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I must confess, I have very mixed feelings about this. Frankly, I don’t know what, if anything, can save downtown Passaic. (Though that’s what they once said about Jersey City.) I doubt a restored movie palace could have done the job. Not alone, anyway, though it might have been the centerpiece of an entire downtown development scheme. If a restored Montauk began showing classic films like the Loew’s State in jersey City of the Lafayette in Suffern, I might have attended. I stopped going to Passaic years ago, once the fabuous Passaic Book Store, just down the street from the Montauk, closed down.
On the other hand, to hear that the Montauk is being demolished WITHOUT EVEN HAVING ANYTHING READY TO TAKE ITS PLACE – that really does piss me off!
The Little Cinema 1 & 2 were cozy and comfortable, as I recall. They started off as mainstream cinemas. I first saw “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in one of them. But they soon converted over to adult films and did quite well. After all, they were much nicer, and easier to get to, than any porno palace on 42nd Street, or the Montauk in Passaic. (And yes, I attended the theatres during this period, leading to an awkward moment when I encountered the director of one of my high school plays attending the same X-rated film that I was!)
I first went to the Willbrook Mall in the summer of 1972. It was the first mall I had ever been to and I thought it a wonderful, magical place. Not long thereafter I went to see “The Posiedon Adventure” at the Willowbrook Cinema. It was a huge, beautiful theatre with a giant screen. I remember shrinking into my seat in awe as the tidal wave swept across the screen towards the ship. Incidentally, this was the first cinema I remmember being in where the seats rocked.
For some reason, although I went to Willowbrook Mall frequently, I think this was the only film I saw at the Willowbrook Cinema. I guess they rarely showed anything I wanted to see. I often went to the neighboring Little Cinema, however. Nevertheless, I was sad when it closed. I’d never get to sit in those rocking seats again!
As a child I loved going to the Route 3 Drive-In, as it was then known. I known I saw several films there, but the one I remember best was “Planet of the Apes” in 1968. I still remember the shock when the Statue of Liberty appeared. I begged my mother to let us sit through another showing, but she had had enough. I remember staring at the screen, watching the film begin again, as we drove out.
In later years, like Belasarious above, I would bike over backroads to the drive-in.
Were drive-ins really that great? Or is it just the patina of nostalgia? still, I remember them with great fondness and miss them. Back in the day, they were the only theatres that served hot dogs and hamburgers and fries. And do you remember when you were buying snacks, there would be countdowns on the screen letting you know how much time you had before the film started?
I walked by the Paramount on 5/9/11. It is completely boarded up. Whatever store was there is gone. No notice that any future construction or renovation was planned.
I only went to the Embassy twice, in 1974 to see a marathon showing of all five “Planet of the Apes” films, and in 1984 to see “The Ten Commandments.” The latter was the last time I was fortunate enough to see that film on a big screen. I don’t remember any sigh line problems, but then, it was a long time ago. I do recall how great it was to see “The Ten Commandments” on a big screen the way it was intended to be.
Ironically, I have probably visited the Embassy more often since it became a tourist info center because it has the only public restrooms in the Times Square area.
Tnanks for some of the photos posted. What memories they stirred! I’d forgotten about the Wienerwald that used to be there before the McDonald’s.
The only time I recall being in the Branford was in 1982. I was in downtown Newark with a couple of hours to kill, and it was about the only cinema still open. By then it had been cut up into a four-plex, the interior was coated in that ugly color scheme of dark red and blue that the Stanley-Warner chain was so fond of, and this once proud first-run movie palace was showing crap like â€œDrive-In Massacre.â€ How very sad.
Back in the mid-1960s, before the emergence of malls, my mother and I would do any major shopping in Newark. At the conclusion of one such expedition, she treated me to a â€œMan from U.N.C.L.E.â€ movie at the Loweâ€™s. I wish Iâ€™d been old enough then to appreciate what a beautiful theatre I was in. My mother frequently told me what a fabulous city Newark used to be. Based on the pictures posted on this site, and the entry for the Newark Paramount, I can see what she meant.
Nowadays I work just down the block from the Paramount. It really is horrible to see how awful it, and all of Market Street, looks, especially with the new Prudential Center on the next block.
Back in the mid-1960s, when I was little, I was a big Jerry Lewis fan. As a Paramount star, they were always showing revivals of his films at the Paramount in Newark. I remember making my poor mother (who was NOT a Lewis fan) take me to the Paramount to see â€œThe Errand Boy,â€ â€œThe Bell Boyâ€ and â€œCinderfella.â€ I only have a vague memory of the interior, just of sitting in the balcony and marveling at the vast, elegant space. It was probably the largest theatre I was ever in (except possibly the Loweâ€™s in Newark) until finally went to Radio City Music Hall.
I went to the Elwood several times in the late 1960s. I remember seeing â€œBorn Freeâ€ there a couple of times, as well as â€œTo Sir, with Love,â€ and â€œHey There, Itâ€™s Yogi Bear!â€ I remember it as being a very modern-looking theatre, so I am surprised to see that it was built in the 1930s.
And yes, the 642 address is correct, because that is the corner of Washington and Elwood.
My mother grew up in Hillside in the 1920s and â€˜30s. In those days the Mayfair was the big,beautiful, first run theatre in town. There was another, run down theatre that locals called â€œThe Flea Circus.â€ (Anyone out there have any idea what the real name of this other theatre might have been?)
My mother especially recalled one time her grandfather took her to the Mayfair and tried to buy tickets with coins left over from the Civil War! He couldnâ€™t convince the box office clerk that it was still valid currency.
I first went to the Bellevue Theatre on New Yearâ€™s Day 1965 to see â€œMary Poppins.â€ It was the most elegant theatre I had ever been in. It exuded class with its Tudor dÃ©cor, the ushers in bright yellow blazers, and from the fact that you had to purchase tickets to assigned seats, just as in a live theatre. I found it all so impressive and exciting, and still did so the following year when we went back to se Julie Andrews again, this time in â€œThe Sound of Music.â€
The Bellevue was the place which held roadshow engagements, and sold souvenir booklets filled with photos of the films being presented. (Does anybody do that anymore?)
The Bellevue was a place where, for many years, they played â€œThe Star-Spangled Bannerâ€ before each showing.
The biggest hit I remember the Bellevue having was â€œFiddler On the Roofâ€, which played for half-a-year back in 1972.
The Bellevue lost its aura once it was split up into a triplex. I still frequently went there because they had bargain matinees, but stopped once they ended that policy. Iâ€™ve only been there a couple of times since they remodeled it completely. I stopped going not so much because of the remodeling but because the same films are playing at theatres closer to my home.
Here is the current irony. In the old days, when theatres showed only a single film, you got to know a lot of theatres, because if you wanted to see Film A, you had to go to one theatre, but to see Film B, you had to go to a different theatre. Then changing economics demanded that these beautiful old theatres be cut up into several smaller cinemas in the hope that the profits from one hit film playing would make up for the deficits from the flops.
Now, however, I think these old cut-up theatres are going to do because so many big multiplexes have been built. Why sit in an old, cramped, charmless theatre when you can go to a multiplex? It too may be charmless, but at least it is big and modern. Especially when all the theatres are showing exactly the same movies. I think thatâ€™s what happened to the recently closed Cinema 23 in Cedar Grove. It couldnâ€™t compete with the bigger, newer and equally convenient AMC at the Essex Green Plaza a couple of miles up the road.
Myself, unless Iâ€™m going to independent/at film at the Claridge in Montclair, I pretty much keep to the Clifton Commons or the Allwood, but theyâ€™re near my home. (And with all its faults, I often favor the Allwood because it is cheaper and usually less crowded. However, I get the feeling the Allwood is on its way out as well.)
Were these old movie theatres really as wonderful as we remember, or do we just view them through a veil of nostalgia? Well, I think they were. Modern multiplexes are huge, sterile and corporate. Older theatres, certainly the small town ones, even if they were part of a chain, really were community and family oriented. The Verona Theatre was a case in point.
I lived in Verona between 1962 and 1965, between the ages of 5 and 8. The Verona Theatre was the second movie theatre I ever knew, it was the cinema of my childhood. It was a time and place when no one worried about a 6 or 7 year old walking the several blocks to the theatre on their own on a Saturday afternoon. And there was always something to see at the Verona on a Saturday afternoon. I didnâ€™t realize it at the time, but looking back now I do, but the Verona deliberately programmed that long-vanished tradition – the Childrenâ€™s Matinee. Films such as â€œFirst Men in the Moon,â€ â€œThe 7 Faces of Dr. Lao,â€ â€œAtlantis the Lost Continent,â€ and â€œThe Three Stooges Meet Herculesâ€ were featured on the bill. Stuff that kept a child joyfully entertained throughout an afternoon.
Not that the Verona was beautiful inside. The auditorium walls were coated with heavy brown paint that was chipped and peeling. The lobby was better with off-white wallpaper and a pale green carpet, but there was no refreshment counter. All they had was an ancient soda machine from the 1940s, the kind where (for a dime) you could see a cup drop down and watch the syrup and carbonated water mix before your eyes. (It also had the unique feature of allowing you to mix flavors. I thought I had invented the idea of mixing Coke and cherry flavorings!) The only snacks they sold were small boxes of stick pretzels, also for a dime. These were dispensed by an ancient usher in a maroon jacket with faded gold trim.
Still, the Verona was a cozy place. And as I say, it was community oriented. Every Halloween they would hold a costume contest. The participants would get up on stage and the winner would be determined by audience applause. I participated one year in a Robin costume (as in â€œBatman andâ€¦â€) my mother had made me. I lost to a pretty young girl in a cat suit. (Hey, I would have voted for her too.) But does any theatre hold events like these any more? I doubt it.
In 1965, we moved from Verona to the nearby town of Nutley. I didnâ€™t return to the Verona Theatre for a couple of years. When I did, I was astonished and pleased that money had been spent fixing it up. There was now a snack bar in the lobby selling popcorn (in the traditional red & white striped boxes), candy & soda. The auditorium walls had been covered with expensive press-patterned white wall paper. Illumination came from frosted glass flambeaux with rainbow-colored edges. And white, octagonal fountains stood in front of the stage, one on either side. Just inside the right-hand door to the auditorium a little partition blocked the rear row of seats from the aisle. Which meant anyone sitting there couldnâ€™t be seen by most of the audience, making it a great place to snuggle up with a date. There was also a tiny balcony upstairs.
During the late â€˜60s and early â€˜70s I saw any number of films at the Verona: â€œDiamonds Are Forever,â€ â€œLove Story,â€ â€œThe Omega Man,â€ re-releases of â€œThe Green Beretsâ€ and â€œThe African Queen.â€ The last film I ever saw there was Woody Allenâ€™s â€œZeligâ€ in the early 1980s. Soon thereafter the Verona Theatre closed and was turned into an office building.
I miss it still.
The very first film I ever saw was Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” at the Capitol in 1959. The last film I saw was “Pinocchio” in 1962, just a few days before we moved away. In between, I saw many family oriented films there, a lot of Disney, including “Son of Flubber” and “101 Dalmatians.” Like so many long-gone theatres, the Capitol was very family friendly. I also rmeember, during one visit, getting away from my father and wandering up on the little stage in front of the screen and being amazed at how BIG people’s faces were on the screen.
Well, I’m sad to see another part of my youth vanish. I must admit, I hadn’t been there in a couple of years. Not because of any problems with the theatre, but because I could usually find the same films playing at a theatre closer to home. I think the last film I saw there was THE HULK with Ed Norton.
My favorite memory of Cinena 23 comes from the mid-1970s when for two – and possibly three – summers in a row, they held Disney festivals. Every week throughout the summer they presented a Disney double-feature, usually a classic accompanied by one of Disney’s lesser efforts. It was because of those festivals tha I finally saw FANTASIA, and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and PETER PAN. I also got to see CINDERELLA and SLEEPING BEAUTY on the big screen again. And it was at the Cinema 23 that I go to see re-releases of DR. ZHIVAGO, BONNIE & CLYDE, and 2001. Of course, the advent of the VCR put an end to such re-releases.