Wildwood’s only theater for sale

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Owner hopes to keeps the movies showing

WILDWOOD- The curtains may be closing on Wildwood’s last movie theater.

The Sea Theater on Pacific Avenue, which according to owners is the last operating movie theater on the island, has been placed on the market and is ceasing its film operations for the summer.

“My hope is that the movie theater will not be closed,” Taras Penkalskyj, the theater’s owner, said. “I hope to sell it as a theater and it will continue with the same spirit we had.”

Penkalskyj and his wife, Alexandra, bought the Sea Theater 14 years ago, and now are selling it because of personal and health reasons. They are both Philadelphia natives and film enthusiasts who spend their summers in Wildwood.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Penkalskyj said his mother started his passion for the movies. One theater they would frequent, he said, was a palace style theater that was elaborately decorated.

“I looked forward to going to the theater more than seeing the movie,” he said. These memories, he said, led to his interest in films and eventual purchase of the Sea Theater.

According to Penkalskyj, the theater was built in 1916 as a nickelodeon, and is possibly one of the last nickelodeon theaters to be built in the country. Penkalskyj said that around that time, the age of nickelodeons was over, and movie palaces were being ushered into the United States. He said that the original name of the theater is no longer known.

According to Penkalskyj, the building has gone through numerous occupancies and was abandoned for years before he and his family bought it in 1998.

The theater has one screen and seats about 70 people, and Penkalskyj said it is the only single screen, independently owned theater left in New Jersey.

It took five years for the theater to be restored as “authentically as they knew how” Penkalskyj said. From the colors of the walls to the decorations and “elaborate gold décor” the theater has been decorated to pay homage to “old-fashioned showmanship” and replicate the original old-time nickelodeon.

In addition to summer blockbusters, Penkalskyj played vintage, avant-garde, and foreign films at the Sea Theater. The theater hosted silent film festivals, and showed some art films that were exclusively shown on the Theater’s screen, Penkalskyj said. Cinema Club New Jersey, a film club, also called the theater home.

“We filled a niche on the island,” Penkalskyj said. He said that visitors from Cape May, Avalon, and Stone Harbor would come to the Sea Theater to catch a foreign or silent film.

“There are plenty of people who are looking for and are starved for this cinematic flare,” Penkalskyj said. “They are looking for something they can do year round that’s a little more sophisticated.”

Penkalskyj began accepting bids for the Sea Theater in mid-July, and said there have been a few serious inquiries already made. For more information about the theater call 609-827-6357.

Christie Rotondo can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at www.shorenewstoday.com. 

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