Loew's Jersey Theatre

54 Journal Square,
Jersey City, NJ 07306

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T228
T228 on October 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Today The Huffington Post listed “10 Beautiful Old Movie Theaters Around The Country,” and the JC Loews is listed among them:

“Beautiful movie houses are, unfortunately, a thing of the past. The idea of sitting amongst such history, where silent and black and white films have been played, is truly amazing. Here are 10 restored and beloved movie theaters in communities around the country.”

View link

RobMinichino
RobMinichino on October 19, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Actually, the balcony is about 1200 seats, so there are somewhat more seats downstairs.

AC is completely absent (the existing system is not repairable), so that will have to be reinstalled. The AC is probably more important for capacity than the balcony as the amount of heat 3000 people throw off is absolutely staggering. Regardless, at least part of the balcony (the loge) will likely be open before AC is installed.

The balcony is waiting on some life safety work (fire escape maintenance, sprinklers, etc.) to get done before we can open it, which is tempering the rate at which we work on the balcony compared to other, more pressing building maintenance work. We thought it would have gone faster than it is, but the recession has slowed down funding in all quarters.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 19, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Spectrum, once they open the balcony (which is more than half the capacity of the theatre), the Loew’s Jersey is really going to take off. Opening that balcony is going to offer so many new possibilities.

Another important “must do” is to get the A/C working full tilt in the summer. All of this will happen. I’m sure of it. Doing so will increase the capacity of the theatre by another 25 percent. The balcony should take priority since that represents about 60 percent more capacity. These improvements aren’t cumulative but rather geometric. Once the momentum gets going, it goes only upwards and very quickly at that.

The Loew’s greatest asset is location. “If you build it they will come.” Think of the potential audience just within 10 miles of this theatre. It boggles the mind. It is easily accessible by car, bus, rail, and air. What’s left?!

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm

LuisV, I am listening to the Loew’s Jersey organ via YouTube tonight. Listening through YouTube is like trying to fit Niagara Falls through a drinking straw. I’m glad you’re going to hear it in person. You are going to be utterly amazed. I will be there too. Between the organ, the theatre, and the film, it brings back a lot of what the experience was like in the 1920s—not that I was there of course, but I have a extra sense about these things.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

The original Loew’s Jersey marquee—with the French curve. It was quite distinct and beautiful — even better looking at night with the milk glass back lit letters.
Have you seen this?
View link
Ah, those were the days!
It’s very nearly the same marquee that was on the New York Paramount:
View link
The Loew’s Jersey tower sign was also very impressive. It must have been 100 feet tall, and it also had elegant curves.

LuisV
LuisV on October 13, 2010 at 9:55 am

I dream of the day that a replica of the original marquee is installed and the unfortunate current one is dumped. Then the Loew’s Jersey will truly have been restored!

spectrum
spectrum on October 12, 2010 at 6:51 pm

One unique thing about the Loew’s Jersey is it is by far the largest remaining Movie Palace with ALL of the following:

Regular showings of silent films…
With live theatre organ accompaniment
with original organ (actully a twin of the original)

Other unique features:

Most of the original plaster walls and decor have never been repainted
Many of the original draperies remain

It is also by far the largest entirely volunteer-run theatre in the country

The best place for people who love both silent films and the theatre organ. You get both here.

I am looking forward for the fire escapes to be repaired at which point the balcony can be reopened. The web page indicated some time ago they were beginning to reinstall the refurbished balcony seats. Once regular concerts can be held and sold to the full 3,000+ capacity that will bring in revenue to speed up restoration. Ir has really come a long way over the past few years; the “zorro” presentation was excellent (Yay to Chris Elliott, the Organist), and their was a very large crowd for the show.

LuisV
LuisV on October 10, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Yes, I forgot about the Brooklyn Paramount. I predict that, eventually, this theater will be restored as well. It has too much history for LIU to be able to destroy. Now that they have built a new Athletic center they have no more need for this space, but the question of course is always “How much would a restoration cost?” and “Who is going to pay it?”. Brooklyn continues to develop and I think it will eventually happen, but the Kings has to be absorbed first.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 10, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Bolorkay, I couldn’t agree more completely. I grew up in the Loew’s in the 1960s-1980s. It’s second life is truly amazing, isn’t it?! I’ve heard that Marcus Loew once said, “we sell tickets to theatres, not movies.” There was/is some truth in that.

LuisV, hope you enjoy the organ and “Nosferatu.” I think you’re in for a big surprise! Another still existing theatre that I think has a lot of potential is the old Brooklyn Paramount. Much of it is still intact. This theatre has one of the best prosceniums going. Just that was a show in itself. For some reason, it reminds me of the Wonder Theatres.

LuisV
LuisV on October 9, 2010 at 9:44 am

Thanks Gabe, I want to make sure that you don’t think that I was denigrating the Loew’s Jersey by putting it at number five. It is actually a testament to the incredible collection of theaters that the Loew’s Wonder Theaters consist of. I agree with you that Loew’s Jersey is probably the greatest movie palace in the country that still shows movies as its primary purpose.

I also whole heartedly agree with you that it is really impossible to compare theaters like The Jersey, The Loew’s Paradise, Loew’s Valencia, Loew’s 175th Street, Loew’s Kings, Radio City, The Hollywood and The New Amsterdam. They are so different from one another and represent the top of the fields in their respective styles.

Check out the Loew’s Canal page on CT. This hidden gem on Canal Street in Chinatown is about 2,200 seats and has been closed as a theater for decades. Per comments the interior is remarkably intact though all of the seats have been removed. The exterior was just declared a landmark and it’s current owner says that he wants to restore it into a community arts center. My fingers are crossed, but this theater has the potential to be one of New York’s most beautiful restored theaters.

I’m bringing several friends of mine from Manhattan to see Nosferatu at the Loew’s Jersey. I can’t wait to hear the organ!

bolorkay
bolorkay on October 9, 2010 at 7:20 am

I think, for myself at least what makes the wonderful Loew’s Jersey such a significant theater is that for those of us in the New Jersey/New York area this theater is right “in our own backyard”.
As a kid in the 1960s I would travel to the Loew’s as often as I could…. so there are some major memories associated with the Loew’s. Now that the Loew’s is in it’s second life, so-to-speak as a film and cultural center its importance is even greater to me.
I often laugh when I think that I visit the Loews, not so much for the films (although the film programmers always present terrific film weekends!) but more for the chance to “soak up” the atmosphere of this beautiful place. (And now that I understand it is one of the five remaining Wonder Theaters in the U.S., makes this even more important to me.

Without a doubt, “it’s all about the experience..”

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Hi LuisV, The Loew’s Jersey seems to be building momentum as an important classic film venue. If they play their cards right, this could be THE classic film venue for the entire country.

I don’t know. It’s hard to compare the 5 Wonder Theatres. The Kings is quite possibly more beautiful than the Jersey; however the Kings is somewhat remote and the years have not been kind to it. I think it will eventually be restored. The 175th St. is totally different in style from the Jersey and it too is beautiful. How can they be compared, really? Again, the Paradise attempts to evoke an Italian courtyard which it does very successfully—again a real beauty. The Jersey is a “hard-top” opera house inspired palace. The Valencia is another atmospheric and the “restoration” has not been kind or appropriate.

Give the Jersey another look. Have you seen the 1929 photos at their website? It may be a matter of taste. Only the Jersey has a theatre pipe organ. Have you heard it? As you mentioned, only the Jersey is showing classic film, which is what the Wonder Theatres were built for in the first place.

I agree that it is incredible that the 5 Wonder Theatres still remain. It really defies the odds. Of course the loss of these buildings would be simply unacceptable. “We’re going to raze the theatre.” “But you can’t” The “can'ts” have won—and they HAVE TO be restored. We’re winning when it comes to the Wonder Theatres.

Agree about the Uptown, and the defunct Chicago Paradise and the SF Fox—the best.

The Hollywood is lovely but smaller and more awkward than the Wonder Theatres. The New Amsterdam is a Broadway theatre and not a movie palace, but it is lovely. Radio City is in a class by itself. It is the klieg-lit pinacle (to borrow Ben Hall’s words).

Wasn’t aware of the Canal Theatre. I will look into it.

From a fellow theatre lover,

Gabe

LuisV
LuisV on October 8, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Hi Gabe DF, it’s so wonderful to see such enthusiasm for this theater. I went about 3 years ago to see The Day the Earth Stood Still. Patricia Neal actually came out on stage after the movie for some Q & A. It was a wonderful evening but it was apparent that there was still much to do in the theater. I think the Loews Jersey is one of the most beautiful theaters in the country, however, I respectfully disagree with your view about how beautiful.

Among the 5 Loew’s Wonder theaters, I would put the Loew’s Jersey at number 5. I think the Loews Kings (which I have visited in its unrestored state) will blow all other theaters away after its multi million dollar renovation is complete. The Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx and Loew’s 175th Street are both fully restored and are spectacular. Even the Loews Valencia (while currently serving as a church) IMO is a more beautiful theater. That said, I am eagerly looking forward to see the recent renovations. I will be attending the October 23rd showing of Nosferatu.

How incredible that ALL FIVE Wonder theaters survived and all have been restored or in progress.

I would also put the Uptown Theater in Chicago on the most beautiful list; even in decay.

In Manhattan, The Hollywood theater is amazing, as is the New Amsterdam and, of course, Radio City. Even the Loew’s Canal, whose exterior was recently landmarked may prove to be another gem. New York is blessed with a great many remarkable theaters that still exist even though only the Loews Jersey still shows films.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm

MDB, the 1929 photos are great! Thanks so much for posting them. They answered many questions for me.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm

You’re welcome, Rob. I cannot help but gush when it comes to something as rare and unique as the Loew’s Jersey.

I agree with you partially about the brightness of the photos. In addition to what you said, I think the nicotine stains, general grime, and darkening lacquer of 50+ years has a lot to do with the present dark appearance of the theatre. I’m sure the interior walls will eventually be cleaned, and this alone would make the theatre much brighter.

I would think that the lighting scheme (I found your discussing about LEDs fascinating) would be different depending on the old surfaces vs. the restored.

It’s incredible just how many scenes there are in this theatre. Every turn and every few steps bring with them a completely different and interesting view. As you know, it was planned that way to “keep ‘em moving.” There’s only so much time to change audiences between shows (in the good old days). My favorite view was always coming into the auditorium from the mid-balcony level lobby. Used to sneak up there when I was a kid in the early 1970s—before the theatre was tri-plexed. The theatre seemed more intact back then, except that the lobby mezzanine promenade and Music Room had been blocked off. Much of the art work was still around back then.

Isn’t it amazing how the architects managed to design a completely symmetrical lobby and auditorium on such an oddball site? The design is extremely efficient and makes the best use of the space available. I’m also amazed by the sight lines (every seat is perfect) and the acoustics. I know for a fact that one can hear a person talking on the stage from the projection booth.

Any chance you could post those 1929 auditorium photos? Please?

What a place!

mdvoskin
mdvoskin on October 8, 2010 at 6:02 am

Those historic photos are from early November 1929, about a month after the theatre opened.

RobMinichino
RobMinichino on October 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Thanks for the gushing, Gabe. :)

The medallions that we took down are not going to be restored just yet; they’ll be reattached as-is when the replacement drapes arrive.

The theatre looks so much brighter in the 1929 photos because there was additional light added for the photography and because the exposures were relatively long. If you look at the lights that are visible in some of the photos you can get an idea of just how much brighter those photos are than the real thing. Also, in one of the auditorium photos (this one isn’t on the website yet) you can clearly see temporary lighting, and you’ll also see the exit signs are much brighter in the photos than they are in real life.

We have been working with an architectural lighting consultant in our restoration planning to determine how to add lights to both highlight architectural features and improve the utility of the theatre. The key is to do this in a historically-sensitive way. Somewhat paradoxically, modern lighting technologies such as LEDs make it easier to hide additional lighting in architectural elements and existing fixtures. The goal is to have a lighting control system that will allow for a number of different “scenes,” so we can have the appropriately dim atmosphere for movies, and brighter atmospheres for lobby events and concert intermissions, etc.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 7, 2010 at 6:30 pm

To sum it all up, here is the Martin Landau near soliloquy from “The Majestic” from 2001:

Now that you’re back we’ve decided to reopen.
Reopen?

How hard can it be?
We fix the place up—sell tickets.

Look around. It’s a dump.
I am looking around and all I see is potential.

Potential for what? This place is ready to fall down. All you have to do is walk outside and give it a good shove.

You are wrong you know.
Oh, I know She doesn’t look like much now,
but once this place was like a palace.
That’s why we called Her The Majestic.
Any man, woman, child could buy their ticket.
They’d walk right in.
There they’d be.
Here we’d be.

“Yes Sir,” “Yes Ma'am,"
Enjoy the show!

In they’d come entering a palace,
Like in a dream, like in Heaven.
Maybe you had worries and problem out there,
But once you came through those doors,
They didn’t matter any more,
And you know why?,

Chaplin, that’s why,
and Keaton,
and Lloyd,
Garbo,
Gable,
Lombard,
Jimmy Stewart,
Jimmy Cagney,
Fred and Ginger.
They were gods,
and they lived up there.
That was Olympus.

Would you remember if I told you,
Just how lucky we felt to be here?!
To have the privilege of watching them!

This television thing,
Why would you want to stay home,
and watch a little box?
Because it’s convenient,
Because you don’t have to get dressed up,
Because you can sit there?
How can you call that entertainment?
Where are the people?
Where is the audience?
Where is the magic?

I’ll tell you.
In a place like this,
The magic is all around you.

The trick is to see it.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm

A final thought…or two…(I’m on a roll)…

The most amazing and wonderful thing about the Loew’s Jersey is that it is one of the very few (countable on one hand?) very large 1920s movie palaces that still has a theatre pipe organ, and still shows movies.

Sorry, the Castro, the Byrd, etc. can’t measure up to this place—literally. That’s just a fact. Although these theatres do wonderful work to keep the tradition alive and well.

One cannot get this experience in New York City. Either the theatres are gone, or closed, or they have different uses now. In terms of the building and facilities, the Loew’s Jersey was in the same class as the Times Square Paramount, the Capitol, and the Roxy in my opinion—all no more.

Certain people tend to make a big deal out of the new (c. 1967) Ziegfeld. I would like to ask them, “do you want to see a real theatre!?”

Want the 1920s movie palace experience? Come to New Jersey. We still have it here.

I think it has a very bright future ahead of it.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 7, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Very highly recommend these photos of the Loew’s Jersey from when it was brand new in 1929, if you haven’t already seen them:

View link

Click on each photo for a much larger version. Even in the b/w photos, it looks like the interior was much brighter then than it is today. The furniture and artwork adds so much to the interior.

Though somewhat smaller than the defunct SF Fox, I think the Loew’s Jersey is more beautiful. The Loew’s Jersey is on a par with only one other theatre I know of that remains today, and that is the Midland in Kansas City.

Ah, if it could only look like it does in these photos again! Well, we can always dream and work towards the goal.

Incidently, wasn’t the theatre originally named “Loew’s Jersey City Theatre”? “The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre” also works well as a name for this very rare jewel.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Hi Rob, Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions in depth. I forgot that one cannot see such details from 60+ feet away. If the curtains are in such bad shape that they are falling under their own weight, they should come down. New drapes, medallions, etc. that size must cost a small fortune; but I’m sure that they will be restored eventually. Really looking forward to the new traveler. That will make a world of difference in terms of a good presentation.

I worry about this theatre, but I’m glad to hear that it is in such good hands. The radiator grills look fine and are a vast improvement over no grills at all. They will blend in very well.

Of course, anything that affects the presentation has to be dealt with first. Ornament can come later. I believe you’re doing it in the right order: stabilize the building (done), get the mechanical and stage systems working (in progress), and then restore the interior surfaces.

Again, thanks for answering my questions.

All the best,

Gabe

Bway
Bway on October 7, 2010 at 3:53 am

Sounds great….it’s great to know that so much care is put into this gem of a theater.

RobMinichino
RobMinichino on October 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Hi GabeTDF. I’m glad you enjoyed the recent presentation of “The Mark of Zorro.”

The medallions over the swags have been removed from the pelmet and are being kept safe for replacement. The other missing pieces of the pelmet, the center swag and the straight back curtain, were deteriorated to the point where they were tearing under their own weight and had to be taken down. We are having them recreated, reusing the original fringe. Our drapery company expects to have the replacement pieces done in a couple of weeks, and we will have them hung shortly thereafter.

The jeweled curtains in front of the organ chambers have met the same fate, deteriorated to the point where they tore down under their own weight. These are more difficult to access, requiring scaffolding in the auditorium. In the future we will have them recreated, and in the meantime we may hang a less ornate but still appropriate scrim. Unfortunately, this will not happen before next summer at the earliest.

Another unexpected surprise from our textiles came when we scaffolded up to our top screen masking to repair where it was sagging into the upper-left corner of the screen. We found that it, too, had deteriorated, and the eyelets that allow the masking to pleat out of frame had been ripping out under the curtain’s weight. In light of this, we have ordered an entirely new upper masking, and our drapery company expects to have this ready next week. In the mean time we have been manually tieing up the masking so it does not interfere with the picture. Since we cannot reach the top of the masking with scaffolding, we will need to rent a special lift to allow us to install the new masking where it attaches on our screen frame, 30 feet up.

We decided that, while we have that lift, we can use it to hang a new traveler curtain to replace our existing damaged one. We are in the process of ordering this curtain, and once it and the masking arrive, we will be installing both.

While we had the scaffolding up, we were able to move the electrical cord that was hanging into our 1.85 and scope frames so that it no longer interferes (finally!).

As far as the radiator grilles go, they were missing, and the fire department (completely correctly) insisted that the openings be covered so that they didn’t collect (combustable) trash. I suggested the perforated steel grilles that we have there now; they are primed and set to be painted an appropriate bronze color to de-emphasize them in the outer lobby space. They, like many other fixtures in the Loew’s, are simply placeholders for a true restoration, and we make no pretense otherwise.

GDellaFa
GDellaFa on October 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Just a curious question: what’s going on with the pelmet and curtains over the organ chambers. Where are the medallions over the swags, and where are the missing pieces of the back straight curtain, behind the swags? Finally, what’s up with the “jeweled” curtains in front of the organ chambers. The left one disappeared 3 years ago, and now the right side one is gone? Where are they? I would think that (until recently) these were the only intact movie palace organ chambers curtains remaining. Where did they go?

Also, when you are simply renovating the radiator grills in the Vestibule, please say so on your website. That is not a restoration. It is however, a welcome renovation.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the recent presentation of “The Mark of Zorro.” The evening spoke to just how far this theatre can go.

Altoblanco
Altoblanco on October 1, 2010 at 11:36 am

SPECIAL SCREENING this Saturday – FOL and GSTOS present…

October 2nd Academy Theater:30 PM: The Mark of Zorro (1920) (silent film with LIVE “Wonder Morton” organ). Doors and box office open Academy Theater PM.

CLASSIC FILM SERIES – upcoming weekends…

October: annual “classic horror weekend” (a week before Halloween) –Brides of Dracula (1960) , Son of Frankenstein (1939) and Nosferatu (1922) (silent film with LIVE “Wonder Morton” organ).

November sneak peek: a tribute to a famous former Hoboken resident (and past Loew’s customer)… a “Sinatra weekend” is being finalized! – On the Town (1949) , From Here to Eternity (1953) , Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and Von Ryan’s Express (1965) are the prime candidates, of which THREE will be chosen and screened (titles subject to change, TBA at Friends of the Loew’s – schedule forthcoming).