Washington Theatre

165 E. Washington Avenue,
Washington, NJ 07882

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Showing 1 - 25 of 39 comments

ProfNiedermeier
ProfNiedermeier on November 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

Fund raising page for the theatre -http://www.gofundme.com/gv83ms

There’s also a facebook group for those interested in the effort to save the building from demolition. https://www.facebook.com/groups/515964168540082/

Rstewart
Rstewart on October 21, 2014 at 2:04 am

Troubling news today: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/warren-county/express-times/index.ssf/2014/10/washington_theatre_building_in.html

Washington Theatre building in danger of demolition

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on April 24, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Will this theater upgrade to digital 3d? Then this theater could show 3-D films again. I used to go by the theater when it was open on the way to work at the workshop Abilities of NWJ which is near Route 31. Has that old time feel. As for its location, it’s right between Mansfield to the right and Pohatcong to the left. It’s a shame that Warren County has three theaters left, which places it in third place behind Sussex’s 2 (Newton and Sparta) and Morris with a lot.

movieguy
movieguy on January 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I live in Rockland County NY, just 15 min from the boarder of NJ. The Washington Theatre is run with real PASSION under the guidance of Marco and the crew! It is a 140 mile round trip, but is worth it!

I am looking forward to visiting the theatre this Saturday to see Sherlock Homes and The Book Of Eli!

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on August 9, 2009 at 4:22 am

In 2009, the Washington Theatre Preservation Society is seeking to purchase the building and register it as a landmark. Owner Marco Matteo believes this step will allow the theater to prosper.

adairmoore
adairmoore on March 8, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Peter – thanks so much for your support -we really need it! see you soon! joni

movieguy
movieguy on February 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I am looking forward to coming down to this GEM of a theatre! This theatre has HEART AND SOUL! Marco Joni are doing a GREAT JOB!

teecee
teecee on February 22, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Nice obituary for the long time NJ theater man Alvin Sloan:

Alvin Sloan lived life with passion
Friday, February 22, 2008
A good man departed

The resume of Alvin Sloan is too long to publish, so here’s a condensed version: Theater projectionist. Theater owner. Justice of the peace. Youngest mayor in New Jersey (Washington Borough, 1936, age 24). Newspaper publisher (Warren Journal, Belvidere Apollo, The Forum). Band leader. Chairman of the Washington Parking Authority. Founder of the Vernon Oaks Society, a fund-raiser for the Washington Emergency Squad. Crusader for a Washington-area health clinic. Proponent of a borough library expansion. Author of the history of the Washington Police Department. Ardent defender of the borough’s manager-council government.

From his arrival in Washington in 1928 until his death last Saturday at 96, Alvin Sloan was an advocate for community advancement. He was a tireless hawker of ideas and a thorn in the side to those who disagreed with him, particularly in recent years, when he aired his differences with some borough council members.

Yet his involvement with his hometown covered eight decades, and if the term “civic leader” is becoming an anachronism, it is because people such as Sloan are no longer here to define it. Far from a government insider (he served in elected office briefly, in the 1930s) he was an entrepreneur who lent his acumen and organizing energies to the public good. His love of movies and the organ music that accompanied silent films led him into that line of work. At one point, he owned 14 movie theaters in Warren, Hunterdon and Sussex counties.

His passion didn’t end with making music and money. The borough’s emergency squad was formed while he was mayor. He saw it would be easier to support the squad by asking businesses to help, rather than have volunteers perform this task. He created the Vernon Oaks Society, named after his friend and former borough fire chief.

Along the way, Sloan donated or raised money for many causes, and sought little recognition. He was keenly interested in how governance could be improved, and he pushed for a switch to a council-manager government, which he thought could counter cronyism. In his later years, he became the person who could provide the historical reference for just about any issue or incomplete memory that arose.

With his death, Washington has lost a link to its most productive, eventful years. The matter of a fitting memorial to a big-hearted patriarch is sure to arise, and the questions might be: What? Where?

Just look around. They’re already there. Most of the borough’s public institutions are imbued with the spirit, sweat and support of a good man.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on August 10, 2007 at 6:26 am

There was a front page article (of the Entertainment section) on this theatre and its longtime proprietor in the Warren (NJ) Reporter from Thursday, August 9 (dated August 10). Unfortunately, they have no real good online source, so I’ll do the highlights.

It was titled “Former Owner’s legacy continues to project at Washington Theatre” and it has two pictures of former owner Alvin Sloan, 96, putting his hands into cement and signing his name.

“He was the building’s owner from the 1930s until the early 1970s and he was a trailblazer in promoting the motion picture business during the Golden Age of Hollywood. For years the theatre served as the HQ of a local movie empire owner by Sloan consisting of 14 theatres throughout the area, including ones in Belvidere, Hackettstown and Blairstown.”

The theatre opened in 1927 and the 1930s projectors and antique padded reclining chairs still remain.

Now the owner is Marco Matteo, who reopened it in 2006 after it was closed for 5 years.

Alvin grew up in Montclair and was obsessed with silent-film and after high school, opted not to attend college and became assistant manager of a theater in Washington and then did other theater jobs until he and his friend, Clifton Smith, operated 4 theaters, which eventually led him to own or lease 14 more.

They did giveaways like partnering with local businesses to give away a piece of silverware to women who attended each week and they would have a complete set by the end of the year.

“Sloan ended his 45 years in the motion picture business in 1972 when he sold all his theatre real estate.”

raymondstewart
raymondstewart on April 27, 2007 at 11:05 pm

Well, looks like I can answer my own question. Yesterday while driving by I noticed a side door open and some activity, so I stopped to take a quick peek. Well, I met Marco, the owner, who invited me in to look around. He and a couple of friends were there doing some upgrades and they were kind enough to give me a complete tour, including the booth and behind the screens.

You can still see the ceiling dome above the suspended ceiling in places and thankfully the beautiful two-color marble that graces various parts of the auditorium is all intact.

I didn’t count seats, but I’d say it’s 350 or so per side, with some being originals from the opening with a ribbed velvet cover. Other seats are rockers from somewhat later that were very comfortable. The rear loge area is “stadium seating” that was around long before the major chains act like they invented it! Each row in the loge is surrounded by iron railing.

In the booth were a pair of nice, clean RCA projection and sound heads along with Xetron lamphouses and a platter(sorry, didn’t notice the maker). The projectors are mounted on a pair of really nice vintage Simplex bases, I would guess that they could easily be the originals.

Behind the screens is a huge stage with tons of flyspace. As usual in an old twin, that area is full of odd items such as seats, organ bits and pieces and the oringinal Breckart lamphouses. Below the stage there are varouus storage rooms, dressing rooms from the vaudville days, heating equipment, etc.

I was very impressed with the owners enthusiasm about his theatre. He plans on some day restoring it to a single in all of its original splendor. At this point he is steadily working on improving the theatre. One side has a nice, fairly new sound system and he was woring on a digital projection system while I was there.

I was very honored that he would take time from his busy day to chat with an old theatre junky and I plan on visiting again soon. If you read this Marco, your place is looking nice and thanks again!

raymondstewart
raymondstewart on November 27, 2006 at 1:59 pm

How is this place doing? I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but hope to stop in to see 007 sometime.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on July 19, 2006 at 8:12 pm

Passed by this large movie house last weekend. The marquee is huge and it says it has been entertaining crowds since 1926? I could’ve sworn it said Lyons, not Lions. The building looks exactly like the one in Newton, NJ.

BigJack
BigJack on July 11, 2006 at 3:32 pm

Marco, and his team are doing a great job!!

He’s very passionate about the place, and very willing to talk to his customers! I’ll be seeing all my movies here from now on. It’s great to have the old girl open again.

9086878288
9086878288 on June 22, 2006 at 8:31 am

went to a show the 2nd day of opening with my 2 kids…to see “over the hedge”. what a pleasant time. comfortable seating, looks of splendor, fair pricing, and great staff. i live in washington, and could not remember any time in my life where i was able to walk to the local movie theater. good luck.

teecee
teecee on May 30, 2006 at 11:02 pm

Please change status to OPEN!!

teecee
teecee on May 29, 2006 at 2:47 pm

I attended the 5:30pm show yesterday. The staff is very enthusiastic, although some still appear to be in training. Theater 1 has stadium seating. Each row in the stadium section is a separate “box” separated by iron railing. Excellent leg room, which can’t be taken away by someone in front of you leaning back. If you are tall, don’t lean too far back or you’ll get a bit of iron to the back of the head like I did! Fresh paint and good sound. The drop ceiling hides any splendor of the past. Ample free parking 1 block west of the theater. Overall a very pleasant experience. I wish them the best of luck.

teecee
teecee on May 28, 2006 at 11:41 am

Remaking a classic after 8 decades
A vintage theater makes debuts again
Sunday, May 28, 2006
BY MIKE FRASSINELLI
Star-Ledger Staff

Paying 15 cents for orchestra seats, 20 cents more for the loge, patrons sporting bowler hats and English umbrellas could experience anything from a silent film to a vaudeville act to a midget circus featuring a trio of jumbo elephants.

The 20s were still roaring when the Washington Theatre opened on Route 57 in Warren County, operated by a husband-and-wife team who previously traveled by horse and carriage to exhibit their films.

Like many 79-year-olds, the Washington has had to reinvent it self to survive nearly eight decades of changes in America.

By the time Marco Matteo was growing up in the 1980s, the Washington had become a twin movie theater and a popular venue for 3-D films. Matteo taped the plastic glasses onto his own spectacles when watching such thrillers as “Jaws 3-D” in the downtown Washington Borough theater with dated red carpets and floors sticky from Milk Duds.

By the summer of 2001, the one time theatrical crown jewel with the 32-foot-wide dome ceiling was shuttered.

Matteo, now 35, is trying to rescue the theater at the intersection of Routes 31 and 57 by mixing a little of the old with a little of the new.

A former manager with Regal Cinemas, who as a projectionist used roller blades to hurry from screen to screen, he is bringing first-run movies to the refurbished downtown theater where he en joyed so many days of his youth. (“E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and “The Natural” were favorites).

But in homage to the past, he is trying to keep as many of the old fixtures as possible, from the organ pipes, to the vaudeville dressing rooms, to the plaque cards for old acts such as “Baboona” and “The Showboat Minstrel Follies.”

The theater reopened Friday with a matinee showing of animated family flick “Over the Hedge,” and films will run every day at 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. in Warren County’s only downtown theater still used for movies.

An added Memorial Day weekend showing of “Over the Hedge” is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today and tomorrow.

Next month, movies will be added to a second screen, and a game room will be built.

Movie prices are $5 for all matinee seats (before 6 p.m.), $6.50 for high school students after 6 p.m. and $7.50 for adults after 6 p.m. Candy prices range between $1.50 and $2.50.

Matteo considers himself a “caretaker” of the building.

“As humans, we die, we have a life expectancy,” he said. “But buildings like this are immortal.”

Matteo wrote a business plan at Warren County Community College and won approval of a $150,000 loan from the Skylands Small Business Development Center.

He couldn’t believe how badly the building, erected four months before Charles Lindbergh made the first solo nonstop Trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris, had fallen into disrepair.

The roof was leaking. The plas ter walls were crumbling onto the theater seats.

“I felt like the theater was cry ing inside,” Matteo said. “I felt it reaching out to me when I walked through here.”

Matteo had to spend $20,000 to get the fire alarm system up to code. Best friend Todd Harrington, his main contractor, and electrician Hank Pfister have gotten the place in shape to open.

“My job is to continue this legacy this theater has held,” Matteo said during a harried afternoon last week, as artists Victoria Eveleth and Shawn Geiger painted theater doors and Chris Felici hurried to get the building ready for an inspection.

The legacy began on Jan. 24, 1927, by John and Clara Howell of Dover, who previously traveled by horse and carriage to show their films to a public hungry to see moving images.

Opening night, which featured four vaudeville acts, attracted 1,500 people — 500 had to be turned away. The first silent film shown was “The Music Master” by David Belasco.

Clara Howell helped decorate the building. John Howell, who bought the second automobile ever delivered to Dover, died of heart complications just a year and a half after the theater opened.

Matteo, who took an interest in Howell’s life, visiting his grave at Locust Hill Cemetery in Dover, said, “I feel like his whole story went untold.”

So did that of the late George Miller, the original projectionist, who once had Matteo to his home for a two-hour show about vaudevillians.

“I sat there for two hours and I was transfixed into this time period of the 1920s,” Matteo recalled. “At that moment, I felt like I was brought back into the past. Ever since I saw that, I always felt differently about the theater. I feel like I’ve been handed a torch that I can carry on.”

Eventually, Matteo hopes to build a temporary stage for concerts by local musical acts and comedy shows.

Alvin Sloan wishes him luck.

A 95-year-old Washington Borough institution who was town mayor in the 1930s and has had a road named after him, Sloan was manager of the Washington in 1928.

He remembered the popular vaudeville shows on Saturdays and chuckled over the bad timing of the old Washington Theatre.

“That theater never had the right picture at the right time,” he said. “Every other theater in the country had it before we got it.”

Sloan, a show-business-crazy Montclair native who went on to run 14 theaters in Hunterdon, Sus sex and Warren counties, said Mat teo faces the same problem today that other proprietors have: A lack of on-site parking.

But he is rooting for Matteo. “I’d like the theater to be successful,” he said.

Standing inside the red-brick structure, designed by architect James Lyons, Matteo thought of the possibilities for the place where he watched slashers Freddy Krueger and Jason, where he memorized lines from “City Slickers,” where he stayed in his seat for the more than three hours of “Dances With Wolves.”

“When this place closed, I realized at that moment that I have as much say-so about the future of that place as the next guy,” he said. “It’s our theater. It’s the people’s theater.”

For more information, visit the washingtontheatre.com or phone (908) 689-0899.

Mike Frassinelli covers Warren County. He may be reached at mfras or (908) 475-1218.

BigJack
BigJack on April 10, 2006 at 1:25 pm

It looks like there was an appliance store on the other side.

View link

bigboy
bigboy on March 25, 2006 at 4:06 pm

I can’t hardly wait for the WASHINGTON to reopen!

dkorzecki
dkorzecki on March 21, 2006 at 2:34 pm

I see on Dick Harpster’s photos that there was a luncheonette on one side of the theater, anybody know what was on the other side? As long as I can remember, the two spaces were empty and boarded up (but I’m only 28 yrs. old). Any background on these 2 places of business? Also, any plans out there to convert them back to businesses again?

teecee
teecee on March 15, 2006 at 11:19 pm

Aeriel view in the left center of this photo:
View link

teecee
teecee on March 2, 2006 at 9:13 am

Listed as a Brandt Theater in the 1976 International Motion Picture Almanac.

br2k2
br2k2 on February 6, 2006 at 1:24 am

Some facts for those who care.

There has been only one owner since 1984, although it has seen Richard Nathan and Nelson Page as operators. Nelson didn’t abandon the theatre because of inappropriate fines or failure to secure building permits. He decided to focus his efforts on venues that seemed more interested in helping him keep history alive. Now, after 5 years of vacancy, the theatre is finally leased and under renovation.

Marco Matteo, the new operator, has a passion and drive that should help make this an amazing success. The town is behind his effort 100%, and has been very cooperative with him. It’s really nice to see the town recognize the importance of the theatre in its community. We knew the need, and that’s why it wasn’t rented to any of the more than 15 people who wanted to change its use.

Keep your eyes peeled for the New Washington Theatre. You’re sure to be impressed. More importantly, spread the word, and attend showings. If you really want to make it successful, it takes money, and that comes from patrons. So, be sure to patronize the theatre and give it the respect it has earned.

Oh, to answer the question, I know all about this because I am one of the owners, and have been since December 31, 1984.