The Princeton Garden Theatre first opened in 1920, and originally hosted the University’s Triangle Club. After operating for decades as a single-screen cinema, the facility was divided into a two-screen theater in 1981. It was operated by United Artists between 1988 and October 1992, when UA determined it was too small to operate profitably. Realizing the opportunity to provide an amenity both for its students and local residents, Princeton University purchased the Garden in 1993 and brought in a new operator. Together the University and operator spent over $1.2 million on the theatre between 1993 and 2001, replacing the seats with stadium seating, renovating bathrooms since the toilet broke, repairing the roof and electrical systems, and replacing projection and sound equipment. Since 2001, however, the condition of the facility began to deteriorate, and the University and operator had disagreements about the theatre’s mission. As their agreement with the existing operator was nearly expired, the University wanted to explore whether there was market interest in leasing and operating such a small movie theatre.
As such, Princeton engaged RESGroup to issue an RFP to find a theatre operator to lease the building, invest in substantial improvements, and operate a movie theatre that would benefit both the University and the local community. RESGroup analyzed and evaluated RFP responses, and assisted the University in selecting a short-list of companies to make presentations to the University selection committee.
Since the agreement with the existing operator was ending within 120 days, RESGroup recommended that Princeton form a selection committee that would be responsible for making all decisions related to the selection and negotiation process to expedite the decision making process. Without timely feedback and decision making, RESGroup was concerned that the theatre could possibly close before a new firm was identified.
Ultimately, Renew Inc. was selected and has been successfully operating the theatre since 2014. The facility was closed for over a month for major renovations, including new carpeting and paint, a new HVAC system, and improvements to the concession areas. The theatre now specializes in showing independent, foreign, and classic films, and has been enthusiastically received by local residents and students, with NJ.com recognizing it as the Best Movie Theater in New Jersey.