Menlo Park Twin Cinema

390 Menlo Park Mall,
Edison, NJ 08837

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Showing 51 - 74 of 74 comments

verranth1
verranth1 on June 1, 2006 at 2:58 am

I was lucky enough to see the 70MM “Aliens” here and I remember the “big deal” over it. For me to go to sci-fi film, well, it had to be an event.

We went to a 12:00 AM showing to avoid the crowds and the theatre was just dead for some reason. Talk about creepy. Three people (two of them being under the age of 14) in a huge theatre watching that film in all it’s Dolby/70MM splendor.

Menlo was too far way from my childhood home for me to be a frequent visitor but everyone is right that there was a “special” feeling to it. It seemed to be an “event” theatre – one you chose to see something special or a film that was a little “arty”.

I can remember seeing “The Rose” there, which taught my brother and I to curse, “10”, which taught us a lot of things and I can still recall dropping my father and I dropping my brother off there to see all the “Star Wars” Films.

My last film there was “Garbo Talks”. Quite a letdown and a rather sad goodbye to a great theatre.

uffasan
uffasan on March 8, 2006 at 8:01 am

I’d like to see those pics as well. I’d also throw them up on my site and post the link here.

moviebluedog
moviebluedog on February 21, 2006 at 5:35 am

Hi Joe Scotti, I’d be interested in seeing those pictures that you took of this theatre. Please email me at Thanks.

JackS124
JackS124 on December 27, 2005 at 4:00 pm

I am so happy to have found this site! I happened to do a Google search on the Menlo Park Cinema and located this site and immediately joined!

The General Cinema Menlo Park was probably the premiere first run theater in Central NJ during it’s heydays of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I had an aunt that lived in Spotswood, NJ at the time the theater opened and she told me stories of what a big deal the opening of the theater was in the early 60’s. By her description, the grand opening was on-par with Hollywood style opening night, with reserved seating and such.

The theater itself was very unique architecturally, designed in a very modernist style. The box office area was located on the left of the building, if you were facing it, with the theater auditorium on the right and probably in excess of 3 stories tall. The box office itself was a very modern affair with a low, white flat roof but completely windowed. On entering the box office, 2-3 box office windows were located in the front. You then entered the “lobby” area through 2 glass doors and were in the “gallery” area. Various modern artwork adorned the walls and there were low cushioned benches throuughout for sitting. I do recall at one time that the work of various local artists were featured in the gallery area.

As a kid, some of my fondest memories of going to the movies revolved around the Menlo Park Cinema. As mentioned before, the theater had a balcony area which if memory serves me, at one point was designated the “Smoking Loge”, which for an additional charge patrons could purchase tickets. The balcony area also had a full refreshment/concession area that was always staffed.

I recall one of the first films I have any memory of seeing as a kid was Disney’s re-release of Snow White, probably around 1967 or 1968. I recall that the afternoon showing we were at was over-sold because my friends and I had to sit on the floor in the aisle and the adults had to sit in the remaining single seats available.

All of the blockbuster films of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s always where shown during the exclusive engangement runs at the Menlo. The Godfather 1, all of the Bond films, the Indiana Jones trilogy, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. were all films I recall seeing at the Menlo. In fact, I think my love of the movies was born at the Menlo.

I believe the theater was made into a twin sometime in the mid-70’s. A huge wall was erected that basically spit the theater in half long-ways. For a time after the split, the balcony area remained opened to the public but subsequently was roped off and never accessible again, which was a shame. For a time, a local sponsors used to host a “Kiddie Matinee” on Satuday mornings which if I remember correctly were free. I recall one of the first sponsors was Valiant Aluminum, an aluminum siding outfit who’s owner, Dick Najar (sp?) used to call him self “Capt. Vinyl” for the vinyl siding he was selling. Later, I believe it was Fords Jewelers that sponsored the Kiddie Matinee.

Towards the end of the Menlo’s day’s I became convinced that General Cinema was intentionally running the theater into the ground. The Menlo no longer got first run films, the interior of the theater was becoming thread-worn, bathrooms were always broken and the like. In fact, all the first run showings that normally would have gone to the Menlo now seemed to go to the Woodbridge General Cinema, which was about 2-3 miles north of the theater.

When the planned reconstruction of Menlo Park Mall was announced in the late 80’s, the simultaneous announcement was made that the Menlo Park Cinema was closing to be replaced by a new 12-plex at the mall. To my horror, they also announced that the old Menlo would be demolished. Currently, a Macaroni Grill sits on the site of the old Menlo.

To this day, I still miss the experience of going to the movies at the Menlo, one my all-time favorite local theaters.

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on October 14, 2005 at 1:48 pm

It would be great if some of those photos mentioned in previous posts were uploaded to a Photobucket or some other site with a link, for all of us readers to see.

BillChyzik
BillChyzik on October 14, 2005 at 1:27 pm

I came across this site and was completely blown away. My name is Bill Chyzik and I worked at Woodbridge Cinema in 1985 and 1986 before moving to Menlo and working for Tony Bryla in late 1986, I was Chief of Staff in 1987 at Menlo, and i actually remember you Jerry along with Abe and Crazy Gazi. If anyone has any old photos of the place i would love to see some, you can email me at

Coate
Coate on September 25, 2005 at 4:16 pm

“The orginal theatre opened in 1960 with a reserved seat engagement of SPARTACUS.” (TomR, Oct 25, 2004)


“Spartacus” was indeed the debut attraction. However, the theater actually opened in October of 1961 according to the grand opening advertisements that appeared in The Newark Star-Ledger.

SPOK
SPOK on August 21, 2005 at 1:35 am

Menlo Park was one great theater. My parents took me to see MARY POPPINS at Menlo Park way back in 1964. Unfortunately I did not make it back to this particular theater until THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was released. It was Memorial Day, and there was a line of people stretching across the parking lot toward the old Menlo Park Mall. I took my younger brother and sister with me to see the movie. First we went into the mall to get some snacks, and I bought a paperback book, for the long wait in the line. Then we got in line for about three hours before we got into the theater.

My favorite story about that wait in line was how the best parts of the movie were spoiled by people exiting the theater by the back door. This mob of people had just seen the movie and had to cross through our long line in order to get to their cars. As they passed by you could not help but hear them comment about the film: “I can’t believe Darth Vader is Luke’s father.” “That was gross when Luke’s hand got chopped off.” “I hope they rescue Han Solo and unfreeze him.”

Thanks guys.

Yes, I was one of those fanatics who went to see EMPIRE STRIKES BACK a half dozen times.

The last movie I saw at Menlo Park was LION OF THE DESERT.

It was not until several years ago, while driving north on US 1 for the first time since leaving the Army that I realized the magnificant Menlo Park Cinema was gone.

moviesmovies
moviesmovies on July 13, 2005 at 12:11 pm

saw ‘Love Story’, ‘Manhattan’ and ‘An Unmarried Woman’ here.

kbog33
kbog33 on July 3, 2005 at 6:14 pm

I grew up in Menlo Park Terrace. In the late 60s and early 70s they used to show free matinees for kids. Stuff like “Willie Wonka” and “Its a Mad, Mad, Mad World”. Great stuff.

I remember Star Wars ran there for like 18 months. So it there 4 times. Unheard of today.

If anyone has an old picture of the building, please let me know.
Thanks
Ken B

tog15
tog15 on June 28, 2005 at 9:23 am

I too grew up in Edison and can’t tell you how many great moments of my childhood and teenage years took place in this theater. From seeing all three Star wars films there,(I remember being 5 yrs old sitting in the very first row, crinking my neck in amazment as I watched the imperial star destroyer fill the screen for the very first time, walking out in denial upon finding out that Vader was Lukes father, and feeling sadness thinking that Return of the Jedi would be the last I would see of the characters were like family.) Then only to have my friend work there as a teen and let me act cool as I snuck girls up to the closed off balcony to make out! I ended up working at the new Odeon when it opened in 91 and had some good times there too but it wasn’t the same.

Coate
Coate on June 17, 2005 at 4:27 pm

The Menlo Park Twin was among the theatres included in the original limited-market launch of “Star Wars.” Nearly all of the 32 opening-day houses broke house records for opening-day business. Opening-day gross at Menlo Park was $5,398. (That may seem like a piddly amount of money by today’s standards, but for a mid-week 1977 day’s business it’s quite a bit.)

Source: Daily Variety (5/27/77). For more info about the original release of “Star Wars,” see:
View link

JerryK
JerryK on June 17, 2005 at 3:26 pm

Joe,
Send me your E-Mail address and I will send you a few screen caps. I could tell you PLENTY of stories, but some of them could not appear here! :–) Some of the crazy stuff wasn’t only confined to the auditorium! LOL!
If memory serves me correctly, Menlo (along with Madison on Rt9 North) was twinned in 1976, much to my disapointment. The BIG disapointment was the sale of the Woodbridge Walter Reade to General Cinema and the subsequent twinning of THAT house. That was a great 70mm theatre with Norelco machines before the twinning. After the twinning, it never showed 70mm again and operated from a 5 tier platter system which fed both houses. Somewhere in my collection, I have a set of 35mm photos I shot of the Walter Reade before it was twinned.

Jerry

Jerry

Jerry

filmakr1
filmakr1 on June 17, 2005 at 2:55 pm

Hey Jerry, I took three shots of the theatre right before it was torn down in late 1991, when I lived in Edison right up the street. Could I exchange these for the screen caps you have … especially inside the theatre and the one of the marquee!

I grew up in this theatre as a kid from the mid 70’s throughout its closing … I’m sure to many movies YOU projected yourself for me and the audience. I went to film school and became an independant filmmaker and Menlo Park is largely responsible.

I’m sure there are a million stories you could tell. If you could maybe share a few that would be great. Anything about the theatre itself or it’s personnel. For example when did it become a twin?

I have a great story: While watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind in late 1977, during the part where Richard Dreyfuss’s character is sitting at a train stop … just as the UFO’s appear above him there was a small explosion (well more like a loud POP!) in the theatre and all the power went out! Turned out a car smashed into a pole a ways up on Parsonage Road and killed the power. The timing was great … and CREEPY!

I also have a tape recording inside the theatre during a screening of Star Wars in August 1977. I know I must sound like a nut, but hey, I was 14 years old at the time …

Joe Scotti

JerryK
JerryK on June 17, 2005 at 6:23 am

TomR,
I found the tape of the “final night” and I captured a few frames. One is a shot of the Marquee with three people sitting on it..Monica is one and a guy with a mustache…you perhaps? E mail me at and I’ll send them to you.

Jerry

RCMH
RCMH on June 16, 2005 at 5:09 am

Jerry Kampo: Would to see those pics of the theater on its last day. Abe & Joe were great guys to work with.

JerryK
JerryK on June 13, 2005 at 6:46 am

I worked at Menlo during the 70’s and 80’s as a part time projectionist. Many happy memories of that theatre, especially before it was, in my opinion, ruined by converting to a twin. I have some video I had shot of the interior of the theatre, including the booth, on the last night of operation. I will see if I can capture some screen shots and post them here. I feel a deep sense of loss everytime I travel past where the theatre once stood. Many good people worked there through the years, including Mr. Abe Levine and Mr.Joe Gazi, the original projectionists…two of the best!

Coate
Coate on May 13, 2005 at 8:33 pm

QUOTE:
“On May 25, 1979, [the Menlo Park Cinema] was one of 91 theaters nationwide that ran the original limited release of Alien, which was shown in 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo”


Check out this article if you’re curious what the other 90 original locations were that screened “Alien”:
View link

One of the reasons I wrote this article is to capture the spirit of these nostalgia-inducing memories present in so many of these Cinema Treasures discussions. Enjoy!

Key passage from article:
“Those moviegoers who saw ‘Alien’ in a theatre in 1979 may feel a touch of nostalgia looking over the engagement list, particularly if the cinema in which they recall attending a screening is represented. As well, moviegoers with a fondness for classic or hometown cinemas may be saddened by the realization that most of the cinemas included in the engagement list are no longer in business, victims of what some in the industry consider progress: the megaplex.”

teecee
teecee on May 13, 2005 at 12:37 pm

On May 25, 1979, was one of 91 theaters nationwide that ran the original limited release of Alien, which was shown in 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo

RCMH
RCMH on April 19, 2005 at 10:24 pm

Filmakr1 – The manager of the theatre back in the EMPIRE/JEDI days was Tony Rizzo. He passed away about a year after JEDI was there. Would like to see the pics of the theatre. –
Thanks

filmakr1
filmakr1 on April 19, 2005 at 4:41 pm

I also have pictures of the theater right before it was taken down in 1991. If you’re interested in seeing them lemme know.

filmakr1
filmakr1 on April 19, 2005 at 4:38 pm

Hey Tom R. the Menlo Park Cinema was kind special to me as I sat in line overnight for both Empire and Jedi, plus saw Star Wars 20 times in the summer of 1977. I’ve been looking for a photo of the marquee while Star Wars was playing. I know you managed there later on, but would you have known who managed or worked there in the late 70’s- 80’s? Please e-mail me at , thanks

RCMH
RCMH on October 25, 2004 at 8:38 am

The theatre was operated by General Cinema, not Cineplex Odeon. Cineplex Odeons opened the new theatre within the rebuilt mall. The orginal theatre opened in 1960 with a reserved seat engagement of SPARTACUS. The twinning split the auditorium in half, so each side had balcony seating. After the twinning, 70mm was only available in one auditorium. We played INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM on both screens – one side in 35mm and the other in 70mm.
I was the manager that closed the theatre.

timquan
timquan on August 4, 2004 at 9:59 am

All I can remember about the Menlo Park Cinema was the exterior, and how big it was! You can see it within a half-mile driving either direction on US Route 1. BTW, the US Route 1 portion between Woodbridge Center and Menlo Park Mall was always jammed with cars, during rush hour and on weekends, because of 2 things: 2 lanes each direction, and the interchange to the Garden State Parkway.