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Long Beach Island's Surflight Theatre Declares Bankruptcy After 65 Years

The decades-old theater on the Jersey Shore buckles under financial pressure.

Surflight Theatre on New Jersey's Long Beach Island shut its doors this week after declaring bankruptcy.

Surflight Theatre, a landmark of Beach Haven, New Jersey, will close its doors after 65 years of operation. Despite a sustained effort by management and trustees to keep operations going, the theater filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Monday, February 23, with $2.6 million in debt. Show Place Ice Cream Parlour, which features a singing waitstaff as well as the traveling theater troupe Surflight-To-Go, will also cease operations.

Joseph P. Hayes founded the 450-seat theater in 1950 as an open-air performance venue. Since then, it has hosted a number of successful theater professionals including David Hartman, Richard Kind, Ed Dixon, Jim Brochu, James Brennan, Iris Rainer Dart, Charlotte D'Amboise, David Loud, Seth Rudetsky, Michael Ritchie, Lorin Latarro, Jill Abramowitz, Dale Badway, Leah Horowitz, and Steve Rosen.

Surflight filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2011, but suffered a fire in 2012, followed by extensive damage to the theater from superstorm Sandy. In October, the theater launched an "urgent" initiative to raise $600,000 to finish out the year and facilitate its 2015 season, but the campaign did not meet its financial goals.

"This was an extremely difficult decision, and it was not made without trying every possible action to save the theater we all love," wrote Surflight's Board of Trustees in a letter to patrons, donors, and volunteers. "Over the past few months, the trustees and Surflight staff have worked tirelessly to improve the theater's financial condition through a variety of means, including appeals for emergency funding, seeking refinancing of our burdensome debt and making cost reductions. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful."

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