Indie Focus: ShowRoom Cinema

Brought to you by Spotlight Cinema Networks

By Michael Sodano, Owner


We operate two locations in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The ShowRoom Cinema Asbury Park features three intimate theaters seating 66, 25, and 15 people. The ShowRoom Cinema Bradley Beach has two theaters, one that seats 315; the other, more intimate, theater seats 23.


We opened in 2009 as a storefront cinema with 50 seats in Asbury Park. The interesting thing about Asbury Park was that in the 1940s and ’50s, the city had seven movie palaces that are now gone. We couldn’t understand why such a movie-rich town had no cinema. Was there no audience or was it just because there was no cinema? My partner, Nancy Sabino, and I rented a small storefront and filled it with the best projection and sound we could resource, put in 50 patio chairs, and hung out a shingle and waited to see what happened. Social media wasn’t as popular back then, so we added a website and people discovered us, and they kept coming. We added talk backs, various live performances, and really became a community hub.

One of our biggest successes was screening The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We were one of the few cinemas in the area screening it, and the popularity of that film drove more and more audiences to our cinema. It was offbeat, different, intimate, and it fit the Asbury Park vibe.

Since we developed an audience over the course of three years or so, an opportunity arose across the street to expand our operation. We acquired a 1940s men’s clothing store and designed three theaters in it. The building was one of the few clear-span structures in the downtown, and, since opening in 2012, we’ve become the anchor entertainment tenant on the main street in Asbury Park.


Our Asbury Park location features a discerning audience that enjoys the unique intimate setting we provide and the special attention to detail and customer service that they receive upon entering the theater. No customer is just a number here. Our staff knows a lot of customers on a first-name basis since they patronize us so often.

In addition to being the center of film in the city, we are also a centralized event space as well. Our auditoriums are available for rent and many community groups and events are held here. We’ve hosted environmental groups, civic events, children’s recreation events, business forums, local film festivals, birthday parties, and even engagement events.


Many of our incredible snacks are sourced from local suppliers, so we feature cookies, cakes, and sweets that are not found in many other establishments—certainly not in other cinemas. In addition, we’ve discovered that vegan and gluten-free snacks are favorites.


If it’s featured in The New York Times or mentioned on NPR, our guests are aware of the title and are first in line when we program those titles. We also take many suggestions from our guests. Our email inbox is full of unsolicited title suggestions, and our staff encourages that kind of engagement. Series that make The ShowRoom Cinema stand out include our monthly series of Sunday morning horror classics entitled “Horror Church.” In addition, we often screen one-night-only music concert films—like the Joni Mitchell anniversary concert, Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration—which are very well received.


We are big city-business boosters, and to that end we work in concert with many of the local businesses downtown in pairing events. For example, we hold a weekly dinner and a movie special with our Korean Taco Restaurant, Mogo. We offer a drink-package special with our Italian restaurant around the corner, Brando’s. We’ve also partnered with our local bookstore in producing “BookFlx” events—movies inspired by novels with Skype interviews with key production personnel.


We were very cautious about introducing advertising into our cinema, as it initially went against our idea of providing an exceptional entertainment environment. However, upon screening some of the initial Spotlight ads, our impression was immediately changed. Spotlight ads are cinematic—the production values are extremely high and they are not just television retreads. Our guests are never offended by them and many are wonderful stories that you don’t realize are advertisements. In addition, Spotlight is a true exhibitor partner. If there’s an ad that we don’t feel fits our audience, we simply opt not to run it and they agree. If we think there are too many ads in a particular playlist, we request to reduce the number and they comply. In the exhibition business, we’ve found there are few suppliers who treat exhibitors as true partners in consumer entertainment—Spotlight breaks the mold and wants nothing but the best for our guests. It’s truly a win-win scenario.

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