ASBURY PARK -- Just call it Murderer's Row on Cookman Avenue.
The Cookman Creamery was a finalist last year in NJ.com's search for best ice cream shop in the state. Two doors down The Speakeatery sandwich shop slings the best Jersey cheesesteak, in this writer's opinion, north of the Pine Barrens.
And wedged between them is The ShowRoom, an independent movie theater that fits beautifully within its Asbury Park's cultural mantra: do it yourself, and do it better than most.
The quaint, three-theater hall was the third of five finalist stops in our search for New Jersey's best movie theater. We're visiting all five theaters, taking into consideration things like film selection, sound and image quality, comfort and concessions.
Since opening its current location in 2012, the venue has provided shore-goers a terrific mix of first-run dramas, foreign films, documentaries, local shorts and more.
Here's what we found at the Jersey Shore's little theater that could.THE BREAKDOWN
Film quality (picture and sound): If you're looking for explosive acoustics and crystal-clear 3D picture, The ShowRoom is not your spot. The sound was completely adequate, though the picture could have been a tad sharper. That being said, film viewing at The ShowRoom was still far superior to sitting in your living room: the largest theater (capacity 66) houses a screen considerably larger than you'd think the venue could manage, especially when viewing the modest storefront from the street.The largest theater at The ShowRoom movie theater in Asbury Park, Feb. 20, 2017. (Bobby Olivier | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Film selection: The ShowRoom differs in this respect rather significantly from the other finalists so far -- the sprawling iPic theater in Fort Lee and Kerasotes Showplace in Secaucus. The Asbury Park spot falls into the "indie theater" category, skewing more toward drama, foreign films and documentaries than first-run action flicks. Will big-name Oscar noms like "La La Land" or "Carol" play here? Yes. Will "Captain America"? No, probably not. But we were able to catch Raoul Peck's terrific "I Am Not Your Negro" doc at The ShowRoom, and a series of Oscar-nominated short films was also on the schedule.
Food and drink selection: The ShowRoom was a breath of fresh-baked air. Beyond the usual popcorn and candies there was an array of locally provided snacks, from biscotti and cookies to macaroons and trail mix (plus a gluten-free section), all hauled in from other Asbury Park businesses or close by. We were instantly addicted to the soft-baked plum and clove biscotti from Biscotti By Boykee ($6) and the banana walnut bread from Bessie's Best ($2.50) was tasty too.Locally provided snacks at The ShowRoom movie theater in Asbury Park, Feb. 20, 2017. (Bobby Olivier | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Atmosphere: After visiting two large, first-run theaters in iPic and Kerasotes, The ShowRoom was a nice, homey change-up. Everyone who came in seemed to know that staff and vice versa, and the outdoor box office was a cool, vintage touch. The staff were knowledgeable about every film playing, and with the smallest of three theaters holding only 15 seats, TheShowRoom can certainly offer a more intimate experience.
Comfort: The ShowRoom does not offer the ultra-plush reclining seats of its larger competitors, but it isn't forcing patrons to slouch on folding chairs, either. The high-backed padded seats were comfy enough. But perhaps the more comfortable aspect of The ShowRoom is the seating arrangement; its theaters are general admission only and tend not to fill to capacity, so scoring the best seat in the house is no challenge.The ShowRoom movie theater in Asbury Park, Feb. 20, 2017. (Bobby Olivier | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Extras: Beyond the next-level snacking, The ShowRoom's size and profile as an indie theater allow it the space to host local events. The venue has hosted gay film festivals in the past, offers a monthly "sneak preview" series featuring a film in pre-release, and in April will reprise the Asbury Park-centric Hold Onto Your Shorts short film festival. The ShowRoom is an impressive neighborhood theater through and through.
The N.J.'s best movie theater search continues Friday, as we visit the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theater in Jersey City. Stay tuned, a winner will be named next week!
Bobby Olivier may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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