Clifton Theatre

1138 Main Avenue,
Clifton, NJ 07013

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moviebuff82 on January 26, 2018 at 5:41 pm

Grease was shown in dolby nearly 40 years ago here.

moviebuff82 on December 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm

This theater was the only theater in Clifton to show Raiders of the Lost Ark, according to a post by a CT user commemorating the 30th anniversary of that iconic film. They showed it in Dolby Stereo 35mm. When did it become a quad theater from being a single screen?

moviebuff82 on January 16, 2011 at 7:12 am

Probably not. The Clifton Theater probably showed silent films for the first time in Clifton in those days, then came sound, and the occasional old 3-D flick. In recent years, the theater became a popular venue for kiddie and urban fare that the Allwood wouldn’t play. With the acquisition by Clearview, the Clifton Quad remained an independent theater for the rest of its lease.

moviebuff82 on April 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Last week marked 10 years since this theater closed down. It was at the time the oldest movie theater in town and showed its age once Clifton Commons opened. Did this theater ever had 70mm projection and dolby sound during its operation?

moviebuff82 on May 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm

During the credits of “FernGully”, the picture was black while the sound was still on. This theater was the second one to be located not too far from a Blockbuster video store right down the street from its location (the other one is at Clifton Commons). At the time of its closing, it, along with the Franklin, were the only theaters not owned by Clearview, General Cinema, and Loews Cineplex. They were independently run by true employees who know it best.

moviebuff82 on December 26, 2008 at 4:25 pm

very interesting article. BTW, Stanley Warner owned the Ridgewood theater. The person who replaced the relief manager at SW must have overlooked what would become the two Paramus theaters.

kencmcintyre on December 12, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Here is an item in Boxoffice magazine, October 1963:

Jerry Littenberg, former Stanley Warner relief manager in this area, has resigned from that company to assume the manager’s duties at the Clifton Theater. Littenberg had been with SW for over a year and before that was associated with Skouras Theaters in the Bergen County area. He replaces Evan Thompson, a former Skouras man, who has now rejoined that circuit.

rhett on December 28, 2007 at 6:16 am

I worked at the Clifton (my very first job) in the mid-70’s. I was an “usher”…. remember them? The theater was huge and we got the main movies. It’s amazing how we took it for granted back then. I went there when it was a quad , the last movie I saw there was “Conspiracy Theory”…it wasn’t the same, it seemed like all the old neighborhood theaters that went to hell…I went upstairs to re-visit….where the old storage rooms used to be , were now theaters. I looked in…it was a described here….a storage room with a few rows of seats and a small screen…what were the owners thinking??? Now all we have are multiplexes…the ALLWOOD is still there, but it is one of the worst constructed theaters ever…the architect should be brought up on charges….the seating is uncomfortable and the movies in theaters 5 and 6 are never shown in their proper aspect ratio. Boy, I miss the times of the Clifton and single screen theaters

moviebuff82 on March 4, 2007 at 8:55 am

Thanks for that photo!! This was back in the days before TV lured people away from theaters like the Clifton theater, which was mentioned in a recent issue of Clifton Merchant, the town’s magazine. From its humble beginnings as a popular place for Hollywood’s Golden Age to showing blockbusters on a large screen to its status as a popular hangout for urban moviegoers to its fateful end as a transformation to a Walgreen’s, the Clifton Theater was the first theater to open in Clifton that paved the way for other theaters in the surrounding area, mostly the still open Allwood Sixplex, which is much nicer but smaller than the Clifton Quad.

moviebuff82 on January 13, 2007 at 1:57 am

When I went to the theater before it closed during my childhood years, the Clifton sign wasn’t there, it was just the marquee. The theater was not too far from Blockbuster, which would be its main competitor after opening in the 90’s. The last movie I saw there was “Andre”; before the film began, they played in the middle of the movie and had to rewind the film before they started it. It was a good film, and one reason the Clifton was a place for urban and kiddie fare. One of the smaller theaters had a red light in the back (the exit sign) that looked like something out of “Das Boot”!!! Thank God that the theater is done!!!

teecee on February 26, 2006 at 4:02 pm

Old color postcard – Marquee shows “Scared Stiff” (1953) Martin & Lewis:
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pbubny on October 28, 2005 at 11:19 am

I had been to this theatre once in its single-screen days (I saw “Jaws” there in early 1976—probably about the sixth time I saw the movie—and I remember that the packed house of what seemed like mostly high-school girls screamed loudly enough to drown out the sound at key moments) and a couple of times after it was subdivided a few years later. Nice and not too shabby neighborhood theatre of about 1,000 seats before it was converted into a quad, although the sightlines made the screen (a decent-size Panavision screen, if I remember) seem very far away. After it was quad-ed, any positive feelings about it pretty much vanished; the quality of the moviegoing experience seriously declined, which is why I only went back there twice. I do remember sitting in one of the upstairs theatres and feeling as though I was in a storage room that somebody had outfitted with a few rows of seats and a tiny screen.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 11, 2005 at 10:39 am

Here’s an ad from May 1969, when the Clifton was a single-screen house:

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“If you thought Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell was funny …” – I love that kind of personal touch in movie ads. That movie was hot stuff in the late sixties, but now I wonder how many people remember or have even heard of “Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell”. I believe the plot of the hit B'way musical “Mamma Mia” was stolen from that movie.

teecee on June 9, 2005 at 6:02 am

Closed on 4/16/2000.

The Record (Hackensack, NJ), April 17, 2000 pa04
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2000 Bergen Record Corporation

In its heyday in the 1950s, the Clifton Theatre on Main Avenue was where neighborhood youngsters went to see cartoons, Abbott and Costello and Three Stooges movies, and adventure serials.

On Sunday, the excitement was gone, and moviegoers who called were treated only to a recorded message indicating that the theater “will no longer be in operation. It will be closed indefinitely. Thank you.”

The two-story, 63-year-old theater will be making way for a redevelopment project that city officials hope will transform a stretch of Main Avenue into a prime service, office, and retail center.

“I can remember going with friends to Saturday matinees,” said Mayor James Anzaldi. “And once a year, the PTA would have movie day.

“It was good while it lasted,” he said. “But the theater business is so different today. Everything is plex, 16-plex.”

Over the years, as moviegoers flocked to theaters at the malls, the Clifton Theatre, near the Passaic border, still kept a small but loyal following: mostly residents from neighboring urban areas where there are no theaters showing mainstream movies.

The biggest crowds recently have been for films aimed at a minority audience _ “Selena” and “Waiting to Exhale.”

The Allwood Theater is the city’s only other old-time theater. Last year, a multiplex opened its doors in a new retail complex called Clifton Commons on Route 3 near the Nutley border.

The city plans to buy the building for $750,000 and sell it to a developer who promises to knock it down and bring in new businesses, possibly a pharmacy and a bank. The likely developer is Arc Properties of Clifton.

“This is the best way to do it,” said Anzaldi. He noted that strip stores and the Knights of Columbus building behind the theater are part of the redevelopment plan. The Knights' last dinner will be next month, he said.

“In order to develop that area, you need pedestrian traffic, car traffic,” he said.

The mayor said he expected construction at the theater site to get under way by the summer, providing the developer receives the proper city approvals.

Article CJ62042498

teecee on June 9, 2005 at 5:36 am

Opened on 12/31/37:

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), August 5, 1998 pL1
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1998 Bergen Record Corp.

By JOHN CHADWICK, Staff Writer

The 61-year-old Clifton Theatre can’t compete with the latest multiplex. The sound system is antiquated, the seats don’t recline, and the interior hasn’t been refurbished in about 10 years.

It’s an old-style cinema that few in this mainly white, middle-class community patronize.

But for many inner-city residents in neighboring communities, where there are no theaters showing mainstream movies, the Clifton Theatre is all they have – and they may not have it much longer. With the owner wanting to sell to a church, and city officials pursuing their own plans to redevelop the neighborhood, the moviegoers who walk from Passaic or ride the bus from Paterson may lose another venue.

“When that theater closes, what will happen is what has happened far too often in old, urban areas – a large working-class segment that is a captive audience becomes further disenfranchised,” said Mark Auerbach, the Passaic city historian and a former assistant manager at the Clifton Theatre.

At Main and Clifton avenues in what was once the commercial heart of the city, the Clifton Theatre opened on New Year’s Eve in 1937.

“I can remember seeing ‘Ben Hur’ there, the Audrey Hepburn movies – it was wonderful,” Sandy Moore said.

But the theater has fallen prey to the same economic forces that have hurt other businesses on Main Avenue. The theater’s manager, Albert Tirado, traces the slow decline back more than a decade, when City Hall moved to Van Houten and Clifton avenues. Moviegoers have increasingly flocked to the malls and modern theaters built in the suburbs.

Moore, who lives six blocks from the cinema, hasn’t seen a movie there in decades. “It hasn’t been kept up,” she said. “It’s almost like [the owner] gave up on it.”

The reversal of fortune underscores how this city-suburb of 72,000 residents has changed, and how its neighborhoods are shaped by the influences of the cities they border.

The Clifton Theatre is a half-mile from the Passaic line in a shopping district that has slipped into a hodgepodge of offices, salons, and specialty stores. There is a growing ethnic presence, and the theater draws a mainly black and Hispanic audience. The biggest crowds recently have been for films aimed at a minority audience – “Selena” and “Waiting to Exhale.”

On the south side of Clifton, meanwhile, is the Allwood Cinema – the city’s other neighborhood movie house. The two theaters show many of the same movies (“The Negotiator,” “Baseketball,” and “The Mask of Zorro” recently played at both) and charge the same $6 price. But the Allwood attracts a predominantly white audience, such as the one that showed up last weekend for “Saving Private Ryan.”

Tirado attributed the difference in audience in part to location.

“A lot of our patrons don’t have transportation; we’re walking distance from Passaic and on the bus line from Paterson,” Tirado said. “The Allwood is close to Route 3 and gets the Nutley, Clifton, and Belleville crowd.”

Tirado acknowledges that the theater needs a face lift, but says the level of business doesn’t justify further investment. Nonetheless, some of the moviegoers interviewed outside the Clifton Theatre praised the theater as safe and clean – despite its age and condition.

“This is the only place where you can get the real theater experience,” said Manuel Malive of Passaic.

Paula Bullard of West Paterson said she feels safer than at the malls. Tirado, a Passaic firefighter, is known as a kind but firm presence who has been known to collect boom-box radios before admitting patrons into the theater.

“At ‘Waiting to Exhale,’ there was a huge crowd, but they kept everything under control,” Bullard said. “There is much more chance of disruption at the malls than there is here.”

Owner Stewart Epstein of New York City declined to be interviewed for this article. Auerbach said Epstein deserves praise for keeping the theater open this long and offering first-run movies at an affordable price to a mostly minority audience.

“Stewart has never taken advantage of a captive audience,” he said. “But it is difficult competing in a society with people who want newness, attractiveness, and surround-around sound.”

Epstein wants to sell the building to a multiracial church, but the Clifton zoning board denied a variance. The board’s decision was appealed to state Superior Court, and the case is still pending.

At the same time, Clifton officials are seeking to declare all of Main Avenue a redevelopment zone – a move that would allow them to condemn property and resell it to developers they think could bring in new anchor stores.

Both plans have their critics. Some say a church would not boost the area’s economic fortunes. Others say they fear a city-sponsored redevelopment would hurt the viable businesses that are there now.

Ernesto Tyczynski, who opened a Latin music store next to the theater, believes it is only a matter of time before Main Avenue will come into its own as a business center with a Spanish flavor.

Either way, residents such as Donna Holmes, who lives in Passaic and frequents the Clifton Theatre, will likely have to find a new place to see movies. Passaic’s Capitol and Central theaters were razed years ago, and The Montauk shows only adult movies.

In Paterson, the last movie theater – the Fabian – closed in 1993.

“I don’t know what I would do if this theater closed,” Holmes said. “I’d be devastated.”

Article CJ70603011

moviebuff82 on May 31, 2005 at 12:18 pm

Well, it was too little, too late….a drugstore came to town and it was Walgreens that took over the remains of the old theatre.

teecee on May 31, 2005 at 10:09 am

There was a plan in the mid 1990s to buy the theater and lease it to an acting school:


The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


Date: 08-29-1995, Tuesday
Section: NEWS
Edition: 2 Star P, Also in 3 Star, 2 Star B, 1 Star Late, 1 Star Early

Hoping to cast off Clifton’s image as a blue-collar city whose
residents don’t value culture highly, city officials are considering a
proposal to convert an old movie theater into a performing arts center.

The proposal calls for the city to buy the Clifton Theater on Main
Avenue and lease the vast building to the Action Theater Conservatory, a
five-year-old performing arts school currently housed in a converted
factory building.

“It’s a perfect marriage,” said Councilwoman Gloria Kolodziej, who
is proposing the concept. “This is the type of cultural….

Requires paid subscription for access to full text.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 28, 2005 at 12:25 pm

The Film Daily Yearbook, 1941 edition has the Clifton Theatre listed with a seating capacity of 1,100.

John Fink
John Fink on May 28, 2005 at 12:04 pm

The theatre had two long, narrow theatres on the first floor, and the rest rooms were on the second floor. Orginally I think this was a Loews house.

The second floor contained two more narrow theatres, although they were small and crammed.