Board Considering Plan for "Golden Age" Theater in Westwood
Ray Walsh was inspired to open a revival house movie theater in Westwood after he saw a silent film from 1924 that was shot in the borough.
Movies from "the golden age" of cinema may be coming to a new theater in Westwood, if an application for a use variance is approved by the Westwood Zoning Board.
Ray Walsh, a retired employee of the New York Giants who lives in Ramsey, said opening the theater was a personal "bucket list item" stemming from his love of classic movies. If the plan is approved, he will open up a 96-seat theater in a former law office at 312 Kinderkamack Road. The "revival house" theater would show movies, mostly from the 1930s and '40s, twice a night from Wednesday to Saturday each week.
"I'm talking Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne-type things," Walsh said.
Board attorney David Rutherford said the board would need to consider the "inherent nature" of the theater use when granting a variance, but noted the small size of the site was "self-limiting."
Brian Chewcaskie, an attorney representing the application, said the theater would not be showing pornography or competing with Pascack Theaters by showing first run movies.
"This is not a nefarious theater," Chewcaskie said.
Walsh previously ran a similar 50-seat theater with some friends in Ridgewood. When he was looking for a location for his new theater, Walsh said he was reminded of Westwood a few years ago at a film festival in upstate New York, where he saw the 1924 silent film The Speed Spook, which was filmed and set in the borough.
According to the orginal New York Times review, the movie "is a species of modernized 'Headless Horseman' being concerned with the activities of a mysterious, driverless automobile which periodically plunges through the streets of Westwood at amazing speed, turning corners with uncanny ease and rapidity and eluding the Sheriff by suddenly disappearing in a country lane."
Walsh said the movie wasn't very good, but Westwood stuck out because the upscale downtown area is similar to his old location in Ridgewood.
"I just like the whole layout of the town," Walsh said.
Before Walsh can proceed, he will need aproval from the zoning board. Members had some questions about the renovations to the site, which will include some minor work to the building's exterior and parking lot. The interior of the building will also be split into three sections. Besides the theater, there are plans for a dry cleaner and a medical office for the site.
If the plan is approved, the theater will be a unique business in the area.
"You have to go into New York City if you want to see an old picture," Walsh said.
The hearing is scheduled to continue at the board's August 6 meeting.