Loew's Jersey Theatre

54 Journal Square,
Jersey City, NJ 07306

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Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on May 3, 2004 at 8:04 pm

Ray Harryhausen is coming to the Loew’s! He’ll be appearing at 7:30 PM on Friday, May 14th before the showing of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

edward
edward on April 30, 2004 at 9:50 pm

Perhaps if concession stands stopped selling those gallon sized soda fountain drinks, there wouldn’t be such a concern about bathroom facilities.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on April 30, 2004 at 9:10 pm

Jim, well said. One old theater manger mentioned another possible rationale for the minimal “facilities” using minimal words that will mean nothing to people under a certain age.

He simply said “This is where we came in.”

And I think this is where I came in. Gotta go….

JimRankin
JimRankin on April 30, 2004 at 6:57 pm

It is clear that the noted and demonstrably capable and expert architects, Cornelius and George Rapp of Chicago, did indeed plan extra lavatories as brought out in an earlier post where the commenter explains that there is to this day a very large excavated area under the lobby, so it is apparent that the builders did plan for more rest rooms and a lounge, as would have been customary. Just why they were never built is not currently known. It could well be due to financial limitations at the time, since the movie house circuits were building ‘right and left’ and it would not have been the first time that one of them found themselves overextended financially, and were forced to cut costs somewhere, and an ornate lounge with restrooms would have cost many thousands more dollars. With the stock market crash of the Great Depression coming along just then, many who had intended to enlarge or alter their theatres, were now struggling to survive, much less be concerned with already operating buildings. That fateful day in October of 1929 was a landmark event in financial terms, and few alive today can realize what a tremendous change it was to the ‘spend freely, live freely’ attitudes of the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ It is true that lavatory provisions of those days were behind what we would prescribe these days, but every true movie palace was a model of adequate toilet rooms in that era, with much meager provisions in most other buildings of the day. We must also look at the changes in theatre usage patterns in our day, with no more continuous performances, and people looking upon modern multiplexes as a social meeting place, with girls and women sometimes using the ‘bathrooms’ as conversation centers to ‘hang out’. It is also fashionable nowadays for women writers to ‘dump’ upon men as though men were abusive of women and responsible for not realizing that women take longer and therefore require more facilities. No, it is clear that lavish facilities for women (usually much more elaborate than for men) were designed by the men at Rapp&Rapp, but outside circumstances beyond their control forced the deletion of the usual basement lounges from their plans, no doubt against their advice! Even the most superficial examination of their works across the nation will show that they never stinted on lavatories â€" nor anywhere else. The architects of that day as well as the owners of the theatres were acutely aware of the prominence of female audiences, and adroitly catered to them, so no men should find themselves “in a special place in Hell” since there was no intent to deprive as the uninformed writer referred to in the previous post assumes.

mahermusic
mahermusic on April 29, 2004 at 2:12 am

Edward:

This is sort of a touchy subject… I’ll give you my best take on it. It wasn’t the wrecking company, for they never made it on the premises. The theatre was boarded up to keep people out when it closed, and… certain people that were in the company that bought the building removed items, including two ultra-huge mirrors that used to grace the far wall of the Grand Foyer. (Where the entrance to the Auditorium is). We received one light fixture back when the theatre was saved.

Vandals DID get in once when we were actually there! At this time, there were no lights operating inside the theatre. (This was also pre my involvement with FOL). They (vandals) were carting off the original brass handrails that ran up the center of the grand staircase. That’s the one on the left as you come in. (There’s no center handrail on the right, overflow staircase). We have removed the entire handrail and placed non-original posts where the originals were mounted. Fear not, for we still have the entire handrails somewhere in the theatre. There were kept in the Assistant Manager’s office right next to the stairway, but we made that into an ADA-accessable bathroom and cleaned everything out of there. We have it, though, somewhere in the Theatre.

mahermusic
mahermusic on April 29, 2004 at 1:59 am

In our theatre we call it a “Napoleon” marquee, as in Napoleon’s hat. (The curved shape). I was trying to answer all the questions, I must have thought that everyone must have known what that was… (Might be a Loew’s Jersey thing!)

edward
edward on April 28, 2004 at 4:07 pm

Mahermusic:
-Eventually re-create missing light fixtures taken from the Loew’s Jersey when it was to be demolished. When Friends of the Loew’s managed to save the theatre from the wrecking ball, only a VERY FEW items were given back to the theatre. These, alas, were one-of-a-kind items that must be recreated from photographs on hand.

What did the wrecking company do with these items? Were they stolen by workers or vandals?

edward
edward on April 28, 2004 at 4:06 pm

Mahermusic:
-Eventually re-create missing light fixtures taken from the Loew’s Jersey when it was to be demolished. When Friends of the Loew’s managed to save the theatre from the wrecking ball, only a VERY FEW items were given back to the theatre. These, alas, were one-of-a-kind items that must be recreated from photographs on hand.

What did the wrecking company do with these items? Were they stolen by workers or vandals?

JimRankin
JimRankin on April 28, 2004 at 3:51 pm

Mahermusic: what is a “Napoleon” marquee as you state in this sentence in your April 26 post: “Eventually restoring the marquee to match the original. It was a Napoleon-type, much like the New York Paramount.” Where did you find this term, since I ran it past the Ex.Dir. of the Theatre Historical Soc. (www.HistoricTheatres.org) and he knew nothing of it? Could you mean the “French curve” of the original at the NY Paramount? Napoleon was French even though he was born in Corsica.

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on April 26, 2004 at 10:54 pm

Hi Mahermusic, Can you contact me direct? .uk

Thanks.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on April 26, 2004 at 10:08 pm

Guy sitting in front of me Friday night talking to his girlfriend after the film Guys and Dolls(presented in stereo-a very pleasant surprise.)

“I’ve seen this so many times on TV but tonight feels like it’s the first time I’ve seen it.”

mahermusic
mahermusic on April 26, 2004 at 9:35 pm

The original draperies are beautiful, aren’t they? The entire theatre was built fireproofed. Even the “wood” paneling in the Men’s Smoking Lounge (which is now a Men’s NO-SMOKING Lounge) is plaster made to look like wood.

The draperies will remain, and are in surprisingly good condition, save for one or two up in the closed-off balcony level that will have to be restored after years of nicotine.

I can tell you what’s been talked in the coming months/years.

-The GSTOS will be finishing up on our beloved “Wonder Morton” organ. This will be a sold-out night when the organ rises out of the Orchestra Pit in all its restored glory for the first time in years.

-Fire Exit door restoration/replacement, along with reinforcing fire staircases on the outside.

-Securing original matching seating for the front of the auditorium.

-Stabilizing loose plaster in the auditorium. Replacing missing plaster elements in Auditorium.

-Cleaning years of nicotine from the Auditorium and Grand Foyer, and color matching the original colors on these surfaces where missing. (Will require scaffolding in both areas. One of the MAJOR jobs in the future).

-Installation of seating in the Loge, Mezzanine, and Balcony areas. (Can’t tell you how many people want to sit up there and relive memories from long ago…)

-Eventually re-create missing light fixtures taken from the Loew’s Jersey when it was to be demolished. When Friends of the Loew’s managed to save the theatre from the wrecking ball, only a VERY FEW items were given back to the theatre. These, alas, were one-of-a-kind items that must be recreated from photographs on hand.

-Modernizing the backstage areas, including the Dressing Room levels. (this is being done now) This will ensure performing groups that perform at this historic venue will have modern facilities at their fingertips (including showers). The theatre-goer will not see these modernizations, only the original 1929 “look” will they experience. (The entire theatre, as large as it is, has ONE shower in it for ALL of the performers!!!)

-Eventually restoring the marquee to match the original. It was a Napoleon-type, much like the New York Paramount. The HUGE vertical marquee, removed in the 1960’s, will not be restored. That actually put major stress on the building’s structure.

We do not have the original furniture from the theatre, save for a few pieces. They were either sold off long ago, or brought to hotels owned by the Loew’s Corp. also long ago. We DO have photos of the theatre in our archives of where everything was, even names of artwork and statuary.

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on April 26, 2004 at 8:44 am

Are you in a position to talk about upcoming renovation work? I love the website but it tends to just give an overview of what amazing work has been done by the “Friends of the Loews”. I want to hear about whats coming up.

I also want to ask about the drapes throughout the theatre. Have they been fire retarded. Can they stay? It’s important the originals are retained and sometimes a deal can be struck with the fire department on an historical basis. It is, of course, possible to recreate but the patina of the originals contibutes so much to the ambience of the building. On the same subject, are there any plans to recover items of the original furniture. Do you have any in storage?

Maybe if the website involved its readers with the forward planning aspect of the restoration it might be reflected in donations??? It is such a fantastic opportunity to get involved in restoring one of the countrys most important Cinema Treasures, not to mention one that is so complete.

mahermusic
mahermusic on April 26, 2004 at 3:33 am

Thank you Porter. I would be happy to entertain questions if anyone has any. (Nothing political – dealing with the City, please. We have others in “Friends of the Loews” that are doing an excellent job within this area!!!).

Like some of the other Wonder Theatres, the Orchestra Pit at the Loew’s Jersey was also boarded over to provide extra rows of seating. This number I have written down at the theatre, but I do not have it at home right now.(I believe it is 3,214, if memory serves…).

Also, the Loew’s Jersey is unlike any other theatre that I’ve ever been in as it’s not the usual “L” shape. Look at the theatre from a distance straight on (say, from the PATH station across the street), and you’ll see that the actual theatre is built on a curve! It’s deceiving to the eyes when you enter. You will keep walking ever-so-slightly to the right as you walk through the entire length of the theatre. It’s actually built on the cliffs of the PATH tracks. (Must have been an architectual nightmare to design a theatre of this size in such an awkward area.)

The chandelier in the Grand Foyer was restored by hand by members of Friends of the Loew’s in 2001. It’s original cost was $65,000 (1929 dollars), and is made of Pre-war Czekloslovokian (sp) crystal. Takes two members about 45 minutes to lower it to floor level, and three members an hour to raise it. I believe it has 127 lights.

The Orchestra Pit lift, and Piano lift work just fine. The organ lift is being restored while members of the GSTOS are readying the re-installation of our Wonder Morton Theater Organ on the lift. The organ console is actually entered facing the audience. The lift is also a motorized turntable, and has to be turned around so the organist’s back is to the audience before it is raised into position.

porterfaulkner
porterfaulkner on April 25, 2004 at 10:49 am

What fantastic and informative details on this most spectacular of showplaces. Thanks Mahermusic, I for one am interested in any more you may have to offer.

mahermusic
mahermusic on April 25, 2004 at 4:58 am

I am one of the volunteers with “Friends Of The Loew’s”, the organization responsible for saving the Loew’s Jersey from demolition from 1986 – 1993, when the City purchased the building from the developer that bought it from Loews. I can answer some of the above questions…

Restrooms. On the original blueprints for the Loew’s Jersey City, which we own, there WAS planned a lower lounge in the basement which included telephones, a second coat room, mens and ladies restrooms, and a drinking fountain, in addition to the usher’s rooms. For some reason, the facilities were never built. The service stairs down to the basement leads to a HUGE open area, which is where the lounge would be. It is quite odd, for the foundation for the lounge was built, and butts up against the plenum under the orchestra, but this was left open. Usher’s rooms and their bathrooms were built in and around this area. There are no other public bathroom in the Balcony Lounge, just a water fountain was placed up there. We have placed a ADA bathroom in what used to be the Assistant Manager’s office right off the Grand Foyer.

The same blueprints have sound equipment hastily added. (We have quite a few different incarnations of the working blueprints). Other items not added were a set of lights directly above the orchestra, in front of the procenium arch, which shone down on the orchestra pit. There are controls on the board backstage to turn these on, and wires actually exist up to where they would be, but no holes were opened in the ceiling, and no fixtures were ever installed.

Chandelier. There was never a chandelier in the auditorium. No fixture exists, or wires.

There are still ladders hidden behind walls, from when the theatre was being built, that have been hidden since 1929! One such ladder is behind an auditorium wall halfway down on the left side (near where the balcony line is).

Seating. The seats in front of the balcony were taken out after the 1974 triplexing, since no one could sit “down front” anyway. To see anything on the main screen, you had to sit in the balcony. (Our best guess is that people would toss garbage down there, and it made it easier to clean if the seats weren’t there, not to mention using the seats for parts. Original opening day seating was 3,168. Later upped to 3,189 when 21 seats were added to fill in two rows leading to the fire exit on the right side. (The slight indentation in the floor in front of the exit is still there.) We filled in the two front middle sections with seating that we have found from a Jehova’s Witness Hall in upstate New York. Confortable and practical, it is good for now. Seats were left off the front end sections until we finish with the walls (restoration). The same seating from the Loew’s Jersey is in the Loew’s Kings. A deal fell through to allow us to replace the missing seats with the same seats from the Kings. (Remember when they were going to make a megaplex out of the Kings? Magic Johnson… They were going to gut the seating, and we were interested… but it fell through).

There are 10 dressing rooms on two levels (Full stage shows were part of the show from 1929 through 1936 at the Loew’s Jersey), as well as the female dancers dressing room (for the in-house Chester Hale Girls), a full rehearsal studio, and a pinochle (sp) room for the musicians in between shows.

In the air conditioning room, sometime after the theatre opened, both of the two HUGE air conditioning compressors had to be replaced. The floor was opened up in front of where the compressors sat, and they were dropped inside, down to the sub-basement, on the dirt, where they both sit today, painted bright red.

The Loew’s Jersey closed on Thursday, August 21, 1986.

VincentParisi
VincentParisi on April 20, 2004 at 10:19 pm

And keep it in the hands of the volunteers who are the reason for its survival and out of the hands of the Mayor’s monied cronies who now want to swoop down like vultures and feed on the work of so many dedicated people who have given with their time and civic pride.

Let the Mayor’s “friends” feast somewhere else.

JimRankin
JimRankin on April 20, 2004 at 9:54 pm

For those of you who want to see the fabulous JERSEY in all its fabulous splendor of today (yes, today!) go to this site with some 37 color photos taken in April of ‘03: http://www.robbender.com/photos/nj/loewsjersey/
Here web site developer and photographer Robert Bender has captured the actually splendid remains of one of the grandest movie palaces in these United States. It is all the more remarkable that so much remains, given the fact that it had been split into multiple cinemas, and yet so very much remains of the gilding, colors, fixtures and even the grandiose draperies that usually were removed from most every other theatre as kids swung on them like monkeys, and the building inspectors declared the no-longer-fireproofable fabrics a hazard. Sometimes moderns don’t appreciate the luxurious quality that grandiose draperies bring to such buildings and that without them, the spaces take on a 'gilded cavern’ look. Those seen in the lobby in his photos would cost upwards of a million dollars for each set to be made today — if one could find the large drapery house with moderns skilled enough to even copy them! Let us hope the Friends of the Jersey do prevail, for only with affection can such a great place be brought back, especially if there is insufficient film ‘of quality’ available to draw in the crowds needed to support it. If as a previous comment said, there is no room to expand the stage, it will be tough to get many performing groups to use the facility. Still, it is a true gem in Jersey City’s crown, and they should be made to realize that VERY FEW movie palaces like it remain, especially in such good condition. If funds become available, and they do get ownership to sign contracts, then it should not be too difficult to build a lounge and lavatories under the lobby (though expensive, of course). It may not be the very best of Rapp&Rapp’s designs, but it is probably the best preserved over all. Long live the JERSEY!

RobertR
RobertR on April 20, 2004 at 9:34 pm

If I remember correctly though the lower level mens room in the Los Angeles theatre was huge, you could build a few multi-plex type cinemas in it. Each stall had it’s own sink right inside. In alot of the palaces it seems the balcony restrooms were usually the largest ones since the second floor not only had the balcony but also the huge lounge.

William
William on April 20, 2004 at 9:18 pm

The palaces that I worked at or saw a movie in had downstairs restrooms and balcony restrooms also. When I think of it for the size of the main house in the Chinese (Hollywood), they only had one set of each. They had about 14 urinals and 4 stalls. The Loew’s State in Downtown Los Angeles was a large 2388 seat house. They had a small stairwell that went downstairs to a small restroom and also had a small restroom set in the balcony area. There must have been alot of traffic to the restrooms. But remember the concession stands had normal coke and soft drinks, not these large super tankers of today. I not know who’s the architect on the project.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on April 20, 2004 at 8:30 pm

William, thanks for your response. I saw the Jersey during the renovation. The tri-plex era partition walls had been removed. All the seats had been taken out for refurbishing (?) replacement(?).

Ben Hall mentions “an acre of seats in a garden of splendor.” This was more like an acre of scaffolds, ladders, organ parts and extension cords in a garden of somewhat seedy but still undeniable splendor.

My question about the restrooms is that the Jersey was built without a lower lounge. The ONLY restrooms were the single suite under the balcony. If memory serves, it was something like 16 stalls split equally between men and women. Apparently, in 1929 Loew’s thought the restroom traffic would be a continuous trickle (a-hem) rather than the sort of intermission flood we expect today.

I’m curious if extra facilities have been added: a huge expense and a difficult architectural problem. Who is the architect that’s working on this project?

William
William on April 20, 2004 at 4:54 pm

Will

The organ came from the Loew’s Paradise Theatre in the Bronx. The Loew’s Jersey City Theatre Morton organ is installed in the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, California.
Remember Loew’s damaged the theatre when they tri-plexed it. So that would be why there is a problem with seats or missing seats.
My guess on the restrooms is those were the easiest ones to get open. So they could open the theatre. Like you said and I’ve seen have lower lounges with restrooms. The last time I was in the theatre the balcony was still closed the the public. So the lower lounge area might be the same thing. Because recently they were having trouble with the city for a long term lease. Without the security of that lease all their work might be lost. The mayor of the city vetoed recently a lease agreement with them. Now it was up to the councel to approve it. The mayor wanted to bring in another party to manage the project.

pjacyk
pjacyk on April 20, 2004 at 7:14 am

Current information about the Loew’s Jersey Wonder Morton theatre organ installation (and others) can be found at www.gstos.org/wonder.htm
There are some pictures showing the good progress being made by Garden State Theatre Organ Society volunteers.

dankravetz
dankravetz on April 16, 2004 at 5:02 pm

To see a FREE live performance at the Loew’s Jersey, come on Sunday, May 23 at 3:00, when the Ridgewood Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company will present PATIENCE, OR BUNTHORNE’S BRIDE by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, fully staged with 23-piece orchestra. Admission is free to all, no tickets or reservations needed, with direct subway service from New York City via the PATH train to Journal Square Station. This will be the Ridgewood Company’s sixth visit to the Loew’s. The first was in November 2001, and was the first live opera or musical theater performance on that stage in over 50 years. Enjoy the magic of Gilbert & Sullivan in a spectacular house!

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on April 7, 2004 at 7:57 pm

I got a tour of the magnificent Jersey while it was under renovation. There’s nothing like a movie palace – even seen at its absolute worst – unwired, unplumbed, undraped, unseated. But even in that sorry state the Loew’s Jersey deserves the title Wonder Theater. Rapp and Rapp at their best.

Three questions guys and girls:

(1) How has the Jersey overcome its SERIOUS lack of restrooms. As built it had no under-lobby lounge and only one men’s and one women’s under the balcony: WOEFULLY inadequate for modern requirements.

(2) One of the “Wonder Morton” theater organs had been found and was to be installed. Was this project completed?

(3) How did you get “Michael’s” comments removed from this page? What can I do to get his comments removed from others? His singleminded and repetitive comments really shouldn’t annoy me (or any of us) but jeez! they sure do.