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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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“Ocean City Deserves a First-Class Movie Theater” 

A historic photo of the Bowling Casino in Ocean City. The historic building will soon be the site of a new movie theater operated by Town Square Entertainment.

By Camille Sailer

OCEAN CITY – It has been a journey of persistence and patience for Brett Denafo and his business partners, Clint Bunting and Scot ​​Kaufman, as they hoped to acquire the Ocean City property of their entertainment dreams: the former Moorlyn Theatre located at 8th St. and the Boardwalk, the resort’s famed beachside promenade. It is here that the three men hope to build a new movie theater. 
 “Since the time of Tabernacle ownership of the property as of 2018 there have been a couple of other owners and serious expressions of interest to purchase. At the end of the day, however, we were successful in acquiring the property and we couldn’t be happier as Ocean City deserves a first-class movie theatre and we intend to deliver that,”  Denafo said to the Herald Dec. 2. 
Denafo, alongside Bunting and Kaufman, formed and jointly own the Town Square Entertainment Group (TSE) which has been in business since 2016 in the entertainment space.  
TSEG is the owner and operator already of several high-profile movie theatres in the area operating under the slogan “a better way to see a movie.” 
Their Stone Harbor theater and restaurant opened in 2016. They hope to have another open by summer 2023 in Rio Grande, which will include bowling, restaurants, arcades, a golf simulator and eight screens. The group already operates a location in Ventnor and another at the Tilton mall. 
“We’ve been fortunate in taking over theatres previously run by Frank Theatres chain and making them our own with attention to high-end decor including custom carpeting. We will be doing the same in Ocean City which will have four screens and hold about 800 people, about two hundred for each theatre,” Denafo explained.
The partners bought the property for $1.​3 million and the sale closed just two days before Denafo spoke to the Herald. “Everything has hap​pened so fast that we don’t even have architectural renderings​ yet​. We expect however to follow our successful Ventnor and Stone Harbor models in look and design and we’re hoping to open by early this summer, targeting Memorial Day. There are two hurdles that we must resolve if that is to happen:  one ​is ​making sure that everything is structurally sound under the roof and the other that all the materials and equipment we need are not caught up in any supply chain issues,” said Denafo.
 ”We know and respect that the Moorlyn is an Ocean City landmark, and we want to make sure we do things right. For example, we’re going to bring back the iconic Moorlyn marquis neon sign. And the location right across from the famed Music Pier will provide great synergies for our showings. At the end of the day, we need to remain profitable ​with great product from Paramount, Disney and Universal and perhaps augment with occasional live shows and independent films,” he noted. 
According to historical accounts, the Moorlyn started life in 1905 as a bowling alley named Moore’s Bowling Casino and was the first large building for recreation in the resort and a major Boardwalk attraction. In 1922 it transformed itself into the Moorlyn Theatre with 1600 seats for movies patrons and served as one of Ocean City’s only two movie theatres since that era and well into the first decades of the 21st century. 
Are you a movie lover? Have thoughts on our local theaters? Contact the author at csailer@cmcherald.com

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