State Theater

23 Main Street,
Woodbridge, NJ 07095

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State Theater

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The State Theater in Woodbridge was located on Main Street, directly next to the old Town Hall. It was opened September 19, 1927

The theater was closed in the late-1960’s/early-1970’s and was demolished in the 1980’s to make way for a QuickCheck convenience store.

Contributed by Jack Stachowicz

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

markp
markp on March 14, 2011 at 12:09 am

In 2 more days, it will be 40 years since the last movie was projected here by my father. And I agree with Harry Gribbon. Had the building just stood empty for maybe 3 to 5 years like he said, it probably would have been twinned or tripled and renovated, and lived on. As a child, I remember those long lines around the corner. This place fell victim like many of the theatres in this era. Hasty demolishon.

HarryGribbon
HarryGribbon on December 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm

@ Markp or other CT members – Even from a young kid’s view point you could see the crumbling of the plaster walls from the roof leaks, and the lack of maintenance. Do you know anything about “Speck” the usher, or any of the staff? I have been trying to find “Specks” real name, if he had a family, etc. Any help would be appreciated.

John1968
John1968 on August 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

In the late 1960’s a woman named Grace, who also ran the GEM grocery on Amboy Avenue, worked the ticket box. As a kid in the 1950’s I remember when they raised the Saturday matinee from 25 cents to 35 cents. Alot of kids got burned. On snowy day back then the line wrapped around the city hall with kids waiting to see the Disney film about Perry the flying squirrel.

John1968
John1968 on August 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm

There was another usher, who looked like Alfred E. Newman, who got punched in the mouth by a teenager with an attitude in the early 1960’s. There was also a fake rumble in the aisles while West Side Story was on the screen. I remember the first X rated movie being shown, “I am curious yellow.”

markp
markp on August 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Even after all these years, I miss this theatre. It was where I saw my very first movie and where my father worked for years till its closing.

HarryGribbon
HarryGribbon on August 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm

The story of Speck Coughlin, State Theater’s usher for 40+ years!

http://i87.photobucket.com/albums/k124/sandman300/ijh503.jpg

walterk
walterk on March 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Growing up in neighboring Carteret, my experiences with the State were limited. The last movie I remember attending there was Goldfinger in 1965. The State reminded me a bit of the Ritz in Carteret; about the same size, one level with a raked floor. In fact the Ritz and State were constructed in the same time period, opening less than 3 weeks apart in September 1927. While reading up on the older Carteret theatres at the online historic newspaper archive found on the Woodbridge Public Library website I came across a bit of information about the early days of the State.

Plans for the construction of the future State Theatre were made public in a late August 1926 issue of the local paper. A person only mentioned by the name of Flynn purchased the property earlier in the year after recognizing its potential as a site for a theatre while passing through town.
Flynn advertised his purchase in the New York papers looking for interested parties and caught the interest of the Heller Construction Company of Newark who had, after investigation, agreed that the current population boom that Woodbridge was experiencing could support the building of a modern theatre in the downtown area. Applying for the building permit on behalf of Heller was the architect they hired, William E Lehman, who had his own firm in Newark. Lehman designed several theatres in the New Jersey-New York area; a list of the known ones can be viewed here. Lehman mentioned that his firm was currently building a similar theatre in Summit, which I believe would be the Strand , which also had retail and office space for rent to help meet maintenance overhead of the building.

According to the news report, the new theatre would seat between 1,800 and 2,000, measure 77 feet along its Main Street frontage and run about 176 feet in length. Initially it was supposed to cost $75,000, this figure was considered low by many.

In early 1927, Heller leased the still unfinished theatre to Mark Block, who applied for a permit to operate it in February. According to the local press, Block was active in New York theatrical circles and headed a company called The Block Amusement Circuit, which at the time consisted of theatres located in HighlandPark and Hawthorne.

The first mention of a name for the new theatre on Main St came in early June when it was referred to as the Lyric in an article. Within a couple of weeks, that changed to the State. It was also announced in June that the State would open in September.

When the Woodbridge Theatre shut its doors in July, Block was quick to hire owner-manager Nathan Marcus as general manager of the Block Amusement Circuit and manager of the State. Marcus, who was well known and liked in Woodbridge moved into the State where he took charge of renting the office and retail spaces.

The local papers were happy to publish all the hype that Block would pass on, the price of the building, all told had risen to $250,000, which may have been a bit inflated. This included a “Kloehs Unit Orchestra” built by the United States Pipe Organ Company which cost either $15,000 or $20,000 or $25,000 depending on which article you read. Another article was dedicated to the choice of the Heywood-Wakefield Company to provide new style seats that are rounded on the front rather than square and were originally designed for the Roxy in New York. Mr. Block was quick to point out that the Heywood-Wakefield bid was higher than other bids, but it was the quality and comfort that were the deciding factors. The aisle standards were fitted with lights to light the aisles, supposedly the first theatre in New Jersey to have that feature. The carpets were the same as used in the latest Shubert theatres in New York, the interior was designed by Margalotti Studio, who was in on the design of the Roxy in New York. A large sum of money was expended for electrical effects. The seating capacity originally supposed to be in the 1800-2000 range was lowered to 1,250 or 1,100, again based on what one read. A good idea of the true number would be the order placed for 1,200 seats.

The State opened its doors on September 19, 1927. Opening night festivities included the usual local and state level politicians and a talk by Miss Louise Glaum, a noted actress at the time. Telegrams of congratulations from the likes of Douglas and Mary Fairbanks, Norma Talmadge and John Barrymore, among others were read. On the screen the feature film “Alias The Deacon” was shown, along with a Charley Chase comedy “The Sting Of Stings”‘ a Paramount News presentation “The Eyes Of The World” and “A Technicolor Symphony” The Flag. The latter was a technicolor movie of a flag waving while the Star-Spangled Banner was played.

The following Sunday despite a law forbidding it, the State opened for business. The acting chief of police came by and warned manager Marcus that he would be arrested if there were any citizen complaints. There weren’t and Sunday movies came to Woodbridge. Marcus had tried the previous year to start showing Sunday Movies at his Woodbridge Theatre with no success.

Marcus resigned from his position with the Block Amusement Circuit in February of 1928 to take over a theatre in Newark. Block hired Harry A. McCormick of Roselle NJ as the new manager of the State.

In the Spring of 1929, the State made a show of turning into a movie house featuring talkies, their ads began to feature the banner “House Of Talkies”.

In mid June, the State closed for the summer. At the end of August, it was announced that Mark Block had disposed of his entire interest the State and it would re-open as a silent-only house under the management of the new lease owner, Harry McCormick. Ads began to feature the banner “The House Of Silent Pictures”. From reading several articles and one editorial, it would appear that, at best, profits were marginal for the operators of the State. Before the year was out, the State returned to featuring both silent film and talkies.

markp
markp on March 17, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Great article about this theatres beginnings. And I just realized today that on this past Saturday, 3/15/2014, it has been 43 years since my father ran the last movie there and its doors closed for good.

walterk
walterk on March 21, 2014 at 12:54 pm

MarkP, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did reading all the old articles. I remember seeing your post giving the date of the State’s going dark and picked its anniversary to post that bit, which I had been working on for a while. I don’t know if you saw the 1927 ad from opening night I uploaded the same time I posted the early history, but I did comment there that it was uploaded on the 43rd anniversary of the State shutting its doors. Perhaps the person who does the updates can correct the information in the overview to reflect when it closed, and that it was razed later that year. That would be closed on March 15, 1971, demolished September 1971.

Anyway, I have finally (thanks to a much younger coworker) learned enough html code to post links and hyperlinks here, I think you’ll like this one, something I found during a search of a data base of trade journals for mentions of Carteret.

markp
markp on March 21, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Thanks walterk. That would be my dad. Thank you so much. Yes I always try to remember the old State every year. Its where as a 6 year old boy I fell in love with movies, which led to me being a projectionist for over 37 years.

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