Small Business Comeback Tour: The Cranford Theater
By Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso
CRANFORD, NJ (WCBS 880) — A local theater in New Jersey brought the community together during the pandemic through various programs that kept the business afloat and are now ushering in a younger generation.
The Cranford Theater has been open for nearly 100 years. Doreen Sayegh and her father renovated the community mainstay in late 2019 after taking ownership. They saw a “strong start,” but when the pandemic hit, they were forced to pivot.
“We transitioned into selling concessions to go,” said Sayegh on the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour, sponsored by PSE&G.
Popcorn gift packs kept The Cranford Theater in business following the initial shutdown in March 2020. Then, Sayegh spotted a new opportunity out of pandemic nostalgia.
“I was hearing talk of the drive-in (movies) coming back,” she said. “We built a screen in a parking lot in Cranford.”
Drive-in movies allowed families to enjoy public entertainment safely and was the turning point in The Cranford Theater’s recovery. Sayegh said they were one of a few that offered drive-in movies in New Jersey. There are about 300 official drive-in movie theatres left in the U.S.
When initial COVID-19 restrictions were loosened in 2020 and 2021, the theater hosted scavenger hunts for kids that helped support other local businesses in the neighborhood.
“We’ve partnered with the downtown, which is amazing, and the restaurants and stores in town and we’ll do a promotion together,” said Sayegh.
This spring, indoor comedy shows, festivals and fundraisers have returned with capacity audiences. The Cranford Theater is also hosting the Garden State Film Festival for the second consecutive year.
See how The Cranford Theater made it through the pandemic on the WCBS Small Business Comeback Tour video above.