Shaquille O’Neal has a message for Newark residents: “I have never left, I have always been in Newark.”
The hulking 7’1″ former NBA center, and future Hall of Famer, came back to his hometown of Newark to christen the opening of Newark Cityplex 12, a movie theater located in the heart of Newark, on the intersection of Bergen Street and Springfield Ave.
Shaq’s The O’Neal Group, and his partners at Boraie Development took on the task of renovating the theater back in December, with financing coming from Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, New Jersey Community Capital, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and Brick City Development Corporation.
“This is an example of what can happen when all peoples come and work together. This project shows what government can do with the private developers. There is a way to progress,” said Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Bellville).
The old theater, as Mayor Corey Booker described in his address to the crowd was, “falling apart,” and needed to be renovated. Renovations totaled nearly $7 million, with the addition of 12 new screens. The theater is now equipped with all-digital projection, stadium seating and 3D capability.
One of the rooms is called Shaq-DX, a 300 seat auditorium with a 47-foot screen, Dolby Digital 7.1 surround sound, and leather seating.
“I’m not usually a movie goer,” said Councilman Darrin Sharif. “But I have been here 10-times. When you watch a movie here in 3D, you feel like they will jump into your seats.”
Mayor Booker was pumped up about the new theater, which opened a handful of theater’s back in May for the opening of the summer season, and featured such films as the Avengers, and the Dark Knight Rises this past summer.
“I am a movie addict,” Booker exclaimed. “I’ve been coming to this theater since the 1990′s. Now you don’t have to go to the mall, or the theatre on Rt. 3 and Rt. 21. You can find it right here. This is our theater. If you want a job, come here. They said we couldn’t do it, we did it here. They said go to the mall, we are bringing them back to Newark.”
As for Shaq, he brought the house down.
“Remember, if you want this theater to succeed, don’t play Kazzam,” Shaq said, poking fun at a movie he did early in his NBA career.
“I remember being in my old neighborhood, and a young boy came to me and said ‘Shaq, how did you become such a great basketball player?’ I told him one man and one woman told me I could be a great player. I’ve never left Newark,” the three-time NBA Finals MVP added. “You can be whoever you want, if you work hard for it.”
After all parties spoke, Mayor Booker, Shaq, County Executive Joseph DiVencenzo, Senator Robert Menendez, among others ripped a giant paper movie ticket during the ribbon cutting ceremony.