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The Township Theatre

A Small Town Cinema Reels in the Community

"The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it's as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues."
― Terry Pratchett, "Moving Pictures"

Laura Rose of Mahwah may very well have said the same thing. Growing up, Laura was a student of theater and voice and later majored in television production in college. Throughout her various careers, performance in the traditional sense never transpired—but somehow, she always had a connection to the arts.

When the opportunity arose to operate the Ramsey movie theater, Laura and her husband, Dave, jumped at the chance. "At the time, we owned the Planet Swirl frozen yogurt shop next door. The building owner approached Dave several times, asking for his help to bring the cinema back to life in 2013. We were interested but wanted to see if it was a viable decision, so we ran a Kickstarter campaign. We discovered that our community was passionate about having a local movie theater nearby for families—and willing to support it."

Upon reaching their fundraising goal, they were able to revive and modernize the theater and make a down payment on new digital equipment. "We thanked our supporters with all kinds of rewards, from tickets and concession items to private viewings and on-screen advertising. We fell in love with the movie industry, but we are not movie buffs. We are entrepreneurs. We're not afraid of a challenge, and Dave and I work well together," says Laura.

When the pandemic hit, the owner of the Ramsey building decided to put it up for sale, and the theater's doors were closed. However, in Laura's words, "God closed a door and opened a window." The couple had an opportunity to revitalize the Township Theatre Cinema in Washington Township, Laura's hometown.

"We were limited with the Ramsey location because it was very small with only two theaters," says Laura. "There's a whole different feeling here." Their new site has three theaters, one of which will be used for live events as well as movie showings.

Stand-up comedy shows in Ramsey were just getting off the ground when COVID hit, and the theater had to be closed. "Now, we are getting more opportunities like that," says Laura. The couple is being approached by local film festivals and theater groups interested in events and space to produce and perform.

Future events include professional dinner theater opportunities and murder mystery nights. "We are also hoping to bring in live music like tribute bands and acoustic artists, so we are working on perfecting the lighting and sound systems to make this a reality. We feel that people are ready for a night out, and we are positioned well to provide it. We are hoping to develop some open mic nights as well."

The Theater also accommodates children's birthday parties, private viewings, customer appreciation events, and fundraising affairs. Non-profit organizations can raise dollars by hosting a private event. "Bring in food, a DJ--whatever! Because we are owner/operators, we can make your ideas happen," says Laura. "You can even compile photos and videos to be shared on the big screen at your occasion. We're ADA-compliant, so there's wheelchair accessibility as well."

If you want to bring the fun home, Laura and her staff provide "Movies to Go," which includes an HD projector and sound system, inflatable screen, and accompanying staff for large, outdoor events. They have events booked for several schools and organizations as well as home parties.

In the same way, our restaurants have "taken it outside," Laura hopes to do the same with her theater by projecting movies outside of the facility to help boost neighboring businesses with a "drive-in" type of atmosphere. The Township Theatre offers reasonably-priced on-screen advertising packages for local businesses and corporations.

Playing out her life's story and watching the plot unfold has demonstrated the circle of life for Laura. "My whole life growing up was about theater and voice lessons, says Laura. "It’s not ironic that I’m in the movie industry; It seems my life always comes back around to shows and events.”

Being able to provide the local community an alternative to the mega-theatres on the highway has been rewarding, and it’s led her back to the town where she was raised. “It’s the connection that’s nice. I grew up in Washington Township, and I’m happy to be back.”