Olden Theater

117-119 S. Olden Avenue,
Trenton, NJ 08609

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Q
Q on December 7, 2012 at 9:08 am

When I was a boy in the 1950s, I lived at 107 Garfield Ave, one street over from Olden Ave. From my bedroom window, I would look out directly at the marquee of the Olden Theater. Each week (Fridays, I believe) I would watch the worker change the letters announcing the new movies. My friends and I would attend Saturday serials and cartoons at the Olden and the Greenwood. My first tomato pie was at Maruca’s, and I used to go to the bowling alley upstairs. I remember the boys doing the pin setting. The photo is just like I remember it, with Maruca’s down the street. Great memories. Thanks for this.

rivest266
rivest266 on October 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm

January 18th, 1950 grand opening ad has been posted in the photo section.

itswagon
itswagon on April 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I showed the first porn film at the Olden. It was called, “I am Curious Yellow”. They charged (I think) over $5 per ticket and during the first week we sold out all 834 seats three times. The line went around the block twice. The film was awful. It was sooo bad that the fellow that spelled me had placed reel 2 and 3 in reverse order in the rack. I played it that way the following night and didn’t realize it until I went to rewind the third played reel. No-one noticed, and of course I didn’t volunteer. At the time I was working for a defense contractor that had a strict policy, if you were arrested, for any reason other than a traffic violation, you were fired on the spot. At that time in Trenton, both the Theatre Manager and Projectionist could be arrested. I actually had a one inch thick rope tied to the rewind table. The rope had large knots every foot or so. The Candy Girls had a “trouble” button behind the counter. They were going to ring it three times to signal me that we were being raided. My plan was to climb down the rope into the audience. I really needed my day job.

hondo59
hondo59 on November 11, 2009 at 9:21 pm

It was running porn in the end and I believe the city of Trenton foreclosed on the property while it was still operating! I think I recall headlines in the two local papers declaring that the city was operating a porn theater. Does any else remember this?

ben4hire
ben4hire on April 7, 2009 at 3:11 pm

The last movie I ever saw at the old Greenwood Theatre was Moonraker. Does anyone know what the last movie was ever played there was?

Thanks

itswagon
itswagon on June 10, 2008 at 4:15 am

No offense taken. It is great to see your postings and to be able to talk with wierdos (like me) with interest in Movie Theatres. It is a pleasure to communicate with someone from the Greenwood — our neighborhood theatre with whom we shared pop-corn bags and no doubt other things as good neighbors will. Still after three or four years in the Olden’s booth, three nights a week and one eleven or twelve hour shift on a weekend day, I can assure you I know the equipment very well and there were no Amprex stereo heads but Ampex connected to the Ampex amplifier (unused) on the wall to the left of projector number 2. Regarding the glasses wearing projectionist who called the projectors “cameras”, I am at a loss. There was a decent guy called Bob who lived up North in New Jersey, and until he retired, my tutor, who was in the Union for fifty-five years. The same union that did not even send him a rose for his funeral. He was a perfectionist and another very kind gentleman (except if you violated any of his very logical rules). He treated the Simplex E-7s like the valuable instruments they were. He was the long-serving projectionist at the infamous Morrisville Drive-in Theatre.

Crazy Bob Madara
Crazy Bob Madara on June 9, 2008 at 7:53 pm

Hi stillwagon. I was 19 years of age in 1971. I showed “Patton” at the Greenwood on my birthday in June of ‘71. I will be 56 next week. My memory is a little fuzzy after 35+ years. I remember the E-7’s, & the Amprex penthouses. The operator was a fairly young guy who wore glasses? He did call the machines “cameras”. One of the soft-core films was “Borlelro” or something like that. I think that it was the final Friday night in November, 1971.

Is there a Trenton Times newspaper archive to see what was playing? I’m very sorry if I offended you. The Olden was non-union at that time. That I do know.

itswagon
itswagon on September 20, 2007 at 5:43 pm

Regarding the above from Crazy Bob, The “tube sound” he referred to I suspect was the optical sound (exciter) and that was RCA and not “amprex” Both the sound head and the amplifier were RCA. The service contract was with RCA Service Company out of Cherry Hill, NJ. The projectors had an Ampex magnetic head (situated above the picture head). The Ampex magnetic head and amplifier were unused. The speakers were Altec Lansing Voice of the Theatre (3)

itswagon
itswagon on September 20, 2007 at 10:38 am

U cab renenber DeMore’s Hobby Shop and had many a pizza (ca;;ed a
tomato pie in Trenton at at Marucas in my teens. Unlike anything you can find called a pizza anywhere else. It was fantastic and much better tasting for some reason). I believe that the Maruka family also operated a pizza concession on the Boardwalk (notice the word is capitalized) in Seaside Park.

I also have a sense of sadness when I visit Trenton and see what’s happened to the neighborhoods. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

Dukecati
Dukecati on September 20, 2007 at 7:57 am

We had family friends who lived across the street from the Olden Theatre on Walnut and Olden (NE corner). They lived above their business (Demore’s Hobby Shop) and opened a slot car track business above the bowling alley in about 1964-’65 (the bowling alley used pin boys to reset the pins) next to the theatre. My mother, who was born in 1919, frequented the theatre in her youth when it was the Gaiety. I saw many movies at the Olden over the years,and of course Maruca’s wonderful tomato pies was another draw for the businesses there. I moved to California in 1965 and visited Trenton in ’68 and went to the Greenwood down the block to see The Graduate. That was the last movie I ever went to in Trenton. When I go back there today, it’s sad to see what has happened in the area.

itswagon
itswagon on June 24, 2007 at 1:44 pm

Hey! I was the Chief Projectionist at the Olden Theatre and in fact trained there on the E-7s under the tutelage of a projectionist in the union for over 55 years. I knew the only other projectionist at the time and none of the three of us ever called the projectors “Cameras”. I worked for the late Jack Kosharek (PhD) during that time and when the theatre began the soft porn. It was a steady slide down hill from that point. The theatre had 854 seats down from 1410 before the re-build. It featured a private viewing room for parents with small babies. It had a balcony at one time. The booth was made for the days of explosive film with lead sheets and reinforced concrete to contain the blast should one occur. The booth had its own lavatory as many did at the time. The house properly used a curtain for all shows and never allowed a customer to see the screen without a picture being projected upon it.

The only bad thing about the projection system was the heads/lamps were placed upon a post mount and if someone ran into the machine, it could be turned so that the movie would show on the wall. (Not good).

The theatre was the first in the Trenton, New Jersey area to show 3D movies (with the cardboard glasses) and I think the first film was “The Fall of the House Of Usher” with (who else) Vincent Price.
The theatre was originally called the Gayety and it was connected via a tunnel under the stage to the Gayety night club in the other building. It was a bordello I understand in the 30s. The tunnel was for rapid escape from a raid. At one time the theatre log recorded 80 people on the payroll as the Gayety including seamstresses, carpenters, stage hands, and etc. It housed a theatre organ that eventually was installed in the Eastman Theatre in Rochester New York. There were Dressing Rooms, shops, and rehearsal rooms under the stage. It had three Voice of The Theatre speakers on platforms behind a genuine Cinemascope screen that was properly installed so the geometry of the screen matched the curvature of the Anamorphic Lenses.

It was one of the first to have the Cinemascope system installed complete with the perfectly installed aluminized screen and stereo surround sound (Ampex system).

We ran a good house then. The projectors were kept immaculate and the booth was kept very clean (helps preserve the film quality). You could read a newspaper in the booth from the light radiating back from the screen. We had a 100 foot throw just like the Roxy in New York. Jack Kosharek (Mgr) was adamant that we should use as much of the carbon rods as possible without welding the butt savers into each other.

There were many very nice people working at the Olden Theatre. Often we would share pop corn bags with the Greenwood Theatre on Greenwood Avenue about a block away. I miss them all to this day.

bigmike
bigmike on November 24, 2006 at 5:11 pm

My father-in-law owns the Olden Theater Complex. My wife’s company (J&S) is in the old Maruca Tomato Pie place at the end of the building. There used to be bowling lanex upstairs…but they’re gone now. I remember seeing the theater in the early 80’s, with the roof collapsed in on itself. I guess the theater was in, what is now the parking lot behind the building??

Crazy Bob Madara
Crazy Bob Madara on September 18, 2006 at 10:04 am

I visted the Olden booth in November of 1971. They were showing soft core X or art pictures. The projectors were Simplex E-7 and the carbon arc lamps were Peerless Magnarc’s. Thay had Amprex magnetic sound heads. and Altec tube sound. The non-union operator kept calling the projectors “cameras” & refered to the 35mm film as “tape”. I was apalled and I was only nineteen. LOL.
Maruca' s Tomato Pies, (don’t call it pizza), was on of my favorite hang outs before starting the show at the Greenwood, right around the corner. (22.00 per shift)!

teecee
teecee on May 29, 2006 at 2:05 pm

Listed as the Gaiety in the 1936 Trenton City Directory at 103 S. Olden Ave.

hondo59
hondo59 on March 13, 2006 at 3:48 am

The entrance was situated on the corner (SW) of Walnut and Olden. The lobby ran west along Walnut while the auditorium faced south along the alley with the screen on the “Greenwood Avenue” end. It was a popular neighborhood theater into the 1970s. It is completely gone. The Olden featured a large vertical sign in addition to the v-shaped marquee.

hondo59
hondo59 on March 13, 2006 at 3:40 am

The theater had a makeover in 1951 and changed names from the Gayety to the Olden. It was located on South Olden Avenue because its location was south of State Street.

teecee
teecee on March 10, 2006 at 5:05 pm

A Moller organ, opus 4451, was installed in the Gaiety Theatre in 1926.

teecee
teecee on March 5, 2006 at 12:52 pm

Listed as the Gayety Theater with 800 seats in the 1944 Film Daily Yearbook.

hondo59
hondo59 on November 1, 2005 at 7:30 am

The Olden Theater was completely razed sometime around 1986. I wrote a feature article on the razing of the once-popular theater for the Trenton Times. It was the Gaiety Theater before a makeover around 1950. It showed movies into the 1970s, sometimes revivals of old films like 42nd Street. It later ran x-rated films. The Olden Theater Complex was not completely attached to the theater building. Only the entrance of the theater (on the corner at Olden Avenue) was physically attached to the rest of the complex. There was a bowling alley in the other building and the popular Maruca’s Tomato (pizza) pies. I removed the ticket grinder.

RickB
RickB on June 23, 2005 at 2:19 am

I had to take a detour past this one the other day…on the north side wall of the building there’s a fairly new painted sign at second-story level that reads “Olden Theater Complex” and lists some of the tenants. I didn’t see anything that looked like the box office area shown in the rock group photos, just ordinary storefronts. Building could stand a cleaning but it looks like it’s in better shape than many of its neighbors.

RickB
RickB on June 14, 2005 at 2:40 am

Olden Avenue is the correct name of the street. As recently as a couple years ago the USPS online zip code listings contained a dedicated nine-digit zip for “Olden Theater Bldg”. It’s a brown brick two-story building with what looks like terra-cotta trim; appears to be used for retail and maybe apartments upstairs.

teecee
teecee on June 14, 2005 at 2:33 am

Looks like we are onto something. Here is another night photo of the marquee promoting a band in October 1972:

http://www.paulplumeri.com/hoochiecooch/

teecee
teecee on June 13, 2005 at 5:50 pm

It is just an educated guess. I just can’t fathom a theater named Olden on a street named Alden when there’s a main street in town named Olden.
(Did you follow that logic?)

teecee
teecee on June 13, 2005 at 5:28 am

Thanks LM. By the way, I believe that the FDY address is incorrect. This theater is/was most likely located on S. Olden Avenue, a major street in Trenton.