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As mentioned in the overview, the Rahway Theatre opened on October 16, 1928. The evening was a benefit with proceeds going the Rahway Hospital (now known as the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital). The hospital board made it clear this was arranged by local businessman Bernard Engelman, president of the Olt-Engel Corporation, which was formed by him and his brother-in-law (and former Rahway resident) Major David M Oltarsh to build and maintain the structure. As architect (and an engineer), Oltarsh oversaw the construction, which was carried out by various contractors.
House Organist Chet Kingsbury opened the evening’s program with a recital on the 2 manual 7 rank Style EX Wurlitzer, opus 1923. Neither Kingsbury nor opus 1923 were mentioned in the program or media accounts.
I am uploading a full-page ad of the opening night program from the neighboring Carteret Press, and a second ad from the Woodbridge Leader. It should be noted that the opening night movie was “A Grain Of Dust”, the double bill mentioned in the overview (and on the web pages of UCPAC and GSTOS) was the third program, which ran later in the week.
2001 will have what appears to be a one day showing at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland on August 24th, tickets not yet on sale.
Grand Lake website can be viewed here.
A repost of my comment yesterday to include information about the house Wurlitzer…
The February 15, 1908 issue of the San Francisco Dramatic Review contained an item saying that “after successfully managing the Hill Opera House in Petaluma”, Al White was moving on to manage the Unique Theatre in San Jose. From the early 1908 date I’m guessing it is safe to say this theatre dates to an earlier year.
In 1917, Dr. John A. McNear, who already ran another theatre in town, the Mystic, took over operation. Early on, he featured 4 days of motion pictures a week, and advertised those shows to patrons at the Mystic.
In 1924, T & D Jr. Enterprises Inc. acquired the Hill from McNear. The “Moving Picture World” in their September 13th issue mentioned that plans for a $40,000 remodel were announced, their October 25th issue said contracts for that project had been awarded.
Prior to the start of the remodel, a Wurlitzer was installed on September 23. That was Opus 909, which had 2 manuals and 6 ranks.
The Hill Opera House reopened in January 1925 as The California Theatre, opening night feature “Her Night of Romance” starring Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman.
The Varsity opened in the summer of 1912 (late July-early August) according to Motography (August 3 issue) and Moving Picture World (July 20). It was operated by Messrs. Turner and Dahnken, their eleventh theatre in a circuit that covered most of the Bay Area and extended as far east as Stockton and Fresno. This was their third theatre in Berkeley, the previous summer they opened the Berkeley Theatre. Their original house in Berkeley was a nickelodeon also named Varsity, which they took over operation of in 1909 and closed the previous year after opening the Berkeley.
In 1912, for a 10 cent admission, patrons were given four reels of Licensed pictures. The Varsity initially seated about 480 and according to a 1914 article referenced below, featured a modern heating system and full basement, including dressing rooms located under the stage. A piano supplied musical accompaniment.
Donnamerhten, that most likely is your grandfather in the vintage picture on the photo page, it was published in the September 5, 1914 issue of The Moving Picture World. In addition to giving a description of the theatre I mentioned above, it goes on to say the C. L. Mehrten was in the process enlarging the auditorium, increasing the capacity to 700. The Motion Picture News mentioned in its September 12th issue that seating was being increased by “about” 270 seats to “about” 750. Both of these were a little behind the times, the Varsity had reopened August 20th according to the September 12 issue of “Moving Picture World”.
Mehrten was well known in the trade, he spent several years as treasurer of the California Motion Picture Exhibitor’s League and had started in the business around 1903, when he began to operate his own road show. In 1917 he sold the Varsity and this theatre which he had built (but did not operate) and retired from the business.
The Varsity changed hands again before being purchased by Lawrence Borg in the fall of 1920. In late September 1924, he sold a half interest to the newly formed Golden State Theatre and Realty Corporation. Borg kept his position as manager and it was announced plans were in the works to remodel and enlarge the venue. Borg had previously purchased land a block south at San Pablo Avenue and Allston Way with plans to build a larger theatre, he sold that land shortly after the sale
On September 30, 1924 a two manual four rank type B sp Wuriltzer, opus 913, was installed. Its tenure however was short, it was sold in March, 1925.
Late in 1925 it was announced that rather than enlarge the Varsity, work would commence in early 1926 on a new theatre to replace it a block to the north, which was eventually named the Rivoli. The Moving Picture World and Berkeley Daily Gazette both mentioned the Varsity would close with its opening, which took place October 21,1926.
According to an article in the December 7, 1914 issue of the Berkeley Gazette talking about the opening of the T&D (later California) Theatre that week, the Varsity was an early acquisition of the Turner and Dahnken Circuit, having taken control of it in 1909.
This was the first of four movie houses they would operate in Berkeley, the audience response to their presentations was so positive that in August, 1911 they opened the much larger Berkeley Theatre four blocks further south on Shattuck. They kept the Varsity open for a short time afterwards, and used the name on their next local venue the following year.
This was the third Berkeley theatre built by Messrs. James Turner and Fred Dahnkan, the previous being the Berkeley Theatre (1911) and the Varsity Theatre (1912). They divested of both these venues before opening the T&D.
The last show under its original name took place September 16, 1923, a double bill featuring “White Shoulders” with Katherine MacDonald, and “A Noise in Newboro” featuring Viola Dana. An ad in the previous day’s Berkeley Gazette announced that afterwards the house would be closed for “extensive alterations”, reopening the following Saturday, September 22, and that its name thereafter would be the California.
The following Friday an announcement ran in the Gazette that the opening was to be delayed until the following Wednesday, September 26. The opening night’s feature was “Within The Law”, starring Norma Talmadge.
Ads for the final show, subsequent delay, and re-opening night now in the photo section, along with two ads announcing the 1914 opening.
1911 ad now in photo section
Opening night ad and a photo that accompanied an article in the Berkeley Gazette added to the photo section
The Berkeley Gazette ran an article about the opening of the Oaks that evening, on September 15, 1925. The two pictures that accompanied it are now in the photo section
The Strand held its “Grand Opening” on Tuesday April 6, I’ve upload an ad from the April 3 issue of the South Amboy Citizen. The October 16 issue of The Moving Picture World advertised a “fully equipped moving picture theater” located at 120 David St., South Amboy, NJ was for rent “real cheap”, saying the owner was “kept away on account of business”.
This theatre can be dated to at least the first half of 1908, it appeared as the Theatorium on that year’s Sanborn map, which was released in July. A look at the 1901 map indicates the building started its life as the livery for the hotel next to it.
I am also uploading an ad from March, 1911, this was its standard ad that year. The proprietor at that time was Theodore Manduka, who apparently also ran a shooting gallery either on or next to the premises. By late 1914, Mr. Manduka had given up his proprietorship to manage the town’s other theatre, the Empire.
I found a mention in the October 22 1910 issue of Variety (A String of Four) that the Monticello had opened the previous Monday, which would have been October 17. It was built and opened by the Ansbach Improvement Co., who leased it the following January to Morris S. Schlesinger for 10 years.
The Monticello Theatre appears on the 1911 Sanborn Map for Jersey City, volume 6, sheet 32. It can be viewed here.
The earliest mention I could find for a theatre in Reform was the 1937 Film Daily Yearbook, when a venue called the Reform was first listed, with no seating capacity. The following year, the Reform was listed with 898 seats, which I believe a typo, in 1940 the listing gave 150 seats. The 1944 edition has the name changed to the Pickens but the 150 figure for seating stayed the same until at least 1947. I haven’t access to the 1948-50 editions, but in 1951 it was listed as seating 400.
Looking at the two pictures recently uploaded, from 1952 and 2016, it appears this building is not demolished, but still standing and being used for another purpose. Maneuvering around in Google Earth confirms that at least in 2016, the auditorium was still standing.
The February 11th 1928 issue of the Motion Picture News mentioned that Aron Schusterman had taken a 21year lease on the Grand Theatre in Perth Amboy and was going to do an extensive remodel which was estimated would cost between thirty and forty thousand dollars. Other trade papers mentioned it would also reopen with a new name. Schusterman also operated theatres in New Brunswick and Red Bank.
As mentioned in a comment above, the Grand reopened as the “Roxy Theatre”. A short promo article in the neighboring “Carteret Press” (September 14th issue) said it opened a few weeks earlier, which would have been late August. That issue also carried an ad that I am uploading. The Film Daily Yearbook also listed the theatre as the Roxy from 1929-1932 (as the “Roxie” first year, “Roxy” the next three), although the name change happened much sooner than that.
I can’t find any specific records of what happened and when it happened as the Roxy stopped advertising in surrounding papers shortly after opening, but the clothing store that opened next to it was advertising as being located “next to the Roky Theatre” in late summer 1929.
One other note, despite the caption on the newspaper clipping that Craig posted a few years back, it does not appear that the building was torn down. Comparing the current street view which dates to this past July with the clipped picture, it appears to be the same building. Note the façade and windows. Accessing the address through Google Earth, the view from above shows what appears to be the old auditorium still in place. No doubt gutted for retail space, but still standing.
A few more bits of info about this demolished treasure :
The September 2,1927 issue of the Carteret News had a two-page spread of advertisements and short promo write-ups from the various businesses and individuals that supplied goods or services in the construction and fitting of the Ritz, I mentioned a few of them in the post about opening night. One more mention should go to The Hermann Brothers Construction Company of Carteret who, according to their ad and short promo write-up, supplied the masonry materials used. Looking a little deeper, it turns out that in addition to supplying materials, they also employed the folks to place them, I found records of them bidding on municipal contracts in the area for everything from building bridges to installing sidewalks and paving streets. As no other builder is mentioned in the list of vendors, they most likely built the structure, in addition to supplying the materials. One of the brothers, Joseph, was instrumental in the founding of the borough that is now Carteret, and served many years as its first mayor.
The 1,200 figure for seating mentioned in the overview comes from something I wrote here 4 years ago and based on 3 items in the Carteret Press, one of them the opening night ad. Another of those items claimed it held “about 1,200”. I did later find a mention of that number in the July 22 issue of the Motion Picture News. However that short item also mentioned they hoped to have the Ritz opened by July 15, so the news was somewhat dated.
Since then, I’ve come across 3 other figures, 1,200 being the highest by as much as 200.
The Carteret News mentioned a seating capacity of 1,100 in their write-up of the opening. As I mentioned in a previous comment, The News was a neighbor of the Ritz, its office and printing press located on Cooke Avenue, close to the stage door. It was one of 3 buildings other than the Ritz demolished to make way for the new performing arts center this past summer.
That figure most likely came from a promotional write- up The News ran for local furniture dealer Bernard Kahn, another neighbor of both the Ritz and the News, who furnished the seats. According to that, the capacity of the Ritz was “figured at 1,100”.
The Film Daily Yearbook didn’t mention a capacity until 1932, when it was listed as 1,000. This figure was consistent into the 1950’s.
The final figure comes from September 1930, when Western Electric installed its sound reproduction system. This was the second system for the Ritz, which was originally equipped by mid-1929. An ad by Western Electric in the September 27 issue of Exhibitors Herald World (Ritz at the bottom of the left column) listed over 200 recent installations, including seating capacity for all but a couple dozen venues. It listed the Ritz as having 1,044 seats. Not certain if Maurice Spewak was honest with the techs and gave an exact number, or if counting the house was part of their job, but I’m guessing this was the exact number of seats the Ritz held.
It’s impossible to know why the Carteret Press ad and write-ups mentioned 1,200, or “about 1,200” seats, but less than three weeks later the State Theatre opened in neighboring Woodbridge. Unlike the Ritz, the State was built with out of town capital by people in the theatre business who were good at promotion, promo articles had appeared since early summer talking up the beauty of the new theatre and its 1,200 seats. The Press had an association with the Woodbridge paper, the Independent, the editor of the Press was also the advertising representative for the Independent, which ran the same ad as the Press. These theatres were each other’s closest competition, the bus between the two towns stopped within a half block of each, only about a 10 minute ride. Spewak may've wanted to remind the Woodbridge folks that his theatre was just as large and beautiful as the new one coming to Woodbridge.
Interesting side note, while claiming 1,200 seats in its opening promotions, the State was consistently listed in the Film Daily Yearbook as having 1,000 seats, which is also the number listed on CT. I’ll post more about that on the State page.
A recent article talking about the renovation, with some interior pictures of ongoing work.
Today is the 96th anniversary of the Woodbridge Theatre opening its doors, I’ve uploaded an ad from that week’s (November 18th) Roosevelt News advertising the “New Woodbridge Theatre” to the residents of Roosevelt and inviting them to “take the bus to Woodbridge” Roosevelt is now known as Carteret.
Here’s an article from today’s Asbury Park Press about yesterday’s ground breaking ceremony for a $23 million expansion of the Basie, which will include second performance space located in a new Arts and Education Building adjacent to the theatre. This pretty much doubles the size of the performing arts center. A nice addition to the Basie, which celebrates its 91st anniversary as a theatre in 7 weeks. The article includes a short video and slide show of the ceremony and plans.
Markp, I’m guessing that construction trailer is there in connection with the “luxury residential development” with “commercial and office space” that is going to be built across the way, on that empty land that surrounds two sides of the parking garage, “ directly in the heart of the new theater district”. I believe there is an official groundbreaking affair for that project this week, or maybe next.
90 years ago tonight, Maurice Spewak presented the first show in his new Carteret theatre, the Ritz. Spewak had come to town 11years earlier taking over the Crescent Theatre in the Chrome section of the Borough. He later took over operation of the other local movie house, the Majestic.
These were both small venues built in the early 1910s, and by the mid1920s, somewhat outdated. Spewak realized this and in 1926 purchased 6 lots at the corner of Washington and Cooke Avenues, which was centrally located in Carteret. By August, ground was broken for a new, modern theatre that would accommodate more townsfolk than the other two houses combined. John Gliva, a young local architect who lived a stone’s throw from the construction site, was engaged by Mr. Spewak to design his new venue.
The construction went on through the winter and by the beginning of May, the first tenants of the retail and office spaces (there were 4 of them) the structure also held were able to move in. It would be another four months however, before the auditorium would be ready to host a program. On August 12th, the Carteret News announced that the “new Ritz Theatre” would open the week of September 1st, declaring that the new theatre “will be one of the finest of its size in the state”, going on to say that “no effort has been spared to make the interior decorations as fine and beautiful as the best theatres in the larger cities of the state.” They mentioned that a “massive organ” was currently being installed. They would know, the News was a neighbor of the Ritz, their office and printing plant being only a few yards from the stage door.
The Ritz was fitted with red leather cushioned seats made by Heywood Wakefield. Its stage was small, with less than 20 feet from the plaster line to the back wall and a proscenium opening of just 25 feet. It was adorned by an arch installed, as was all the plasterwork, by the Essex Plain and Decorative Plastering Company. In addition to the “massive organ”, a two manual 4 rank Kloes Unit Orchestra manufactured by the United States Pipe Organ Company (opus 153), the orchestra pit contained 2 pianos, one of them a Webster Baby Grand. Once opened, the 5 piece Ritz Orchestra (led by Harry Spewak, brother of the owner) supplied accompaniment to the silent films. The regular organist was William Staubach, well known in town and a veteran at playing for film, he was hired at least as far back as 1910 by iterant exhibitors when they came to the borough, before Carteret had a theatre and moving picture shows were weekly or twice weekly affairs that played the local halls. Decoration of the auditorium was carried out by Bournet Studios of New York. In the projection booth, Simplex projectors were used for presenting the films, Brenkert spots for lighting performers.
An overflow crowd estimated at 1600 (about 600 more than there were seats) packed the Ritz opening night, filling not only the aisles, but the lobby. Many had to be turned away. Entertainment for the evening was a feature film, the war comedy “Lost at the Front”, a technicolor short, and 4 acts of vaudeville. In addition, there were the opening ceremonies.
William Staubach didn’t play the organ that evening, a professor Gown from the United States Pipe Organ Company who was present to fine tune the system, sat at the console. The event opened with “The Star Spangled Banner”, sung by Mrs. Hughes with Professor Gown on the organ. (Mrs. Hughes was a local resident and public school teacher).
Local attorney Elmer E Brown, the master of ceremonies, then introduced Thomas J Mulvihill, the borough’s Mayor. Mulvihill then, on behalf of owner Morris “Maurice” Spewak , “handed the playhouse over” to the people of Carteret and hoped that the people of the borough would regard the “beautiful edifice with a feeling of communal pride.”
Other speakers that night were Assistant County Prosecutor Francis A Monaghan and State Senator Morgan F Larson.
The last speaker to be called on was Mr. Spewak, who was apparently at a loss for words. After thanking the speakers for their kind words, the local Lions Club and the Carteret Business Men’s Association for the large floral pieces they sent, and of course the patrons for their appreciation, he said “As a speechmaker, I think I am a good builder of theatres.” I think he meant better. And with that, and for the next 37 years, 4 months and 31 days, it was on with the show...
I am also uploading an opening night advertisement from the Carteret News, my thanks to the Carteret Historical Committee for allowing the research that uncovered that, and some of the information used in the above.
Markp, as you know I was in town when the Ritz was demolished, and that happened by chance. I grew up a few short blocks from the Ritz and still come east a couple of times each year to visit relatives and friends. I grabbed my camera and took many photos throughout the demolition process, except for the last day. That water pipe replacement project on Washington Avenue took longer than expected and the day the demo was to be completed, they were still digging in front of what was left of the building. So demolition was halted, the crew didn’t even show up, although I was told by one of them demolition would start at 8 and completed by noon that Monday. I stayed a few hours hoping things would change but I had a jet to catch.
Friday will mark the 90th anniversary of the Ritz’s opening. I will be uploading some demolition pictures, along with a copy of the opening ad from the other Carteret newspaper, The Carteret News. I’ll also try write a little about opening night, as the News had a detailed article (as did the Carteret Press) the next day.
I am going to upload one picture tonight that would have an extra special meaning to the two of us. Seems the workers found an old 35mm reel in the debris and set it up on top a pile of bricks close to the fence…
Day two (Saturday) of the demolition removed the remainder of the stage house and the auditorium roof, I posted a few pictures the other day.
After a rainy Monday, work resumed Tuesday with the bulk of the Washington Avenue frontage being removed, leaving only the ground floor portion. Back in the day, this housed the lobby and two retail spaces, the second floor two office suites and a larger central room that was once a meeting room and available for rent. The projection booth was also located in this portion of the structure.
Wednesday saw the removal of the eastern auditorium wall along with the upper portion of the western wall.
Today will be spent removing the massive amount of debris from the former auditorium floor, I am told the remainder of the western wall and possibly the former lobby/retail space will most likely come down on Friday.
I’ll be posting some more photos over the next few days.
Regret to inform that this afternoon, 29 days before the 90th anniversary of its opening, demolition of the Ritz Theatre began, with a portion of the stagehouse being demolished. I’ll post some photos later this evening. Renovating/Restoring ought to be removed from its overview, although demolition will not be complete for several more days.
markp, I'll be around for a bit starting the end of next week (21st). Hopefully you won't be so tied up with Dunkirk that we'll get a chance to hang out. I'll email you shortly.
Speaking of Dunkirk, I might opt to see it at the Regal, the much nearer alternative for me managed to scratch their print of Hateful Eight by time I got to view it.
Mikeoaklandpark, the current owners of the Steel Pier announced they were bringing the diving horse back in 2012. They dropped the idea within two weeks due to massive public outcry.
This was their second attempt, when they were just leasing the Pier in 1993, they hired an outfit called High Diving Mules to perform. In that performance, a mule, dog and miniature horse did the diving. Public objection was such that the act was cancelled after several weeks. I don’t think that attitude will change anytime in the foreseeable future.
Hard Rock International, who took over the Taj Mahal, will have two venues equipped for live entertainment with over 7,000 seats between them. As that complex is still connected to the Steel Pier by a bridge over the boardwalk, I doubt the Pier owners will invest millions to place another live venue that near. More than likely they will strive to make it a first class amusement park, like they’ve been doing for the last 25 years or so.
Being a Jersey kid who remembers the Atlantic City of a different era, I would like to see the pier host live and filmed entertainment again, but like Cinedelphia, I doubt that will happen.