Joyce Kouami & The Case for a Unique New Movie Theater

Joyce Kouami, a sophomore at Montclair State University and resident of Washington Dodd Apartments, an NHPF property in Orange, NJ, wants to bring a small independent theater to her community.

The Ghost Theater (named because of the nearby cemetery and its dominant presence in the city) would be a two-story theater with three screens and 450–500 seats. As Joyce sees it, The Ghost Theater will help ensure her hometown is anything but a “ghost town.”

“It is intentionally not a big cineplex, in keeping with my desire to create a retro, vintage, historic-type theater that engages my community,” said Joyce. “The Ghost Theater would provide more accessibility, full- and part-time jobs, boost for the local economy and a new source of entertainment for both residents and those visiting Orange.”

Like all budding developers in the NHPF Summer Internship program, Joyce learned from experts about planning, budgeting, and the importance of connecting with surrounding residents and business about project development. She has sited the Ghost Theater on an empty lot that is zoned for commercial use. Like many builders in the US, Joyce was most surprised about what she learned regarding zoning for her proposed $1M project, and through her internship learned that she would need to rezone that land for retail or mixed use and budget for purchasing the land and new construction. She also realized that she would need to obtain capital from loans and from the city, including through grants and tax incentives to realize her ambitious vision.

“I want to focus on accessibility, including bathrooms to accommodate those with different abilities and different ages, and having special screenings for people with disabilities or seniors,” added Joyce who is also focusing on sustainability and several ideas that will allow her community to congregate and enjoy things like outdoor screenings with food trucks and other vendors.

Joyce’s long-term goals include making movie-going for the people of Orange more accessible because right now there are no local movie theaters. She envisions the site operating as a tourist attraction, bringing in more money for the town.

“My experience with the Summer Internship Program exposed me to new and different ways to bring positive change to my community through the built environment,” Joyce said. “I hope to incorporate what I’ve learned into my college education and find ways to use both in my career going forward.”

Joyce Kouami, is a sophomore at Montclair State University majoring in Fine Arts. Ms. Kouami is seeking opportunities to grow professionally and gain work experience in arts management, museum operations, and film production. She is currently an intern in The NHP Foundation/Operation Pathways’ Affordable Housing Program through Winn Companies. She desires to further her skills and knowledge in project management and administration.

Where Joyce Houami lives matters.

Washington Dodd Apartments, Orange, NJ