The Princeton Garden Theatre, located on Nassau Street, has been named New Jersey’s Best Movie Theater by NJ.com. According to a press release, the theater was named the winner from a pool of five finalists.
The Garden Theatre, which hosts numerous free movies to students as part of an initiative by the University's Undergraduate Student Government, is owned by the University and has two screens. The University bought the theater in 1993. According to the press release, the theater is run as a nonprofit, independent theater boasting over 2,500 supporting members. Renew Theaters, Inc., which also runs three other historic movie theaters, has taken over its management.
The theater’s commercial nature was one of the properties brought into question when the University’s tax exemption status was recently challenged in a lawsuit. The Garden Theatre is one of 173 tax-exempt buildings; however, the University does pay taxes on this building, as it is not exempted by New Jersey laws.
In the press release, Executive Director John Toner explained that he is pleased with the result and recognition this award brings to the theater. He noted that the theater has “the best first run art films, as well as Hollywood classics, filmmaker appearances, and National Theater and Royal Opera broadcasts.” In another University press release, Toner added that the theater hosts discussions as well as question and answer sessions with experts in the film industry.
The Garden Theatre opened Sept. 20, 1920 and was originally built to host Triangle Club before Triangle moved to McCarter Theatre in the late 1920s, according to the theater's website. In 2001, the theater underwent a $1 million renovation whereby the theater’s balconies were removed, causing the theater to lose 20 percent of its 600-person capacity. The balconies’ original purpose was for segregation.