State Theater

2854 John F. Kennedy Boulevard,
Jersey City, NJ 7306

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Mikeoaklandpark on March 30, 2015 at 12:31 pm

I lived in Jersey City in 1977 for about a month and it was a quad then when I saw Pete’s Dragon there.

markp on March 30, 2015 at 6:38 am

The heading above should be changed to reflect the correct number of screens. It was a quad when it closed. Not sure of when it was divided.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 29, 2015 at 8:01 pm

Architect P. A. Vivarttas appears to have spelled his first name Percie. That is how it appears on a number of official documents of the State of New Jersey, including the tax records for his firm, and a number of other sources.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 29, 2015 at 7:14 pm

1922 drawing of the State Theatre from this page of the April 22 issue of The Moving Picture World uploaded to photo page.

ajp919 on August 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm

My favorite memory – “The House on Haunted Hill” with Emergo, the skeleton that flew over the heads of the audience near the end of the picture and then was rewound back into its box by Vincent Price holding what looked like a giant fishing rod. Just great.

rfd24 on July 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm

I began a lifelong love affair with Barbra Streisand when I saw “Funny Girl” at the State in February 1970. I will never forget the finale when she sang “My Man.”. Other films I rememberbseeing at the State: “Mary Poppins” 1964 or 1965; “Sleeper” in ‘73, and “Patton"in 1970.

CAD on May 6, 2013 at 12:47 am

When exactly did this theater stop showing movies? I was born in Jersey City and I remember seeing Evil Dead II (1987) in one of the two theaters in Journal Square. I thought it might have been the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, which I had gone to before (I clearly remember Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on the marquee), but they closed in 1986, so it must have been at the State. Now it’s a 99ยข store…for shame.

Mikeoaklandpark on September 5, 2012 at 6:34 am

I saw one movie there when I lived in Jersey City in 1977 Pete’s Dragon

countup on September 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm

i was sad when i heard that the roof of the state collopsed ,and they had to tear it down. it maybe could have been preserved, likt the loews and stanley

GDellaFa on January 5, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Does anyone have any interior photos of this theatre? Would love to see them. I remember this great old theatre very well. I was in it a lot when I was a kid. Clearly remember seeing “Live and Let Die,” “Gone With The Wind” (with my parents and sister), a “Planet of the Apes” marathon, and “The Bad News Bears” here in the 1970s.

GDellaFa on January 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Stillwagon, I remember that lounge “screen” like it was yesterday. It seemed like it wasn’t much effort to project the film on a flat white wall in the mezzanine lounge. I remember it had a violet hue (if that makes any sense). It was about 12 feet high by 30 feet wide, as I recall. A very nice feature, many people chose to watch the movie in this lounge.

The Loew’s Jersey had the best light show in Journal Square. I as recall the coves over the orchestra and under the balcony seating could be lit in any color—most often in violet, red, and gold. Radio City also has “mood lighting.”

The Stanley in Journal Square was your typical (though huge) Eberson atmospheric house with clouds projected on the ceiling with “stars” twinkling.

itswagon on April 11, 2010 at 7:37 am

As an old projectionist, I’d appreciate knowing more about the mirror system that enabled the projection of the movie on the wall of the lounge (see above) in the State Theater. The source of the image was in the projection booth. I found it very interesting, curious, and unusual. The Roxy (New York City) had a screen installed above the lighting panel on the stage that enabled the lighting technician to view the orchestra from the area of the balcony or loge so that he (or she) could adjust the lighting to compliment the mood of the scene (E.g. blues and greens for scary and browns and reds for love and good feelings). The theater also used the lighting system to save money on heating and cooling. It was cheaper to heat the place, patrons felt less cold when the auditorium lighting used reds and browns. The air conditioning costs could be reduced if the theater used blues and greens in the lighting. I believe it was more effective for audience appeal than smell-o-vision.

dcaprio on September 25, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I can think of very few childhood memories that can outdo what happened to me at the State Theater on Journal Square in 1966. At age 5 my entire life as well as that of my 7 year old brother revolved completely around Batman. The 1960’s TV show was our focus and fixation. All our friends were equally hypnotized and Batman was often the theme of our games and dreams. In 1966 the Batman movie was released to cash in on the Batman craze. As the movie played to sold out movie houses across the country packed with kids screaming for the caped crusaders, actors Adam West and Burt Ward would often appear live on stage to promote the movie. Somehow my dad managed to score tickets and as my brother and I sat watching the movie, about 10 minutes into the film, the screen went dark and the stage lights came on. I’ll never forget the words of the man onstage. He said, “Okay kids, here they are, Batman and Robin!” I don’t think anybody heard anything after that as the audience of 4 – 12 year olds went wild, yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. All except for me that is. My dad recalls how I sat frozen in my chair with my mouth wide open in utter amazement as batman and the boy wonder proceeded to greet us with words of good wishes and advice on being a good boy or girl. That day at the State Theater will always be embossed in my mind as a shining moment of childhood glory. To this day whenever I see a rerun of that series I remember that experience. I have the movie on DVD and now my own two boys ages 8 & 12 watch it with similar enthusiasm. I still feel the magic of that Saturday afternoon in 1966 whenever I tell them about it. While I also have fond memories of the nearby Lowes and Stanley theaters and movies I watched there (like Mary Poppins at the Lowes), the day Batman and Robin jumped on the stage at the State Theater will always be my greatest memory of Journal Square entertainment.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 5, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I remeber seeing this place closed on a visit to Jersey City around 1991. Judging by TC'comment above it must have been right after it was locked up for the last time.

William on May 21, 2008 at 11:13 am

The State Theatre in Jersey City opened on April 24th., 1922. The opening feature that night was D.W. Griffith’s “Orphans of the Storm”.

jflundy on November 29, 2007 at 9:49 am

1964 Hudson Boulevard became John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

bobmarshall on October 13, 2007 at 3:10 pm

My great grandfather, Interior Decorator, Arthut Brounet (see MARYLAND Theater, Hagerstown, MD) lists (work done on) the State Theater, Jersey City as owned by the Fox Film Co. (along with Valentine in the Bronx & many other Fox houses).

William on June 12, 2007 at 11:22 am

The State Theatre was listed as part of the Skouras Theaters Corp. back in 1944. During that time the Skouras Chain also operated in Jersey City:
and the State.

kencmcintyre on January 5, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Here is a photo of the theater collapse in 1998:

teecee on March 2, 2006 at 4:01 am

Listed as part of Skouras Theatres Corp. in the 1961 Film Daily Yearbook.

teecee on March 1, 2006 at 11:53 pm

Listed as the “State Jersey City NJ 4” in the 1991 International Motion Picture Almanac under the UA listing.

dicorro on February 18, 2006 at 5:37 pm

Although the least opulent of the three Journal Square theaters in the 60s/70s, I had two of my first film epiphanies here: my parents took my sister and I to see “Mary Poppins” at the State in ‘64—one of the first movies I vividly recall seeing. In Feb '70, I saw “Funny Girl” here and forever will remember that experience — and my life long love affair with Streisand. I will never forget seeing Barbra’s finale on the State’s wide screen — that close-up as she launched in the ultimate torch song, “My Man.”


teecee on July 5, 2005 at 8:39 am

The Moller organ, opus 3323, was installed in 1922.

teecee on June 9, 2005 at 5:52 am

The theater collapsed during demolition in early 1998:

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), Jan 25, 1998 pN1
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1998 Bergen Record Corp.


Michael Drennan jumped off the rescue truck into sheer chaos.

Hysterical shoppers were running into the street screaming. Right behind them was the horrifying reason why: A huge, 75-year-old movie theater had collapsed in a deafening roar, pounding metal and bricks onto two stores next to it.

Capt. Drennan and his fellow fighters in Rescue 1 – a special tactical unit – had never seen a collapse this bad, no matter how long they had been with the Jersey City Fire Department.

“It looked like a war zone,” said Drennan, a 20-year veteran. “A good 20 feet of scaffolding and workman’s tools were hanging above us.”

They all knew the old State Theater on Journal Square was being torn down that week. But it was a holiday – Martin Luther King Day – so the workmen weren’t there when 70 feet of a free-standing brick wall crumbled, bringing down the roof and second and first floors of one-half of the theater. The wall crashed on two stores buzzing with shoppers, trapping some people in a tomb of concrete and steel.

“We didn’t know if there were 10 or 50 people trapped,” said Capt. Victor Petrocelli, who has been with the department 22 years.

The firefighters' first task is to get survivors out, but they didn’t want to lose any rescuers, either. They tried to assess the damage with their eyes. Warning signs that spell danger: an unstable floor, a wall that is cracked or leaning.

So much looked shaky at this scene. “It was an incredible entanglement above our heads, a web of twisted metal that included a jackhammer,” said Capt. Robert Cobb. “We had to keep our eye on that, too.”

“It looked bad, but it could get worse,” Drennan said. “There could be a secondary collapse.”

“We were worried about any breeze that could bring it down,” Cobb said.

The task of finding out how many were buried began by collaring the injured outside for information. Other firefighters visited hospitals to talk to the injured transported there. Were they missing anyone? Was somebody delivering mail that day?

“Someone might tell you, ‘I was at my desk when the UPS guy came in to deliver,’” Petrocelli said. “We have to make sure we don’t miss anybody. We try to cut those chances.”

Commanders kept watch outside on dangling debris as rescuers ventured into the building. Helping them was the New York City Specialized Collapse Unit and search dogs trained to scratch and bark when they locate a survivor in the rubble.

First, they removed what they call “surface survivors,” or those easily seen and the injured who made it outside. Because it was a holiday, students who usually attend secretarial classes in the building weren’t there. “If they had been there, they wouldn’t have had a chance,” said Drennan.

Within an hour, the men knew at least six people were in the building. They pulled out four. They knew there were two left.

“As you sift through the rubble, there’s this eerie feeling,” said Capt. Stephan Drennan. “You want to find people but you’re hoping no one is in there. And if they are, that they are not dead.”

Stephan Drennan was pulling up to the scene just as two firefighters were carrying out a 4-year-old child. The firefighters, Wayne Dombrowski and John Cariero, had raised the little girl’s head out of six inches of water caused by flooding from broken sprinklers and broken water pipes.

The girl suffered a broken leg. But her mother, who had tried to free her baby, was still in the basement.

“We realized we could not get at survivors from the top because debris would keep falling down,” said Stephan Drennan. So they descended the dark, 25 or 30 basement steps with torches and began gingerly removing the debris, brick by brick, with their hands.

“We used laundry baskets from the store to put the bricks in because our buckets weren’t enough,” Cobb said.

They were searching for “void spaces” where people could be trapped. “Every once in a while, we’d open a space and let the dogs go in. If they stopped and scratched or barked, we’d go to that area and start digging, brick by brick,” Cobb said.

One of the firefighters heard a murmur, which turned out to be not the mother but a 34-year-old woman. Using a power saw to cut through metal, they followed her cries to an open space where they found her critically injured, her lower body pinned and her pelvis fractured.

“She was wedged between the basement and the first floor, screaming for someone to get her out. The safest way was to take her from the first floor,” Stephan Drennan said.

From 2:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. they dug on their knees and pulled those trapped to safety, including the mother of the child. By the time it was over, 10 people were taken to Jersey City Medical Center, including a pregnant woman and two children. In all, 18 had been injured – but were alive.

Despite the arduous and nerve-racking work, some firefighters refused to take a break. They were working against the clock and every minute counted.

“You see something has to be done and your energy level goes up, but people need help and that’s what you’re there for – to help them,” said Petrocelli.

The 20-member heavy rescue unit is one of the more – if not the most – versatile in the state. Besides firefighting and accident extrications, they do rescues in the water, from high-rises and bridges, and save people trapped in industrial tanks, sewer pipes, and electrical tunnels.

When they returned to headquarters, the men were exhausted. Some talked with new admiration for firefighters who helped rescue people from the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. This didn’t compare to it, but it was hard.

“When you hear people are trapped, you push it up a notch,” said Petrocelli. “You love the work because the unpredictable challenges, although dangerous, are exciting. And saving lives feels really good.”

Article CJ70626527