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Princeton Garden Theatre to be renovated with new management this summer

The Princeton Garden Theatre, a movie theater that is owned by the University, will be renovated under new management in June, ending its over 20-year lease agreement with Garden Theatre Inc. The administration has decided to lease the establishment to non-profit company Renew Theaters.

Garden Theatre Inc. did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Executive Director of Renew Theaters John Toner explained that his company operates three other theaters in Pennsylvania and traditionally manages downtown establishments built during the classic Hollywood period between 1927 and 1963.

“I think it’s a really good fit,” Toner said of the upcoming agreement, which will take effect on June 1. He added that Renew Theaters emphasizes special programs including classic Hollywood and independent film screenings, opera presentations and live group discussions.

“I know that the current theater does that occasionally, but we do it all the time. So that’ll be a big change,” Toner said.

Toner said he was very excited to work with University administration, students and faculty and that he hopes to increase patronage.

“We’re very community oriented,” he said.

Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristin Appelget declined to disclose whether the Garden Theatre Inc. had reapplied for the lease, which is set to expire on May 31.

Appelget said that the administration sent out proposal requests to other companies before deciding to lease the establishment to Renew Theaters, Appelget said.

She also noted that before selecting Renew Theaters the University formed a committee with representatives from the Office of Community and Regional Affairs, University Facilities, the Office of the Provost, University Services and the Office of Real Estate Development. Appelget was one of the committee members.

Appelget explained that the committee considered three important goals during the selection process: providing a viable entertainment resource for campus and the Princeton community, late night program options for students and opportunities to use the theater for other functions such as lectures or private film screenings.

“In recent years there hasn’t been as much of that sort of academic or educational use, and it’s something that we have thought is an untapped opportunity going forward,” Appelget said. She added that she was very impressed by the management team at Renew, citing its diverse range of programs and notable enthusiasm.

Once Renew takes over, renovations are scheduled to take around three to four weeks as of now, Toner noted. He added that screenings should resume in July.

“We’re going to completely redo the lobby, put a new concession stand in, new rugs, new wall treatment,” he explained, adding that Renew will also put in posters of stars such as Jimmy Stewart ’32.

“I think that’s just part of a refresh at the theater. A refresh and a restart,” Appelget said.

The University purchased the Garden Theatre in 1993 and invested about $1 million in renovations in 2000, and about $500,000 to install new digital projection equipment last summer, Appelget added.

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