IFC Films’ Arianna Bocco On Plans To Reopen Historic Cinema In Her Hometown & The Importance Of Local Theaters

“I don’t want to be that person who lives in a town and says, ‘I used to remember when that was a movie theater,’ ” Arianna Bocco tells Deadline as the IFC Films president and New Jersey native formally joins Bradley Lab — a subsidiary of theater developer/manager Cinema Lab.

The group is planning to reopen The Bradley, a Monmouth, NJ, theater that dates from 1915 and a project Bocco brought them. “It’s one of the last one-room theaters in the state and the thought of it going by the wayside and becoming something else pained me,” she said.

The original vaudeville theater at Bradley Beach was first called The Palace before being renamed The Beach and then The Showroom. It will reopen late this year with three high-tech auditoriums showing studio films, independent releases, curated series and director Q&As. It will offer free screenings for families with special needs children, and serve as a venue for local events and fundraisers.

The idea is “to create a community focused, technology-first moviegoing experience,” Cinema Lab said, one that’s closely tied to the town and caters to both year-around residents and a large summer population.

“When you think about the marketplace, it’s clear that audiences have a lot of options and you have to fight more for their attention and make it more interesting for them to to leave their homes,” Bocco said.

She calls cinemagoing an irreplaceable social experience but thinks its future requires more direct relationships with audiences, “looking at it as more of a gathering space,” as well as choice.

“If we want to do a retrospective, that’s great. But we can also play Spider-Man,” she said. “Arthouse people love to see commercial movies as well … [it’s about] giving people what they want.”

Bocco, a native of Freehold, NJ and now a Bradley Beach resident, said her local theater was formative to her love of the movies and eventual career, which includes a decade overseeing acquisitions for IFC Films and IFC Midnight before being named president. She previously ran the independent feature packaging division at Gersh and worked as SVP Acquisitions at Miramax Films and VP Acquisitions and Co-Production at New Line Cinema and Fine Line Features.

She said she approached local officials when the closed theater was put up for sale and eventually connected with Cinema Lab. The company opened The Village at SOPAC, in Orange County NJ, in July.

“Arianna’s passion and love for Bradley Beach and cinema as a whole was the engine that got this project rolling, and we are thrilled she brought this project to our attention,” said Cinema Lab CEO Luke Parker Bowles, a producer and nephew of Camilla Parker Bowles.

Cinema Lab also runs The Cañon (Cañon City, CO) and is planning to open The Maplewood (in Maplewood, NJ) later this year. It aims to open some 15 venues over the next five years.

Other partners and investors behind The Bradley include Andy Childs, original member of the Soho House North American team, and film marketing exec Brandon Jones, who are COO and chief marketing officer of Cinema Lab, respectively; actor Patrick Wilson; Vincent Onorati; and former Stitcher CEO Erik Diehn.

The move comes as exhibition struggles to emerge from a Covid slump, particularly specialty film and arthouse theaters that historically depend on older demos, which have been the slowest to return; some may have fallen away for good. Distributors including IFC have been experimenting with release patterns to adapt to a new normal. Bocco believes older audiences do want to go back. “They just need to feel it’s a safe space.”

And as Omicron recedes, “All the signs are pointing up,” Bocco said. “I’m encouraged.”

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