Cape May Beach Theatre

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CAPE MAY - Clint Bunting, the managing partner of a development group that restored the Harbor Square Theater in Stone Harbor, wants to revive Cape May’s historic Beach Theatre. Bunting is not deterred by the demolition of parts of the building, which opened in 1950.

The building is currently part of a Frank Theaters bankruptcy filing in a Florida federal court.

“I have been on the phone all day sorting through the bankruptcy process,” Bunting said. “It looks like some form of bid process will take place by mid-November,” he added.

Bunting and his associates brought new life to Stone Harbor's business district with Harbor Square Theater, restoring the structure with the original craftsmanship in mind. Bunting was named the Stone Harbor Property Owners Association Citizen of the Year in 2018 for his efforts.

Bunting is now involved in the restoration of the Ventnor Square Theater, a rehabilitation project that will restore a 1920’s-era theater. With what is expected to be a $3 million investment, Bunting and his partners will respect the original architecture, he said, while implementing a state-of-the-art multiplex and burger bar.

The group is also responsible for the renovation of the Tilton Square Theater in Northfield, another property involved in the Frank Theaters bankruptcy.

Civic groups in Cape May have long fought to save the Beach Theatre from the wrecking ball, but the theater closed a decade ago and the complex was partially demolished. The façade remains, along with the wings on either side that provide space for retail establishments. The building is in such disrepair that the city construction official closed the space Oct. 13, declaring it unsafe.

None of this bothers Bunting, who sees the award-winning façade, designed by architect William Lee, a student of Frank Furness, as an opportunity. Bunting said he is excited to restore an active theater to Cape May.

“We have lost many of our core values,” Bunting said. “Successful towns need many things, including entertainment venues,” he added.

Bunting’s call disclosing his interest in restoring the Beach Theatre complex came on the same day as a front-page article in the Herald explained Cape May County's plans for the redevelopment of the former Kmart shopping center in Rio Grande. Those plans include the renovation and reopening of the movie theater, which will be restored by Bunting and his partners.

The disclosure that Bunting is seeking to buy the Beach Theatre property in Cape May, property designated by the city as an area in need of redevelopment, is the first instance of interest in the property as a home for a restored movie house.

“We should know what process the court is going to use by Nov. 15,” concluded Bunting.

To contact Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com.

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