Fabian Theatre

45 Church Street,
Paterson, NJ 07505

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nathaniel
nathaniel on June 27, 2005 at 3:55 pm

I was born in the Barnet Hospital in 1935. I have many fond memories connected with my having spent the early years of my life in the area near East Side Park.
Recently, on my 70th birthday, I decided to return to the old neighborhood. I had not seen the place for over 20 years. I was pleased to find that nothing had changed. The big yellow house where I grew up on East 39th Street still looks beautiful. People’s lawns are still beautifully maintained, my neighbor’s houses are equally spiffy and the flowers in the month of June are even more beautiful than I remembered. When I say that nothing has changed, I really mean nothing…except for the color of the people’s skin, who now live in the area.
I then biked through the rest of the city, and there too, found that Paterson seemed to be fixed in time. The public buildings are as impressive as they were. Of course, the Fabian theatre and the Alexander Hamilton hotel next door are in a very sorry state. But, hopefully, their facades will be upgraded in connection with their being recycled by new people with different purposes in mind. To me, it is as if the whole city has, for that matter, been continually recycled. Paterson is like an old Italian hill town which having passed its prime, still serves sufficient needs of those who inhabit it to have escaped being changed or destoyed. The discerning visitor will discover the most quintessential mill town in all of America

teecee
teecee on June 12, 2005 at 10:55 am

Arcadia Publishing, “Paterson”, p. 95 has a nice photo of the theater from 1954.

teecee
teecee on June 2, 2005 at 9:55 am

Guess this never happened….

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), Feb 19, 2002 pL1
SCREEN GEM; FORMER LANDMARK CINEMA MAY GIVE WAY TO SCHOOL BOARD OFFICES. (NEWS) Eman Varoqua.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2002 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

By EMAN VAROQUA, Staff Writer

PATERSON – Plans are in the works to convert the abandoned Fabian building, once home to an opulent theater, into the Board of Education’s central office complex. The 77-year-old theater that adjoins the structure could be demolished by this summer.

“This was the great movie palace of the 1920s,” said Passaic County Historian Edward A. Smyk, admitting that he doesn’t think the building at Church and Ellison streets would qualify for historical designation.

Philip Rabinowitz, a partner in the architectural firm that bought the building, W & C Properties, said he could break ground on the $22 million project in June if he receives local and state approval.

Supporters say the renovation of the non-theater portion of the building might help jump-start downtown development. The neighboring Alexander Hamilton Hotel was also purchased by Rabinowitz’s firm and will be converted into senior assisted living. The firm recently acquired the Pruden building across the street from the Fabian, which will be converted into a restaurant and office space.

“As an old Patersonian, I’d love to see this historic district once again bustling,” Rabinowitz said. “I hope it becomes like a domino effect – and other sites become revitalized one by one.”

For three decades the Fabian Theater served as the premier movie palace in the city and a cultural mecca that attracted its share of celebrities. It was the site of vaudeville shows and premieres of Abbott and Costello movies, and had Turkish baths in its basement.

Jacob Fabian opened the silent-movie theater in 1925 with the movie “We Moderns,” with Warren Yates on the Fabian Mammoth Organ. The theater had a 2-ton chandelier with 500 light bulbs, paintings on the walls, and ornate gilding.

Like much of the city, the 1960s were not kind to the Fabian. Riots drove out middle-class residents, scared off suburban shoppers, and left the theater struggling to fill its 2,500 seats.

It was turned into a multiplex in the 1970s. Still, it couldn’t compete with suburban theaters, and it finally closed in 1993. It’s been vacant since.

The remodeled building would house 250 employees on nine floors. A four-story garage would be built next to the complex and hold 190 parking spaces. The project would increase the building from 57,000 to nearly 100,000 square feet.

As proposed, the Board of Education would commit to a 30-year lease on the building. The terms are under negotiation, but it is estimated the lease would top $1 million annually. The move would put all administrative offices in one building for the first time, said Pat Chalmers, district spokeswoman. After the lease, the board would have an option to buy the building.

“It can only be beneficial to have the administration under one roof,” Chalmers said. “We’ll also be able to consolidate our leases.” Chalmers could not provide the amount the board currently spends on leasing.

The board rents space from Rabinowitz for its main offices, 33 and 35 Church St. Administrative offices are also on Ellison Street and at various schools.

Chalmers said Superintendent Edwin Duroy is in favor of the move and is working out the amount of the annual lease.

School board Vice President Juan “Mitch” Santiago wants the district to buy the building.

“If we can work out a price that matches around what we pay now, then why not?” Santiago said. “I can’t see how anyone would have a problem.”

Board member Joseph Atallo does not support the idea of a central complex, calling it frivolous.

“I need a lot more information before I make a 30-year commitment with Paterson’s money,” Atallo said. “I feel our priority should be building schools and providing classroom space to our overcrowded district. Educating our students comes before building a Taj Mahal office building.”

Instead, Atallo would like to see the board buy a building and develop it. “We should invest in a building instead of paying rent,” Atallo said.

Over the years, various city leaders have talked of reopening the theater and Passaic County Community College contemplated buying it as part of its expansion plans.

Property owners and real estate appraisers said the $10.50-a-square-foot price tag paid by the developers, or $598,500, is to be expected for a building that is vacant and will need a lot of work. Commercial space in Paterson rents for $12- to $18-a-square-foot, more depending on its age and location, they said. If the school board pays $1 million annually for the building, that will be about $10 a square foot.

Michael Seeve, the president of Mountain Development Corp., which owns 100 Hamilton Plaza in the city’s downtown, said he looked at the Fabian but felt it needed too much work.

“To get somebody in the Fabian building, you’re talking about a major investment before you could even get someone to walk in the door,” Seeve said. “That sort of impacts the value. We were daunted by the required work. It’s a great structure and isn’t a bad location. But it wasn’t jumping out at us.”

Last year, W & C introduced plans to restore the theater, but city officials shot it down, saying the area could neither attract crowds nor compete with multiplexes. The latest plan appears to have strong support, despite the concerns by historians and critics on the board concerned with the cost.

Despite the theater being demolished, Rabinowitz said he would keep much of the remaining building’s historic integrity. He said he is convinced that his vision for the Fabian will be a boon for the downtown.

But he also warned that he would walk away, should the Board of Education reject his plans.

“If this doesn’t work, then that’s it,” Rabinowitz said. “I’m not going to do anything with the building.”

Staff Writer Eman Varoqua’s e-mail address is

ghamilton
ghamilton on May 11, 2005 at 8:37 pm

The “gays"essentially saved two theaters on Lincoln Rd.Maybe they can save the Fabian.Make Paterson the new Miami Beach!

chconnol
chconnol on March 18, 2005 at 10:57 am

Yeah, Paterson’s awesome in a very rough and tumble way. I love driving around the city. Every block, especially around the downtown area, has something unique to look at. And every time my nephews come to the area, they insist we take them to the Great Falls.

Location wise, it’s an ideal town with I-80 so close (but NOT tearing through the heart of it like in other downtowns) and the Main Line train service into NYC.

The Fabian may be too far gone for restoration though. Only time will tell.

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on March 18, 2005 at 9:55 am

As I said in my earlier post – based on the Fabian’s condition of a few years ago, the interior is too far gone. It’s been butchered by scavengers, and would require a LOT of money to restore.

With the various portions of the fake auditorium ceiling loose from the water damage, you can easily see the intact proscenium and it’s absolutely beautiful. This could have been a grand venue for this once great city.

ghamilton
ghamilton on March 17, 2005 at 8:27 pm

As a resident of VA,but who works for a Paterson headquartered company,I’ve often marveled at the potential of Paterson.It has so many beautiful,classic structures.Saving this theater should be mandatory if there is any soul to be saved here.

chconnol
chconnol on March 14, 2005 at 9:55 am

Paterson IS regentifying. Most of it is now concentrated on the Eastside which always seemed “different” from the rest of the city. There used to be a set of horrible looking factories on the Passaic River just over one of the bridges from Fair Lawn. This weekend I ventured over to Paterson and was SHOCKED to see that these factories had been completely converted into fantastic looking condos! I mean, these things looked amazing. And talk about a great location. There’s a Home Depot going up farther north on Route 20 near the Fair Lawn Ave bridge that I will definately use.

It’s a matter of time before the rest of the city begins to change as well. The reason I think it’s going to happen is that house prices in ALL the areas around Paterson are going sky high. You can still get a palace in Paterson for nothing. And I KNOW people who are moving into the city for just that reason. They want to be in Northern NJ and Paterson is the most affordable.

But as pread states, by the time regentrification really takes off, the Fabian may be so far gone that it’s hopeless.

pread
pread on March 6, 2005 at 7:18 pm

I kind of agree with cconnelly. I wrote “Paterson,” one of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series (www.bn.com) in 2003. I drove to the Danforth Library and spent time there 5 weekends in a row. I’ve been on the Eastside Neighborhood Tour several times. In doing the book, I realized that much of century-old Paterson is still standing, ripe for revival. Much of Newark has been taken down, it’s architectual beauty lost forever. If you’re serious about saving the Fabian, contact the town’s old elite, Sen. Frank Lautenberg and ask him if he can muster a group of monied individuals who’d like to gamble and try reading from the Jersey City Loews lesson and see if it can fly. Ask them to pony up the first gifts in a fund-raising drive. Hey, Clifton parents a few years ago raised $100,000 plus for band uniforms in a few weeks; seems there’s enough resources connected to good old Paterson.

lfreimauer
lfreimauer on February 17, 2005 at 5:19 pm

anything new about the proposed demolition of the Fabian?

chconnol
chconnol on January 28, 2005 at 9:00 am

I live right near Paterson and I drive into the city to look around.

I’m shocked at how people outside of the city depict it now. Honestly, it’s not that bad especially around the City Hall area. The East Side is getting to be very nice thanks to the influx of Gays who are renovating the HELL outta those fantastic old mansions there. And East Side Park gets better looking every year.

Paterson will be rediscovered. It’s a PRIME location. It’s got Route 80 just to it’s south (what’s good is that the interstate doesn’t cut through the heart of the city but close enough to make it convenient). Plus, it’s got a major rail line into NYC.

Add to that some truly unique and marvelous architectural elements including The Fabian. But I don’t think time is on the poor theater’s side. By the time Paterson starts to really regentrify, I believe The Fabian will be long gone. It’s sad but true.

htorres
htorres on January 26, 2005 at 11:13 am

Hello,

My name is Hector Torres, I’m a 1977 Eastside High School Graduate who was born in New York and raised in Paterson, and I too grew up going to the Fabian Theatre. Although I departed the city of Paterson over 25 years ago, I still visit family and friends periodically and would love to see that historical landmark preserved and refurbished. The city of Paterson is an essential part of our nation’s history (especially the east coast) and it should be preserved, regardless of how bad the neigorhood is.

Throughout my successful the completion my 21 year naval career and college years, I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity of observe the unfolding of Paterson’s deteriatiation, block by block over the years. Law biding citizens that understand the importance of historical preservation for the sake of our nation, should take every possible action to preserve the Fabian Theatre and other landmarks in Paterson, NJ of historical interest.

No, I am not related to Joey Torres but I do know him. But we did lived in the same neighborhood and went to school together. As a matter of fact, my sister has been the Mayor’s Executive Secretary for over 25 years. So if there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. I can’t make any guarentees by I will give it my best shot.

chconnol
chconnol on January 20, 2005 at 3:47 pm

Article on this website today makes it sound like The Fabian’s days are numbered.

I drove into Paterson about a month ago to see where this is. Though I wouldn’t say the downtown area is a shambles (it’s really not THAT bad…) the theater doesn’t look good from the outside.

Can anyone tell me when they feel Paterson officially “hit-the-skids”? A poster above remembers seeing “The Godfather” at The Fabian in 1972 and it was still a good area. The woman that I bought my home from in Northern NJ told me that she was born and raised in Paterson. Even after she got married, she lived on the Eastside in a luxury apartment building. She said the area was fine through the 60’s BUT around 1972, she noticed that it was no longer desirable even on the Eastside. She got out of there in 1972.

I always find it fascinating to hear people talk of areas like Paterson and when it was nice and then how seemingly quickly the area turns. To many, it seems like it’s overnight.

ejf3549
ejf3549 on January 9, 2005 at 4:54 pm

Hello – my name is Ed Franks and I publish The Patersonian in Paterson. On Saturday, March 5, 2005 we are having a 99th borthday party for Lou Costello. Mayor Torres and several members of the Costello family will be there including Chris (Lou’s youngest daughter). Check out www.happybirthdaylou.com
Ed Franks

joecaiola
joecaiola on October 30, 2004 at 12:53 am

If anyone cares to join me, I will be asking Mayor Torres myself what if anything can be done to this theater. I need as much help as possible with putting a commitee together to help preserve this site. If enough voices are heard and enough deeds are done we can save this, WE CAN DO THIS IF WE ALL HELP THIS CAUSE, Joe Caiola 973-341-4740

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on September 23, 2004 at 9:16 am

Yes Larry, the Fine Arts (Lincoln) was directly across the street from the Central. We used to go to Bittman’s Camera Shop on Lexington Avenue all the time. The Fine Arts played “adult” fare in the mid to late sixties, and eventually burned down. After that, we used to cut through the empty lot to go to the Central.

lfreimauer
lfreimauer on September 22, 2004 at 4:41 pm

Does anyone remember the Fine Arts Theater in Passaic which was originally the Lincon Theater? I think it was on Lexington Avenue.

lfreimauer
lfreimauer on September 21, 2004 at 4:49 pm

Does anyone remember the Regent Theater in Paterson? Had an very long and large lobby as I recall because there were two entrances from different streets.

umbaba
umbaba on September 3, 2004 at 8:55 am

Bob,

We must be on the same page. I attend the Lafayette every week since the Bigscreen Classics started (I think I missed just 1 last season) I love that theater and the way they present the films. I’ll be there next week also (although maybe not for all of them) and the following week for “Caine Mutiny”. I’m kind of lost when the series ends. That theater is the last one that is a throwback to the good ole days. A small world huh?

My childhood memories are of The Plaza Theater in paterson. I practically lived there. I’m on my way now to the Film Forum, NYC to see some Godzilla movies to re-live the old days. I never been to the Montauk for the same reasons as you, but I’d love to see the interior to see what it looked like. it must be something as it seated over 2000 people…but I won’t pay to go in there now, you know what I mean.

I really want to attend the Loews Jersey City but the showtimes for me are not that good. Too many weekend shows at night. I wish they’d show more early matinees.

Let me know if you get those pics scanned, would love to see them.

Thanks Bob

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on September 2, 2004 at 9:33 am

I’ll see if my friend can scan them, and try to post them on this site.

Growing up in the late 60’s/early 70’s, I practically lived at the Central in Passaic. My friends and I were there it seems every weekend for the latest horror film. I occasionally went to the Clifton and Allwood, but never to the Montauk or Capitol. They were showing porno by that time.

I’ve been in many area theaters since, and I’ve posted my accounts of seeing the deteriorating interiors of Paterson’s Orpheum, Passaic’s Palace, Newark’s Proctors and Adams, etc.

I’m proud to say that I played a big part in helping to save the Loew’s Jersey from the wreckers ball. My film events in the lobby generated a tremendous amount of positive press, and came at a crucial time when the building was up for demolition.

My latest efforts have been with the fabulous Lafayette in Suffern, and I’ll be there for the big science-fiction event next weekend. If you’re in the area, don’t miss it!

umbaba
umbaba on September 2, 2004 at 8:52 am

Bob

I would love to see those photos from The Fabian, especially the interior shots. If it is easier, I can give you my e-mail. Let me know.

BTW…what other Passaic County theaters do you rememeber and that you might have frequented?

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on September 1, 2004 at 11:20 am

Rhett, I have some poor quality photos of the interior from the 1920’s. I’ll ask my friend to scan them and see if he can post them. I also have some terrific photos of the exterior from the “Jack and the Beanstalk” premiere.

In the mid-60’s, my Mom would often take the bus to Paterson to shop at the big department stores, and I can remember going with her. I had to go there last year for jury duty, and spent some time walking around downtown. It’s truly sad to see the condition it’s in. That area around City Hall with its stately buildings must have been quite prime in the old days.

umbaba
umbaba on September 1, 2004 at 9:26 am

Bob,

You’re SO right. Being a Paterson native myself and having been to the Fabian when I was a kid, I am greatly saddened on how they let this theater disolve into an eyesore. The hard part is, that it’s still there. I always wished too that someone would restore this theater to it’s original design so that it could become a live landmark for Paterson to show premieres, concerts, shows etc.

Can you imagine the 50th of “A and C, Jack and the beanstalk” at the Fabian, where it premiered. What a story that would’ve been.

You’re right about Paterson. It’s not a safe haven for anyone, even in daytime. Back in the day, my mother could take us kids there, park on the street and not have to worry about getting mugged. It was a different time. Paterson was different. Like the Fabian, The Plaza Theater on Union Ave. also dilapidated and was finally demolished for an auto parts store 2 years ago. Paterson has not one theater now. I don’t know, was it the movies that brought in the bad crowds or just a sign of the times. Blaxploitation, kung fu, slasher movies. Some of them were pretty good and are now classics. I think that through the years, people just become more disrespectful. That’s why the theaters failed. Bad management, bad product, bad people, the times.

Bob, I always wanted to get inside the Fabian to see what it’s become, as well as to have some nostalgic flashback. Might you have any pictures of it’s interior. I was there last year and took pics of the exterior.

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on August 31, 2004 at 4:38 pm

I was in the Fabian in 1991 to promote a new book that I had written on Abbott and Costello. At that time, the theater could have still been salvaged. While it was in rough shape, much of it was still intact. (We moved one of the drop ceiling titles in the projection booth of the backstage theaters, and the original proscenium was above it. It was beautiful and in very good condition.)

I was in the theater just a few years ago, and was shocked to see how much damage had occurred. Apparently, a subsequent owner had allowed scavengers to strip anything they could sell. Marble had been rather savagely removed from the mezzanine overlooking the lobby. They even jack-hammered the ornamental air ducts from under the balcony. To make matters worse, there was now considerable water damage to the side walls. The sad part was seeing much of the original ceiling and proscenium, as the leaky roof had caused portions of the drop ceiling to come loose and fall. I left there realizing that this once great theater was beyond hope.

Plus, to be brutally honest, downtown Paterson is not a very safe place, even in the daytime. There’s absolutely no way that a theater could survive in that area.

We did get to see the indoor swimming pool, and it was truly bizarre. In the basement of this decrepit theater/office building, was this beautiful swimming pool with all of these intricate in-laid tiles. Unlike the rest of the building, this area was in fairly good condition. It looked like the scavengers hadn’t discovered it.

Although it was held at the Fabian, we hosted the 50th anniversary premiere showing of Abbott and Costello’s JACK AND THE BEANSTALK at the Loew’s Jersey in 2002. There were no suitable theaters to host this commemorative event in Costello’s hometown of Paterson.

What a shame.

lfreimauer
lfreimauer on August 16, 2004 at 1:28 pm

Does anyone remember the Majestic Theater in Paterson which was across thr street from the U.S? They used to show triple feature cowboy films at one time