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Thanks, Bob. I don’t want to throw any of our dedicated, hard-working volunteer projectionists under the bus. In the end, I’m responsible for the presentation, and if it falls short, it’s my fault.
I apologize for the unacceptable quality of this weekend’s film presentation, and I hope we can win back our patrons' confidence in future showings.
Bob, I received Goldfinger heads out, and did not have a chance to inspect it as thoroughly as I otherwise would. I only received the print for Dr. No approximately 30 minutes before showtime, tails out and emulsion out, a configuration that required manual winding, with at least one countdown leader spliced out of frame. After having to inspect Friday’s print just before the show (as no one was available to do it sooner), this left little time for me to look at Goldfinger, and as I was growing tired, I did not wind the last reel to see what was on the tail (although I did know there were credits).
Regardless, none of these things should have caused the various faults with this past weekend’s presentation, and I’m embarrassed that it was not nearly as professional as it should have been.
Our projectionist who was working that show made a mistake and cut off the film after seeing cues at the end of the reel. I did not react in time to get the film back on screen before the backstage crew brought up the lights and closed the curtain—we view the credits as an integral part of the film and out of respect for the cast and crew—as well as their fans, our patrons—never intentionally skip them.
We do have a plan to install digital projection in the near future, but we plan on exhibiting film alongside and in preference to the digital content (where good prints are available) for as long as possible.
From that view you can see the odd kidney bean shape of the building, and how the lobby is on an angle with respect to the auditorium.
Also, the “shiny” part of the roof is where there used to be a spray pond for the building’s old air conditioning system (replaced in 1949 with the cooling tower that’s currently on the lobby roof).
We will be able to continue purchasing carbons and projecting 35 mm for quite a while, but we are still preparing for the inevitable.
I should also add that the center swag and straight back curtain were replaced this past summer. The old fabric had deteriorated to the point where it was tearing from its own weight.
The proscenium valence (pelmet) had been cleaned last summer, and the lighting on the arch has been improved.
We had been using the balcony flood positions, but now that we have more lighting instruments, our light plot has gotten more creative, thanks to our dedicated stage volunteers. Right now we’re also doing backstage work to get a modern computerized lighting system installed, and to catalog our inventory of new equipment.
The right rear exit is curtained off because there are doors missing from that exit alcove to non-public spaces in the building. As I am sure you’re aware, resources are limited, and we’re currently working on the infrastructure for both safety and performance that will allow us to bring more people into the theatre for more shows. The increased exposure (and revenue) from this work will allow us to work on cosmetic improvements.
As far as keeping the “boxes” at the rear of the auditorium goes, don’t look at it so much as “keeping” but as avoiding spending many tens of thousands of dollars demolishing them and reconstructing the rear of the auditorium. The scope of that work is a bit beyond the capability of our volunteers, especially considering that it would have to be done quickly as the auditorium would not be usable during the construction. We do use one of them as a sound control room as well. There are few things I’d like more than to see them go, but it has to wait.
The weight of the vertical sign is only a small component of the complexity of replacing it. The structural steel in the tower appears to be badly corroded from decades of water infiltration while the sign was installed, so it is in unknown condition and probably deficient for supporting any cantilevered structure. Even if a replacement sign weighed nothing, the wind loading on such a sign can subject the structure to tens of thousands of pounds of (potentially oscillating) force, so the structure would have to be in very good shape. I won’t say never, but barring having a couple of million bucks with nothing more pressing to use it on, it’s not going to happen.
I believe the sign was removed in the late 1960s. Not only is the structural steel for it badly corroded, the support structure for the sail-like sign was likely deficient since the day the theatre opened.
Terrazzo is actually a concrete-type material that’s poured in place, with marble chips and brass strips set into it, and then polished to a smooth surface. The terrazzo and carpet in the Loew’s lobby is installed directly over concrete, as the areas that were originally carpeted were inset so they were at the same level as the marble border.
We do have a few pieces of original furniture and fixtures (in need of restoration), but most of the missing elements were removed when the Loew’s Corporation still owned and operated the building.
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.
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.
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.
The long swags were cut, probably in the 50s for CinemaScope, and we didn’t find them in the building. When the fabrics are replaced as part of the restoration (well into the future), we will likely recreate them and rig them to fly out to widen the proscenium when needed.
We’re still deciding on the fall films; we’ll post to the web site as soon as we know our titles. The dates of our film weekends should be posted soon.
That’s not entirely accurate. While we do reduce the height of the image for scope, we also increase the width. The screen areas used for 1.85 and 2.39 are close, with 2.39 ever so slightly bigger, with the 1.85 image at 41'x22' and the 2.39 image at 20'x47'. The lenses we have for 70mm will make it (appropriately) our largest format, at 22.5'x49.5'.
We remain constrained by the width of the proscenium, at exactly 50' plaster to plaster. A larger screen would require a screen frame in front of the proscenium, which, while possible, is impractical for the current and future uses of the theatre.
We mask all formats appropriately. Our screen and proscenium have a 2:1 aspect ratio, and we project all formats at the maximum possible size (side masking for silent, 1.37:1, and 1.85:1, and top masking for 2.39:1).
There will be two more film weekends this season. The weekend of May 21-22, we will be showing three films from the 70s, and on June 4-5, we will be showing three films from the 80s.
Friday, May 21, 8:00PM: Taxi Driver
Saturday, May 22, 6:15PM: Blazing Saddles
Saturday, May 22, 8:40PM: Saturday Night Fever
Friday, June 4, 8:00PM: Raging Bull
Saturday, June 5, 6:00PM: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Saturday, June 5, 8:15PM: Blues Brothers
We currently project films from Norelco FP-20 projectors which are not capable of playing back Vitaphone sound-on-disc, but which are indeed equipped with modern red-light reverse scan sound readers.
We do have the capability to play back Vitaphone sound through another projector, however. This projector consists of a Simplex Standard projector head mounted on a Western Electric Universal Base, which has a motor to drive the actual projector head, the film take-up assembly, an optical sound head to play back sound-on-film, and the turntable assembly to play back sound-on-disc. The Simplex Standard projector head was introduced in the silent days, and the Universal Base adapts it for sound. However, as we only have one of these projectors, we are not able to seamlessly show Vitaphone films over 20 minutes in duration.
Although this equipment was removed long ago, this configuration is the same as was originally installed in the Loew’s Jersey in 1929. However, this is not the same equipment.
In reference to the comments about air conditioning, the Loew’s Jersey did have an air conditioning system, but it is far beyond repair and has not functioned at least since the building closed in 1986.
We are currently in the design process for a new air conditioning system, but there is some uncertainty with the funding, so I can’t say when the installation will be finished. Some preparatory work has already begun.
I can’t really speak to any plans we have for the side coves, but I would assume our aim would be to return them to their original state, whatever that might have been. I think they might have had curtains in them to emulate opera boxes (these weren’t meant to be “windows” like you might find in an atmospheric). The original incandescent lighting strips still exist, but are currently unused (they are not lamped). These are controlled at the stage lighting board and I assume they are set up for the 3 color circuits like the rest of the house and stage lights. Right now they are painted a greenish-blue color on the inside, and most of them have blue neon lighting.
One idea I had for using single slide projectors (we have a few of them already) was to project an image of the triplex “scar” on the underside of the balcony for demonstration purposes after it is restored.
All of the seat bottoms and backs have already been reupholstered (all of the seats, both balcony and orchestra, were done at once) and are awaiting installation. The current work involves cleaning and painting the seat standards, and refurbishing and painting the hinges for the seat bottoms. Our volunteers are making good progress on both fronts.
We are working on getting a grant to fund the work needed on the fire escapes to get the balcony open. We may be able to open the loge (lower section of the balcony) before the fire escapes for the upper part of the balcony are restored, but I can’t make any promises.
Off of the top of my head, I know we’ve shown at least Lawrence of Arabia and The Sound of Music in the past, and we’ll probably be showing all of the films you’ve listed some time in the future as well. Additionally, once we are ready to show 70mm, we will likely be scheduling 70mm showings of Lawrence of Arabia and West Side Story.
The marquee was indeed restored by FOL and I’ve personally spent many hours working on the marquee. We were very happy to be able to negotiate the purchase and installation of the lamps on the underside of the marquee as part of a commercial shoot contract. Because of our previous restoration work, re-lamping the marquee only required purchasing and installing the bulbs in their sockets. I don’t mean to minimize this because, as anyone who has worked on signs or marquees before can tell you, this is no small feat in itself. Nevertheless, FOL volunteers have done much of the work to get the marquee to its current state. Furthermore, our limited budget and volunteer time require us to make hard decisions on where to direct our resources, and without this shoot we would not have been able to re-lamp the underside of the marquee so soon. In retrospect, seeing how stunning the newly-relamped marquee looks, I think we should have done this sooner!
As far as bird poo is concerned, the publicity room beneath the projection booth, which had its feathered occupants evicted prior to the public opening, suffered a broken window about two years ago and consequently a new pigeon infestation. I’m happy to report that the window was repaired and the room was cleaned once again not long thereafter. It did sit closed-off for some time until we were able to clean it, but as this was an area of the building not accessed by the public or staff (and one which shouldn’t have been included on any tour), this was left until our summer “working months” to clean.
I’m offended that anyone thinks my honest appraisal of the focus situation is “a load of bull.” I must also contradict the assertion that the Delrin gate runners and pressure skate in our projectors have anything to do with focus. I have contacted several technical experts familiar with the Norelco/Kinoton projectors and their Delrin gates, and they agree with my assessment. Even Kinoton’s largest projector, which supports lamphouses much hotter and larger than ours, still has Delrin gate components and works without focus troubles.
Regardless, as I’m installing the Norelco 35/70 projectors that do have metal gate runners, we’ll be able to see the difference if there is any. I’m not expecting this to improve focus, but the new projectors give us the ability to show new film formats. It’ll also give me the ability to send a big “I told you so” to a few of our vocal detractors. :)
No matter what the tone of the comments, I appreciate that they come from a desire to see the Loew’s do better. I share that desire, even though I may disagree with some of your assessments and suggestions, and I spend the greater part of my spare time effecting it. I prefer nice comments, though. :)
Hi, I’m Robert Minichino, the new technical director at the Loew’s Jersey, and I’d like to respond to some of the comments about our film presentation. First, I apologize for any impression of surliness on the part of any of the FOL staff. I would like everyone to know that I always welcome polite, constructive criticism on any aspect of our presentation. If you would like to make any comments after the movie, feel free to ask for me. I’m always there on movie nights and I’ll be happy to talk with you as I’m keenly interested in providing the best possible presentation of our classic film program to our patrons.
Certainly we could have been more diligent in the past with keeping the image focused, but I am aware of the issue and I do try to keep on top of it all the time. From my perspective it has gotten better as one of our volunteer projectionists has gotten more experience. It is difficult to focus from the booth, and we continue to have people in the orchestra monitoring the focus for us. There’s no excuse for us being out of focus where it can be corrected with a simple adjustment. I’d like to say that we do our best, and I’m happy that this statement is increasingly true.
As MBD mentioned above, we do find that some prints have parts that are out of focus. On our large screen this effect is painfully obvious, particularly from the front rows. Oftentimes we will get a call up to the booth during these scenes and we are unable to improve the focus. In fact, through our binoculars we can often see the film grain sharply defined on the screen at these moments. These problems seem to be confined to older B&W prints as we haven’t noticed the same issues with, for example, new color films. I understand that this can be particularly frustrating and distracting, and unfortunately the only remedy I can offer is to sit further back from the screen.
Bob Furmanek had mentioned above that there is a problem with focus drift and the use of our Kinoton projectors, and I must respectfully disagree. At least after Bob Eberenz had installed water-cooled gates with heat filters and additional forced-air cooling, I haven’t found any long-term focus drift issues with our projectors in the past few years. I have no experience with any issues that existed before this time as I was not yet involved with the theatre. However, we still do have some focus flutter, particularly with dark scenes on B&W film stock, but this would be unavoidable for any theater with our screen and lamphouse size. Our projectors do have curved gates, which does help, and I can’t imagine that any other projector would be much better in this regard.
Finally, the steep downward projection angle (19 degrees) combined with fast lenses and their concomitant shallow depth of field means that we can’t always have the entire image in perfect focus. You would notice this effect as the image being more in-focus in the middle than at the top and bottom. Some formats exhibit this problem worse than others. This can be alleviated with the use of perspective-correction adapters that allow us to shift the projected image off of the optical center axis. Once this is done, the projectors can be tilted at a less steep angle, which reduces both keystone distortion and focus issues. Unfortunately, these adapters are expensive and we are operating on a very tight budget. Thankfully, without correction this effect is still slight even on our worst format, and shouldn’t be obvious or distracting.
I’m trying to fill some awfully big shoes now that Mr. Eberenz has left us. It is my foremost desire to do justice to his work and memory as well as to our beautiful movie palace by providing the best possible presentation through my work with all of the FOL staff.