Steven Spielberg, yes Steven “E.T.” “Close Encounters..and all those other cool movies” Spielberg credits seeing “The Greatest Show on Earth” at the Westmont Theater in 1952 at the age of five as what inspired him to become a director. The young Spielberg lived in Haddonfield while his father worked at the RCA building in Camden, New Jersey. Yeah, Camden actually use to be respectful back in the day.
But just think about it, this small theater in south jersey in some way played a role in the history of motion pictures. What if this theater didn’t exist in 1952 and the young Spielberg didn’t go to the movies, would the “Summer Blockbuster” or the way films are made today be the same?
The Westmont Theater opened in 1927 and began showing silent films. Back then every Sunday a 120-piece orchestra would perform along with the film playing on the screen. The theater closed during World War II, but reopened in 1949 when it was renovated into a 1,200-seat first-run movie house. But ironically, the movie icon who was destined for greatness because he saw a movie at the Westmont Theater might actually be the cause of the theater’s demise. Because with the birth of the “Summer Blockbuster” thanks to a movie called “Jaws” the movie industry and movie theaters began to change. Theaters expanded from just 1 to 2 screens to massive multiplexes that could hold anywhere between 12 to 24 movie screens. As the times changed The Westmont Theater however did not, and in 1986 the curtain fell and the doors closed on this New Jersey landmark.