HOWELL TOWNSHIP, NJ – When the Howell Xscape Theater opened just four years ago, it filled a much-needed theater entertainment void in the Howell, Jackson, and Lakewood area. It became an instant success story for families with its huge seats, clean theaters and easy access from most points in those towns. Now, after being closed one full year because of Governor Phil Murphy’s excessive COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on the entertainment and theater industry it is gone forever.
Xscape Theaters owns 7 theater locations in Texas Florida, Ohio, Maryland, and Indiana.
The theater opened in 2016 and was forced to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Last year, theaters in New Jersey were allowed to open with a 25 percent capacity, but Murphy capped the maximum occupancy of the entire building at 150 people. ‘
Major theater companies AMC and Loews both filed for bankruptcy in 2020 and survived the lockdowns, but for small chains and independently owned operators, the pandemic hit hard.
Atlantic Cinemas in Atlantic Highlands has been in business for 100 years. They weathered World Wars and recessions, but could not survive through COVID_19.
Streaming live theater release movies at home during the pandemic has also hurt the local theater industry on top of the fear of COVID-19. People just aren’t going to the movies like they used to.
The Xscape Theater is a beautiful and new theater so there is some hope that another theater chain may have interest in the space.