TOMS RIVER – Theater goers had the choice of seeing Back to the Future III, Glory, Pretty Woman, Driving Miss Daisy, House Party, Hunt For Red October, Fire Birds, Cadillac Man and Bird on A Wire when the Loews Seacourt 10 opened to the public in 1990.
You could also enjoy trailers of upcoming films like Dick Tracy, RoboCop II and Total Recall at that time but the 32-year-old township theater located on Hooper and Bay avenues will be showing its final films on August 21.
That will leave the Marquee Orchard Cinema on Route 37 as the only theater left in Toms River which once boasted four operating cinemas at one time.
The theater’s management told callers that the staff will be moving to the Brick location and the lease is up in the plaza. Searching the website’s movie listings, there are no movies listed for August 22 in Toms River, but the movie schedule is up for the same day in Brick.
A call to the management company to see what – if anything – will replace the theater was not returned at press time.
The 40,000 square-foot, 10-screen theater was a state-of-the-art facility for film fans and an anchor attraction for the 220,000 square-foot Seacourt Pavilion which started being built in the fall of 1987. Early in its history the $60 million shopping center featured an Old Country Buffet restaurant conveniently based near the theater, a coffee shop and on the other side of the complex, a popular comic book store.
The theater fended off competition from the nearest movie theater which was close by in the Ocean County Mall on the same street. The mall-based cinema didn’t feature as many theaters and closed several years ago to be replaced by a Japanese restaurant.
Theaters like the Dover Cinema off Lakewood Road in Toms River changed format from a first release theater to a dollar theater screening films that had been released for a while before it vanished completely when that shopping center had revamped itself. There had also been a $2 theater for second-run movies on Route 37. The TRACO theater operated recently downtown, borrowing the name of a theater that had been owned by another company decades ago.
On May 25, 1990 the Loews Seacourt 10 opened their doors. It featured seating for 3,500 viewers and had two food concession areas. Only one, in the front of the theater, has been utilized for many years. The plaza was built by the Kaplan Organization based in Edison Township and the theater and stores were designed to bring some central/north Jersey flavor to Ocean County and provide some competition to the Ocean County Mall.
The shopping center’s theater was at the time, the first major expansion for Tri Star Pictures of New York in the Ocean-Monmouth counties market after it had purchased Loews and Music Makers Theaters Inc. of Lakewood in October of 1986.
Movie theaters have faced their share of challenges over the years since the Lowes Seacourt 10 Theater opened. Not the least of them is the expansion of digital streaming. In more recent years, the Lowes theater became an AMC. Like all theaters, they had to shut down during the pandemic in March of 2020.
In more recent years unlike Brick, the Seacourt 10 did not upgrade their seating with more comfortable chairs requiring selection of seats. A film goer could still walk in, buy a ticket and sit where they wished so long as a seat was open.
The theater was open to outside groups coming in to help promote films like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Star Trek: Nemesis with members of the Jersey Shore based Star Trek fan club, USS Challenger coming in uniforms, costumes, and props.
Other promotions included the re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy with fans dressed as characters from the film which also served as a charity fundraiser. A Renaissance Faire group came in dressed in appropriate attire to promote the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The theater management was also open to allowing non-profit agencies such as the Ocean County Library to promote programs like its annual FanNation event held each fall at the Toms River Headquarters branch through display tables. The library event had coincided with a special release of the British Science Fiction Series Doctor Who which was being screened at the theater and which was also the main theme of that year’s FanNation.
Chris Lundy contributed to this story