for The Forum and it's impact on local businesses in the downtown district, both north and south Main Street.
We are looking for a core of volunteers to assist us in helping us save this historical jewel. Everything from carpentry, landscaping, painting, carpeting to general repairs and refurbishing the marquee.
Anyone interested in helping to bring independent and foreign films as well as children's theatre and concerts back to Metuchen should attend. We would like to hear from everyone.
Let's bring the arts back to Metuchen!
For further info please contact karin@forumtheatreartscenter.com
and visit our website at forumtheatreartscenter.com
We hope to see you at the theatre.

You're welcome.

Thank you very little.

Some people are more sensitive to smells than others.

I haven't been to the Forum since the balcony was accessible, but I do have a smell-story. (Actually, numerous ones, but I'll stick to one.)

When the fitness center at MHS first opened, they had a roof leak. The first time I went in there, I was overwhelmed by the smell of the new rubber mats on the floor. That, combined with the smell of mildew left over from the roof leak, made me want to puke, and I had to leave. Other people were exercising happily.

Instead of insulting others, just be happy your nose is not as sensitive.

Dear Mr. Stench
It was probably what you were wearing. Or the fact you need to shower more often.

I've taken my children there many many times and have always had a wonderful experience. I will definitely return again when it re-opens as I hope many in the community will as well.

I went to The Forum several times but had to stop due to the terrible mold smell which made me sick. I don't know if that could ever be fixed, but until then I imagine I wouldn't return nor would anyone else with this issue.

Thanks for the response.
I simply need their support. I have always tried to stay away from governmental involvement. Many theatres have closed since their funding dropped out from the State and Local Governments. I don't want a bailout, this is a private business after all. I am seeking out anyone who would like to get involved either helping out financially or voluntarily.
I will also work with Alex on producing events.

Is the theatre a 501(c)(3)? Can it be?

Why do you need the council's or freeholders' help? If the government gets involved it will only slow things down.

Seems like your best partner would be the Raconteur and their events. Would be much better than cramming into the store.

Many have commented to me that they would like to see The Forum Theatre once again open it's doors as a performing arts center. It is my intention to do just that. I am looking into refurbishing the existing motion picture and sound equipment, the lighting system as well as a general sprucing up of the interior as well as the exterior. We do however need the help of the Town Council, the community and hopefully the Middlesex County Freeholders.
Several Metuchen council members have expressed a very serious interest in the revival of The Forum. A downtown theatre can and should be an asset to the entire community. Look at New Brunswick, Union or Princeton, all communities that are grateful a performing arts institution is in their town. Right now there are many vacant store fronts throughout Metuchen. That was not the case when the theatre was in it's prime. My intention is to start a grass roots movement to Save The Forum Theatre. Alex Dawson of The Raconteur Book Shop on Main Street survives with the support of patrons he has nurtured over the years. Many of whom travel to Metuchen from out of town. It's time to make Metuchen a destination point, not just a commuter train stop with plenty of parking for commuters and very little for businesses.
We need to support ALL businesses throughout town, not just the theatre but the restaurants and the bookshop in an effort to revitalize what was once a thriving hometown shopping district.
The theatre is looking for help from anyone and everyone that would like to get involved with our mission of bringing stimulating, entertaining and educational programming back to the heart of Metuchen.
We would like to put in new seats, carpeting and bring back the Forum Cafe' for patrons attending performances. All of this takes money and hard work. I know we could not have picked a more difficult time than now to raise money for The Forum but volunteer work and donations are just as appreciated. Historically The Arts have thrived during hard economic times. People need an outlet to forget their problems for a couple of hours. That is my intent as well, to make the Forum an Arts Institution where you can bring your children to a musical, see an Independent Film, enjoy a concert or just laugh at Comedy Night.

My email is pjloewy@aol.com if anyone is interested in getting involved.

With your help I will bring back The Forum as a viable affordable performing arts center the entire community can be proud of.

Thanks
Peter Loewy

There is an article today in the submissions section about the Forum. Take a look at it. I am bringing children's theatre back to The Forum

The closing of the theater had nothing to do with A Kids Forum, which indeed had many sold out performances. It was the adult productions, which were comparatively costly to produce and attend, which were not supported by the community for whatever reason. There may have also been other reasons known only by the owners that the public is unaware of. Regardless, when the Forum was leased out, they stopped producing the family shows. I heard that A Kids Forum was renamed and moved to another theater, but don't know where. We sure miss going as a family to the Forum on Saturday mornings.

I would think if their shows were sold out they wouldn't have closed down.

"Our family found that the rewritten stories were just too confusing for the little children"

If you and your children found the family theater shows at the Forum "confusing," then my guess is that you were both home schooled. A Kids Forum provided the absolute best in family theater. Many musicals were original, written by, directed by, and performed by local artists. What the Forum did not have in production values they made up for in material. The music, lyrics, and books of these original shows were always first rate, providing solid entertainment for children and adults. Moreover, original family musicals were the trademark of the Forum, which was evidenced in many sold out houses which brought in people from the tri-state area. I can remember seeing "The Sword in the Stone," "Pocahontas," and "The Velveteen Rabbit," which starred a very young Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, and thinking these shows were better than what I brought my children to on Broadway. Moreover, they were a fraction of the cost! I'm sorry you and your children did not, or could not, appreciate the efforts of A Kids Forum, but my family did. These shows are greatly missed, and I can only hope the Forum brings them back. Perhaps now that your children are a little older, they can explain the plot to you.

I don't live in Metuchen, but I love that theater. I would love to see good shows at the Forum (particularly musicals, art films/classic films, quality childrens' theatre, and a film and/or theatre reading festivals.) With some imagination, funding and a lot of sweat equity, the place could host childrens' teen and adult theatre classes, a childrens' theatre camp, and adult/teen playwriting workshops. They can also do rentals for dance recitals, kid birthday parties and other events. They could show art films as well as old classics (including old movie musicals).

Do you know that a childrens' theatre company in Parsippany runs a childrens' theatre camp in a Metuchen church? This should be at the Forum. Or perhaps the rec department would offer a summer theatre camp. Perhaps they could partner with the library--bring in people who do a performance at the Forum and a lecture at the library. Where is the nearest community theatre group? I know of groups all over this state that perform in gymnasiums, black boxes, and "floating" venues. They would love to perform in a real theater. Since community theatres are frequently strapped for cash, perhaps they could pay rent through a percentage of ticket sales and a specified number of sweat equity hours refurbishing the theater. It would help improve the venue, bring people back to the theater, and produce income for the theater. There are lots of little restored theaters around the state and around the country that the Forum could use for benchmarking on programming, fundraising, restoration, and more.

I don't know much about Mr. Loewy's business experience, but in my brief freelance employment experience with the theater, (for which I never did get paid) I dealt with his wife. While she was enthusiastic about keeping the theater in business, I did not get the impression she brought much business and/or marketing expertise to the table. It appeared that while he was busy producing one of his shows, she was trying to keep the theater afloat. (That was the summer it closed, which I also found out from the paper, even though I'd been hired to work on two upcoming shows.)

I hope your community can bring this theater back to life. It's a theatre that deserves to survive.

Calm down? The last post on this before yours was over a month ago.

Seems pretty calm to me.

Calm down! What's wrong with people in this town that they need to jump all over each other? Private property or not, we ALL need to look at that empty space and some even have to live near it. Would you see an empty theater like this in Summit? Cranford? Let's expect the best for this town. Forget about the free will of the people.

As a resident of the "Theater District" as we jokingly identify ourselves, we who live on the streets surrounding the Forum, I was thrilled to come upon this discussion today! Furthermore, as one deeply involved in planning the 2009 Junebug, I invite Mr. Loewy to consider developing a program that will be part of that month-long celebration of the Arts; perhaps something that can incorporate some of what has been suggested here, along with a way to exhibit the work of visual artists. To create a genuine Arts Center there would be ideal. I do invite Peter to contact me if he is interested in that possibility.(claysongs@aol.com)

Sure are, but right now the numbers make it tough on the revenues

But boy is it expensive, took my partner the other night, 20 bucks for the tickets, and then got a popcorn and two sodas, was another 17 dollars. Thats right, a popcorn and two sodas 17 dollars, havent been that screwed over by vendors since Woodstock 99 with the 5 dollar waters.

Ouch!

We've been to the Dunellen Theater for a Metuchen boy's birthday party. It would be great to keep the money in our town. I also took my son to see Indiana Jones at the Forum theater (and he was forever hooked on action films). Even if the movies aren't first run, many people have never seen them on the big screen. Maybe older Disney movies during the day for the younger kids/stroller set and Harry Potter and Star Wars marathons for the older kids?

Well, then at least we have determined that 3 people are going out at least, and not everyone is staying home.

The end point is that there are still people going to the movies/shows/restaurants.

For total tickets sold from 2006 to 2007 drop was 1%

From 2007 to 2008 drop was 5% in total tickets sold

I looked at full year attendance numbers, one month with a few big hits in a month that has historically had very few big hits does not make a trend.

And the numbers reported are revenues to Hollywood, there was a 19% increase in in movie product placement too.

If 5 people go to the movie in a month and admission is 5 bucks, thats $25 bucks total. If three people go the next month and admission is 10 bucks, thats $30 total.

Ummm, the numbers say that they had their biggest month ever. Ever. What other numbers do you need to check?

And that is in spite of the fact that movie theaters have been facing tough times over the past few years due to competition from video/DVD/home theater products.

But number of folks going to movies in US is down big time, check the numbers

Gee, I saw on the news last night that Hollywood had its best month ever. January was the first time that the box office has ever been over one billion dollars.

I guess someone is going out.

They are broke just like the rest of us.

Metuchen is surrounded by a town of 100,000 people.

Not too many, judging by the financial results of the malls, restaurants, & movie theatres.

Good times if you do make it out, though. Easy to park and planty of space.

Yes, people still go out. I have been in a Mall/Movies/Restaurants in the past month and there does seem to be people actually in them.

People still go to shows/movies/restaurants?

Most people seem to be sitting at home these days saving thier money. Movie Theatres are empty. Broadway shows are empty. Restaurants are empty too. Heck, even the malls are ghosttowns.

Maybe in a few years when things start to pick up we'll see more activity.....

Metuchen by itself is not big enough to support the Forum. We just don't have that many people living here. Does that mean that Metuchen shouldn't act to support the Forum? What would a vibrant Forum mean to Metuchen?

People don't just go to a movie or go to a show. They eat in the restaurants and then go to a show. They go to other stores before the show. They do quite a few things.

What do you think it would mean to The Daily Scoop if at 3pm, 450 kids walk out of seeing a kids show? What do you think it means to the other restaurants if there are 700 people seeing a show at night?

Just like Yankee Stadium brings in revenue for other business facilities on game night, a strong Forum theater would benefit all of Metuchen business.

Sure, there are problems that need to be addressed, like parking. We can figure it out, can't we? If the answer is no, then I guess we just have to accept the empty buildings downtown.

I am not a resident of Metuchen, however, I have many wonderful memories of seeing many musicals at the Form Theater with my mom. I even had the opportunity to act in one of the children's shows. I would be VERY interested in speaking with mr. Loewy about how we can mount productions in that theater. In addition, my husband and many friends are able to handle remodeling and fixing. My husband built an 18X20 addition onto our house. He is very familiar with dealing with code enforcement regarding permits, etc. as one of the founders of the NJ Renaissance Festival & Kingdom which was located in Somerset, NJ as well as the permits we needed for our addition. I am a part of Dunn-ley Productions and we are looking for a home for our indoor productions.

I can't afford to open a business, but I do shop in the ones that are left.

I don't currently shop in either Princeton or Westfield. Though I did used to like Hulit's shoes in Priceton, if they are even still there.

Holy Cow, have any of you ever shown up to a Council Meeting? Signed up to be part of a Borough Committee, then followed through to attend its meetings?

If everyone in Metuchen put equivalent thought and energy into it's betterment as they do complaining here and in the Metuchen forum, we'd have a vibrant downtown instead of a slice of Beirut in the 1980s.

Instead of spending so much time in Princeton and Westfield, think about walking around Metuchen, or open a business here.

I know people who moved to Princeton and then left because they felt that many of those wealthy old money people were snobs who did not welcome anyone "different."

Who said they were snobs? Just said they have alot of money and very high number of very wealthy people.

So rich old snobs live in Princeton? Good for them. I'd rather live in Metuchen.

Dude are you for real? Not really a matter of opinon at all. Princeton has some of the wealthiest families in NJ living there. Rich, old money. Metuchen is not even in the same league as Princeton. Sorry to burst your bubble.

More successful is a matter of opinion. Where would Princeton be without the college? Just another crappy little town along route 27.

If you dont like people who post anonymously, you don't have to respond to them.

Hey anonymous at least I have the integrity to leave my name with my opinion. Who are you? Council Member? Mayor? Borough staffer? You're right. We should not ask for recommnedations from more successful Boroughs. We should keep doing what we are doing. Nothing.

The town is in the process of examining the parking issue. They got a grant to study it. Of course, the town did the same thing 30 years ago and nothing happened.

I do love BB's logic, though. Prnceton and Westfield aren't the same as Metuchen because even though they both have downtown train stations, ours is more conveniently located than theirs, but we should look to them for advice on how to solve our parking problem.

Do tell us, do you drive to both Princeton and Westfield on your daily trips? Or do you take the train? How far away from your destination do you have to park? Have you ever gotten a parking ticket in Princeton for being one minute late getting back to your car? Do you always park in the deck and walk several blocks to where you're going?

I think it is so sad and something should be done. I am a resident of Metuchen and I would love to walk downtown to see a movie and go out to eat instead of going to movies at the mall.

Many citizens of this town are very involved and want to keep Metuchen as a nice place to live. If you did something appealing to the theater people would come.

Let's stop talking about what we should do and do something!

Councilman Weber?

I have been to Westfield and Princeton daily for the past three years. Yes they have train staions, but they are not as nearly conviently located to their downtown's as Metuchen's is. Why shouldn't we ask for advice on ow to resove the business/parking issues? I would also like to suggest that posters stop using "anonymous" on thier commentaries, just to make sure we all know who's who and perhaps what their interests are. Councilman Weber, are you interested in pursuing the parking issue and the difficulties presented to new and potential businesses or not? Will the Borough contact Princeton and Westfield? Will the Borough contact retailers and actively pursue business and make it attractive for them to come here?

Because when the businesses in our town benefit, our whole town benefits. Quite simple.

I wish the Forum could be a nice concert venue, like the recently reopened Wellmont Theatre in Montclair. I can do with out the crappy kids stuff, had to sit through too many of those and have been to too many "kids" museums. Uggh.

So is it unfair to charge a business a "fee" to help pay for a parking deck when the business can't provide adequate parking for its employees and customers? Why should the taxpayers be burdened with paying for the parking deck when the businesses will certainly benefit from it?

Id like to see more concerts there.

Forget the hipsters and the foreign films, they really don't spend money and how many people are you really going to attract? If you want to make Metuchen and get people to spend money in town, you should make the Forum into a children's museum/learning center. You would attract parents and kids from all over Middlesex. The closest kid's museum is in Paramus or Staten Island and we could use them as models During the day it could be open for class trips and rented out for birthday parties. On weekend nights you could show movies and even have sleepovers like The Museum of Natural History. I would also think you would be able to get federal and private funding.

Every town's building dept. operates on fees, it's not just Metuchen.

As I recall in the proposal for the bike shop that was turned down, the ground floor tenant was a mortgage company. Ooh, exciting. That would really be a draw.

Could the Forum be profitable showing movies? I mean new releases - not only foreign/art. Or is it that there isn't enough parking? Seems there are lots of teens around who might go, and maybe would be allowed to, especially if a car wasn't involved. And then also there are those of us in the stroller brigades looking for kids' movies. I guess its hard to compete with the big cineplexes.

Metuchen over the last 14 years has been extremely unfriendly to business. When some businessess expressed an interest they were told that it did not meet their vision. The answer was no. Ask the former Metuchen Bike Shop owners,whay happened to their potential buyer. The new parking study wants to charge a potential business owner $20,000.00 per parking spot. They want the business owners to pay for the parking deck. They require so many parking spots. If it is 10 spots, that could be extremely expensive for the business owner.

Also look into how the Borough does business,the building dept. operates on fees,they will fee you to death,from Planner costs,lawyer fees,engineer fees and on an on.

Have you been to Westfield? Their train station is in the business district, and Westfield's business district is much larger than Metuchen's. Princeton's is a few blocks away from Nassau St. I've walked it.

no we don't have a university across the street, and neither does Westfield. We do have a train station smack in the middle of downtown, unlike either Westfield or Princeton. People come from surrounding towns to shop in Princeton and Westfiled, it is not just thier local residents. Councilman Weber, since you are participating in this blog, why can't you take this information and as president of the council pursue these issues. If its been years since we talked to Princeton and Westfield, isn't it time we do it again? Why hasn't the parking issue been pursued and addressed after all these years. I think it is easier for the zoning commission and the planning comission to say no to businesses and projects. Saying no is easy. Saying yes requires creativity, flexibility and vision. The theater and the rest of downtown will continue to die unless and until the Borough takes steps to encourage business and foot traffic. Maybe instead of using a Rutgers urban planning groups ideas from the 1970s as our guide, we need to talk to more successful boroughs and entrepenurial businessmen and expert for advice.

That sentence in the Master Plan from 1983 is irrelevant. If we were still following that, the Renaissance project would never have been approved. The idea that the population of Metuchen is the problem with the viability of our retail stores is only partly true. We are never going to have a captive audience of hundreds of walkers like college students. But we are surrounded by a town of 100,000 people. People need to be able to get in and out of town quicker and have a place to park. The town has been talking about having a parking deck since it seized properties from homeowners on Pearl Street in the 1960s. We're still waiting.

Stop comparing Metuchen to Princeton. Princeton is a college town, Metuchen isn't. Princeton has hundreds of students who have no cars who walk to their downtown.

Councilman Richard Weber responds:

I agree that more needs to be done to attract stable businesses to Metuchen. One of the things that stands in the way of continued development is the parking problem. The Mayor and the Borough Council are keenly aware of the demand for parking in town by both commuters and downtown businesses and are currently working to come up with viable solutions such as the construction of a parking structure. Once we have a place to put cars, we can concentrate on further development which will hopefully sure up the downtown as a destination for the local area. If the Forum were to reopen as a venue for live theatre, films or literary events I would hope that I would add to a vibrant new downtown. Citizen involvement is always welcomed and I would encourage the residents who have offered their opinions on this issue to participate in future planning sessions.

Richard E. Weber, Jr.

When I stated that "the community should partner with Mr. Loewy", I meant that the residents of Metuchen and the Council should collaborate with Mr. Loewy in reviving/reinventing the Forum, not necessarily "partner", as in business partners. I would imagine that fiscally having a stake in the theater would be tricky.

In exchange for volunteer efforts to restore the Forum -anywhere from the actual refurbishment of the theater, producing shows, "partnering" with some local business to offer "dinner/theater" packages, soliciting patrons, etc., the community would gain the cultural venue we want the Forum to be transformed into - no "fiscal strings attached". It's a WIN-WIN - we all stand to benefit. Never underestimate the power of volunteerism...

A few years ago the town did talk with Westfield and Princeton, I think the Princeton mayor even cam here to discuss parking. It was back a little so I can't remember, but I think their suggestion was a parking deck. Did the town not like that idea or was it money?

Has Loewy suggested the town is "in his way"? He wants money to perform his shows.

Theaters in Princeton work for a lot of different reasons, one is that they show stuff people actually want to see. Another way theaters have managed to stay open is be creative like they were in Dunellen. And the Dunellen guys weren't even that creative. A lot of theaters across the country use a version of that model.

It's very difficult to sell live theater. Our proximity to New York and even to New Brunswick make it more difficult for Metuchen. The are plenty of options for live theater in this area.

Again though, he owns it so he has a right to let it rot.

If you want to save the theater, you have to save downtown. If you want to save downtown, you have to open it up to parking and businesses. Be flexible. Simple as that. Increased foot traffic helps all the merchants. A rising tide lifts all boats. If you don't know how to approach the retailers to ask them to come here, have the humilty to contact Westfield and Princeton and find out how they did it.

Why does government need to have ownership of the building before it will offer any kind of assistance? Why is the only assistance offered money? How about getting out of the way of business owners and potential business owners. How about dealing with the parking situation, and not being subjugated to the rulings of the Parking Authority. How about making it easier to start a business in Metuchen, and I don't mean just making a new nice brochure about how to start a business here. How about tax breaks for new businesses. How about courting the businesses that are currently leaving Menlo Park Mall because the rents and commissions charged by the Mall are too expensive. Why not attract them here? Don't tell me they won't come. Princeton is surrounded by several attractive malls and still manages to have a bustling downtown with several national retailers in addition to their mom and pop stores. It seems our representatives only talk in terms of one time grants or loans, but never in terms of modifying their own behavior to make Metuchen a more attractive and supportive business environment. We are wonderful about asking for money from the State. We are terrible about encouraging business.

Councilman Richard Weber sent Metuchen Matters this comment:

I read Peter Loewy's response to your article about the Forum Theatre. He seems to blame the Borough Council for the demise
of the theatre, despite the fact that it is privately owned and
privately run. I have always been a supporter of the arts, and
would have tried to secure the Borough's support for any plan to
keep the theatre viable, however, during my last six years on
the Council, Mr. Loewy never once approached me about this
issue. In fact, when the theatre closed, the Mayor and members
of the Borough Council learned about if from the newspaper. I do not know if there is any precedent for a private-public partnership with a business in Metuchen, but I am confident that with Borough or County support the theatre could have remained open. (Of course, if the Theatre were to accept monies or grants from a government body, it would take those monies with “strings attached”.)
Lastly, I believe that at some point before I became a member,
the Borough Council channeled federal block-grant monies to the
theatre to upgrade the bathrooms to make them LAD compliant.

Richard E. Weber, Jr.

Exactly right, it isthe outdated Master Plan. The parking restrictions or requirements are difficult. More parking is needed. The Planner and his vision for Metuchen is killing Metuchen.

Is that all he's asking for, a trash can and a light?

You have to read more than the zoning ordinances to understand the problem. Read the "Master Plan". Its also on the Borough's website.
In 1983 the Borough commissioned a study from something called the "Rutgers Urban Design Studio". They published a report called "Metuchen 2000" and made several recommendations which were incorporated into Metuchen's Master Plan. The Master Plan has to be reviewed and or revised every six years. In the Master Plan Re-examination in 1983, they wrote, "Further retail development in Metuchen is inadvisible unless the resident population increases. If new retail activities were introduced through redevelopment of peripheral areas, they could, unless carefully restricted as to type of use, draw shoppers away from the Main Street stores." The philosophy has always been to restrict development with the idea of protecting the mom and pop stores. The reality is to keep the mom and pop stores you have to draw from other communities to shop here as well, and you need to offer more than nail salons and dry cleaners to do that. Furthermore, the Master Plan continues, "potential traffic impacts from and parking requirements for extensive retail development could be overwhelming to the downtown". Potential new businesses having to show there is available parking for their customers, yet the Metuchen Parking Authority does not make more or enough parking spaces available from the commuter lot to the downtown retailers. Metuchen government stands in the way of new business. Like it did with the supermarket. Like its doing with the sports complex. Unless this inflexible climate is changed, be prepared to watch more downtown businesses fail.

There is a difference between the town investing in a local business and supporting a business. I wouldn't call getting a trash can placed or allowing a light post investment, just common sense.

Where the town can make it easier for business, it should.

The code is online. It's easy to check.

It does not restrict chain stores or franchises. It does, however, prohibit fast food and drive in restaurants, most of which are chains or franchises, which may have led to the confusion.

better check on that. The council has full control as to who does business in this town. Actually it is the Mayor.

There is no restriction against franchises.

I think it would be dangerous for the town to "partner" with Loewy unless they get significant control. The theater would need to be used for something that would benefit the community and/or be a successful business. Not just a blank check so he can have a venue for his plays.

I think he had really wanted to he could have found a way to keep the theater open. I don't think that interests him as much as having a venue for his own work. He does own it, so he has every right to just let it sit there until someone can fund him.

I agree that the community should partner with Mr. Loewy to revive this gem of a theater. With the community and the new council's support, the Forum might just be resurrected into the cultural center we all would like it to be. My uncle chairs the board of Friends of Loew's - a volunteer organization dedicated to revitalizing the historic Loew's Theater in Jersey City. It's been an uphill battle for them to get support, but slowly they've been able to attract more patrons. Beck had a concert there a couple of years ago and they screen a lot of classic films and have film fests every now and then. I vote that we organize a group similar to Friends of Loew's (Friends of The Forum ? - you guys can come up with a better name) that will work towards the restoration/renaissance of the Forum. The Forum definitely deserves a "second act".

There's also a site whose purpose is to preserve and restore old theaters all over the country - www.cinematreasures.org. Could be a useful resource.

There is a restriction against franchises, that may include chain stores. Metuchen has always discouraged name brand stores and restaurants. They tried to maintain some type of utopia here in Metuchen. They had their own personal vision. It failed miserably. No supermarkets allowed, oh yes they have asked the developer of the old Stop & Shop site for a grocery store about 15,000 square feet. What kind of supermarket is that. No wonder no supermarkets are interested. They in affect zoned them out.

There is no restriction against chain stores.

Its all about protecting their kingdom, and retaining their perceived power that fuels their deomcratic ego's. They must have the power in Metuchen to do what they want,not the people.

Why dont we change the zoning in Metuchen to allow chain stores to operate here, like in Westfield, like in Princeton. That would increase foot traffic in the mom and pop businesses and perhaps at the theater are well. We need to attract more than Metuchenites for these concerns to thrive, and we have to promote a business climate that permits it. We don't need any more nail salons, dry cleaners or convience stores. Stop looking for government cash to pay the bill for the theater, that won't save it, and it won't save downtown either. Take off the onerous zoning restrictions that keep us shackled to a shabby little downtown.

It is possible. Mayor O'brien was never friendly to business ,he drove most business from town. The only business or developer that he supported was the new Renaissance Project. Ask any business owner,any landlord downtown, even ask the Chamber. He was not business friendly. But thank goodness he is gone. Mr. Lowey should approach the new more friendly council,he might get somewhere.

I love Teri's suggestion about involving the community. If one of the things standing between our town and the Forum as a viable entertainment venue is refurbishment, I'm sure there are many craftspeople in town that would be happy to barter their expertise to help with those issues. And I can think of about ten people off the top of my head, myself included, who would love to help you find the money to refurbish the projection room so that the Forum could once again offer film series. If Metuchen is really serious about being a "brainy boro," then let's put our brains in high gear and help the Loewys in useful and productive ways to make this something we can all benefit from.

The Forum theatre is a treasure! It is so sad to see it in its current state. I grew up going to $1.50 matinee movies and then bringing my own children there to see Mr. Ray and ballet recitals as well as children's productions. We enjoyed them all.

I also think that the idea of having a community outreach for skilled craftspeople to assist in the refurbishment in return for advertising is a great idea.

Having a vibrant theatre that shows foreign and independent films, as well as children's productions is a great idea. I also recall at one time there was a coffee small shop attached as well.

Metuchen has the potential to become a smaller version of Montclair in terms of culture and arts. We have the train, the restaurants, and interesting and talanted people who care.

I agree with most of what has been said. One thing I think might help is that the children's plays, our family found that the rewritten stories were just too confusing for the little children. They were expecting one story and didn't know what to make of the new, sillier version. Older children might have liked it but I don't know how many older children would be there to see something like Beauty and the Beast. Maybe only my opinion.

Oy, what's the problem attracting a 60+ jewish patron? That's the group who have kept theater alive forever!

Mr Loewy, I can't imagine how difficult it's been trying to keep an old theater afloat in the midst of technology-based entertainment while down the road in one direction is New Brunswick and the other is Broadway. Especially, as you say, without support from borough hall. But maybe now is the time to try again? Can we assemble a panel of interested people to brainstorm some ideas? Councilman Manley is on your side and I know Councilman Morrison is a HUGE supporter of the arts and is a very nice and smart guy. Others on the council may be very supportive too - I just haven't had the opportunity to hear them express their feelings. Alex Dawson has a very good sense of building excitement among the art community. There are talented carpenters and electricians in town, perhaps they could be given a special sponsors package of benefits to the theater for their help in sprucing-up the place? Maybe someone can also help get an online ticket purchasing feature to a Forum Website to make doing business easier? A neat coffee shop, a place to stay and chat after a show? Art movies, foreign films, romance packages? So many things that might help. Just some ideas. Metuchen Matters would do whatever we could to help with promotion.

Oh SNAP.

I do want to thank Councilman Manley, who I did support, for his comments. I am hopeful that the new council members have the imagination to move the town forward.

I have tried for 23 years to make The Forum Theatre a place where the community could gather for children's productions, mainstage productions, concerts and films. For the person who said we "appealed to 60 something Jewish people" I really don't believe you attended many if any productions at The Forum. We appealed to ALL audiences. Robert Klein shot his HBO special at the theatre, Rob Bartlett from Imus In The Morning performed at the theatre, we did Nunsense not 1 but 3 times over the years, Doo Wop Concerts, Al Stewart to name just a few. A Kids Forum was a place children were introduced to the magic of live theatre for the very first time and grew up loving the shows we presented. Parents also loved the type of irreverent and comic children's productions which was our trademark.
We have never been supported by the Metuchen Borough Council. Look at New Brunswick? They have restaurants, a vibrant arts community which, as we did, brings thousands into the town and boost the downtown district. Any town in the U.S. would be happy to have a performing arts center. Mayor O'Brian had absolutely no business experience, nor did most of the council. I don't think any of them every owned a business, had to maintain a property or meet a payroll.
There are at least 7 stores on Main Street that are vacant. There is no plan, that I can see to revitalize Main St. let alone South Main Street where the theatre is located. There has been much talk over the years with no results. It took forever to get the town to place a garbage can in front of the theatre. They said NO on a lamp post.
It is very difficult for a business to survive in this town without some imagination and vision, which is what the borough has always lacked.
I always hear that "Metuchen should be like Westfield" I agree. However you need the right politicians fighting for a vibrant downtown district. My dream, when I started The Forum Theatre was to develop a cultural center in Metuchen. It can still happen. We need the support of the town as well as those that we elected to office.
They have the Tax thing down, now let's reinvent the town with a beautiful and busy downtown district sooner, rather than later.

When the theater was put up for sale a few years ago I looked to purchase it and do something like they do in Dunellen. The price they were asking was way too high for the business model I thought could work. I also got the feeling they were not very interested in selling. It seemed they were really looking to lease.

If you could work out the logistics of getting pizza and other food in (the theater in Dunellen is owned by a bar/restaurant that is next door so it's easy for them) the idea could really work, our downtown is much nicer than theirs.

There is a similar kind of old movie theatre in Madison that shows foreign films, and people come from all over to see them. Heck, we drive up there from Metuchen! So if the Forum regularly showed foreign films and got a name for itself doing that, people would come from far away. What a great evening...dinner in one of Metuchen's restaurants, followed by coffee and a movie at the Forum.

That is a fantastic idea! We could definitely use an 'art house' for great independent or foreign films or classic films. The Raconteur used to help program events like that and I'm sure Metuchen Matters would do what they could to help out, too. There was a place in Durham, NC, which had two theaters, one live performance space and a video store in an old warehouse about the same size as the Forum. And the Forum needs work, they don't need to build stuff from scratch, to make the area presentable and safe. It is an idea whose time has come, especially when we're all looking for entertainment close to home. I don't want to go to Montclair or New Brunswick or Princeton for culture--I'd love some right here in our town!

Even when it was open it hosted plays that appealed to 60 something year old jewish people and thats it. When my kids were small we took them to one or two childrens shows, but thats it. There were never any shows that made me want to go there.As far as I can tell the owners have never tried to do anything to make the place attractive to the surrounding community. Why not try showing "art house" or foreign movies? Have a coffee bar inside with tables on the street? Think outside the box guy! And now it is leased to a concern which uses it once every three months? Is that supposed to be a slap in the face to the people of Metuchen?

Thanks for the feedback and keep it coming! I have heard over and over again about the Dunellen Theater and how it should be a "no brainer" in Metuchen. Seems like a great idea to me. Are there others?

There is an absolute need for a family-oiented entertainment place like the Dunellen Theater. And having one closer to home, and with the right programming, well, that could be a real moneymaker!!

What about doing what they've done at the Dunellen Theather Cafe? We love going there -- and would love to have one here. And with the close proximity to Vinnie's and plenty of other pizza places -- they could serve food, too.

If you build it, they will come . . . by whatever means necessary!

What about doing what they've done at the Dunellen Theather Cafe? We love going there -- and would love to have one here. And with the close proximity to Vinnie's and plenty of other pizza places -- they could serve food, too.

Very good. What Metuchen needs is a cheerleader. We need somebody who will sell Metuchen. It is a wonderful community and has much to offer. The potential is tremendous. More needs to be done in exposing Metuchen. Restaurants, Train Station, Proximity to New York and the area. The train is a big factor and needs to be capitalized on.

I think proximity to the train is a huge advantage and does lessen the need for parking. My family does take the train to New Brunswick for shows - the kids love it.

The Forum could also host concerts/events that target Rutgers students to get them coming here by train. The ride is only $1.25 and less than 10 minutes. And then you also start marketing Metuchen as the place they want to live when they graduate and "settle" down -- close proximity to their alma mater and to the city.

People "could" come by train, but they won't. When I talk to people who attend shows or go to restaurants in New Brunswick, they don't take the train, they drive.

How about some type of dinner theater, live shows, comedy acts,local talent, eat & drink while being entertained. With the close proximity to the train station, you would think it would be marketable. People could come by train , similar to shows they atttend in New York. Parking would not be a big issue.

What does the community want to see the Forum become? I believe that the market dictated that it wasn't fully satisfied with what was being presented. As a result the fiscal situation became too difficult to proceed on that course. I would suggest though that this shouldn't be a fully market based analysis because there is inherent value in the Arts that needs to be supported through other funding mechanisms besides just ticket revenue. I do not know what is available but am certainly willing to look into it from a governmental perspective.

That all being said, I would love to hear people "sound off" on this issue to help give the leaders of Metuchen some ideas to suggest to the owners. I heard a bunch of suggestions during the campaign but would like to hear more. I have memories of going to see movies at the Forum as a kid. I very vividly recall seeing "The Natural" there with my mother and best friend. My daughter's first dance recitals were there and my son sang on stage with the famous Mr. Ray. I will do all I can to help but it is going to take all of us moving in concert (pardon the pun) to bring it back to life.

The place has issues - like the unsafe balcony and the lack of parking.

What was there to support? Five, six musicals a year? The owners have every right to do whatever they want, it's just sad to see it sit there so unused.

Blame? Wasted? How about you blame the citizens of Metuchen for not supporting it when it was open? Metuchen's greatest asset? Its private property, the owner can do what they wish with it.

It's hard to know where to place blame here, although someone should definitely get it. The Forum might be Metuchen's greatest asset, it shouldn't be wasted.

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