Ritz Theater

46 Washington Avenue,
Carteret, NJ 07008

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Ritz main entrance

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The Ritz Theater was opened on September 1, 1927, and was designed by local architect John Gliva. It was closed on January 31, 1965. Since closing the building has been in use as a clothing factory and later as a bakery. It is vacant in 2014.

Contributed by tc

Recent comments (view all 46 comments)

markp
markp on August 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Cant believe how good it looks above the false ceiling.

walterk
walterk on October 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm

A word on the architect of the Ritz…

My original short history posted last year gave credit to a T. Glivae, who was mentioned in a Carteret Press article a week before the Ritz opened. Glivae was described as an “artist and architect” who lived on Emerson St. I later found a news story from earlier that summer about the death by industrial accident of a Frank Gliwa. It mentioned that Mr. Gliwa’s elder son John designed the Ritz, then under construction. It also described John as an artist and architect, also that the family lived on Emerson St. The article mentioned the name Gliwa nearly a dozen times, so one might figure T. Glivae in the later article about the Ritz was a typo, not that uncommon in the Carteret Press. As it turns out, both are misspellings. The correct name is Gliva.

On my last visit to Carteret, I got in touch with the Borough’s Historic Committee in hopes that their collection contained pictures of the older Carteret theatres that I could add to their picture pages on CT. When I discovered there were no pictures or documents in their archives dealing with any of the theatres, I offered a copy of my collected material. The committee person I’m working with on the transfer is Susan Wentzel. When Ms. Wentzel mentioned she had an account with ancestry.com, I asked if she could lookup John Gliwa and perhaps get a little more detail on his life. Within 24 hours Susan was back to me explaining that there weren’t any Gliwa’s, but the Gliva family seemed to fit and offered a stack of material or info on John Gliva and his family: census records, city directory pages, and a mention in the Social Security Death Index, this all covering from 1920-1977.

From the accident article, I had the names and ages of family members, which matched those of the Gliva family, so with 57 years worth of documentation, Gliva it is.

John was born in Poland in 1900, his family came to America in 1908 and soon after settled in Roosevelt, as Carteret was known until 1922. The 1920 census has him listed as a clerk working for Copperworks, a local factory. At the time he was commissioned to design the Ritz by Maurice Spewak, the Gliva family was living at the corner of Emerson and Irving Streets, only a few hundred feet from where the Ritz would be built. After the death of Frank Gliva, the family moved to nearby Elizabeth. John’s occupation according to the 1930 census was architectural draftsman, in 1940 he was listed as a building architect. He is also listed as an architect in the 1955 Elizabeth City Directory, working in Union, NJ. The Social Security Death Index lists a John Gliva of Elizabeth passing away in April, 1977.

So again a big thank you to Ms. Wentzel. Susan mentioned to me that a 1912 Sanborn map of Roosevelt that the Historical Committee was looking at showed “Sunset Park Moving Pictures” near the present intersection of Roosevelt and Wheeler Avenues. If this was a company making moving pictures or yet another old Carteret theatre is not known, I could find nothing in the databases I have access to. Any help or suggestions will be appreciated, comment here or my email is in my profile.

markp
markp on October 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

walterk, about 3 weeks ago I drove by here on my way to work. There was a large container dumpster outside. I guess it was for all the interior demo that was going on. On my way in 2 days ago the dumpster was gone and all appears quiet for now.

walterk
walterk on October 4, 2014 at 11:08 am

Thanks markp. I probably would have stopped to see if it were only the drop ceiling and walls in those dumpsters. I was surprised to see the valance in front of the stage still hanging after a half century in the pictures I linked to. This would have been masking for any theatrical lighting positions from the vaudeville days, I can’t help but wonder if any lights might still have been present…. Beyond that, I recently posted an update to the New Palace page, which included uploading some old ads and a postcard circa 1917 showing that stretch of Roosevelt Avenue, which includes the entrance to what in those days was called the Crescent Theatre. You might enjoy that. Also, if you have a chance, drop me an email. I’ve mentioned where to find my address, I have something you may be interested in seeing that I won’t be posting here as it doesn’t relate much to this site.

walterk
walterk on October 22, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Today (yesterday, 10/21, wrote it and for got to post it) marks 50 years since I last saw a Movie at the Ritz. My memory isn’t that good! but the movie was “A Hard Day’s Night” with the Beatles. We went opening night, to hopefully meet some girls. Remembering that, an ad found on the online historic newspaper archive at the Woodbridge Public Library gave the date. Unfortunately for us there were very few girls to meet, unfortunately for Mr. Spewak there were very few people, the crowd numbered about 20, mostly males. Ah well…. With a top price of $.90, that would make the evening’s receipts less than 20 bucks… If this was typical, it’s no wonder the Ritz closed 3 months later. Mr. Spewak was already 73 years old, which was probably another factor. The Ritz went dark for about 5 weeks in August/September, I’m guessing Mr. Spewak and his wife went on their first vacation in years.

Anyway, true to the double bill format the Ritz generally followed, the opening movie was “ For Those Who Think Young”. As a general rule, the opener would be shown a 2nd time after the main movie for any latecomers, so my friends and I decide to stay an see it again, or at least part of it. Before the opening credits were through, Mr. Spewak comes down the aisle and yells up to the projectionist something like “shut it off Joe, there’s nobody left”, looks at the 4 of us (the only ones left) and reminds us we saw it earlier and it was time to go home. Never saw Mr. Spewak again, only saw the interior of the Ritz one time since, in 1968. I spent many a happy time there between 1954-1964…

markp
markp on October 23, 2014 at 7:47 am

And you know walterk, that Joe was my father.

walterk
walterk on October 23, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Yeah, that night was the only time I ever heard his first name back in the day. As I’ve mentioned before, I did see him a few times, when us kiddies came to the weekend matinee and were lined up before Mr. Spewak arrived. I figure he was the guy who showed up with him that wasn’t the usher. It was usually a 3 person operation, except when it was a bill that would draw a crowd, I’m guessing the woman that would be in the ticket booth those days was Mrs. Spewak.

By the way markp or anybody else in the area, Saturday is Carteret’s Halloween parade and fall festival, which is at the end of the parade. It ends at Washington and Cooke, location of the Ritz. The mayor is promising maybe some tricks and treats. Depending on insurance and whatnot, they might let residents take a peak in their future performing arts center. My guess, nothing official. I’d sure show up if I were in the area. You or anybody else go, please bring a camera and send me some shots, please.

markp
markp on October 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm

I’ll see what I can do walterk. Im at the arena 8 am to load in a show. Its at least 8 hrs if not more. And if I get showcall I dont leave at all. We shall see. I drove by last week. The big demo dumpster was gone and nothing happening. All doors were locked. Gonna check again next week.

walterk
walterk on November 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ, the Ritz was equipped with an organ manufactured by the United States Pipe Organ Company, opus 153, size 2/4 with a 3HP blower from Kinetic Engineering Company, #P1142B.

It also gives a date of 1928 although advertisements and media coverage for the opening in 1927 mention the presence of an organ, described by the local newspaper as “ a huge organ powered by electric motors”. The opening night article mentioned the evening opened with an organ solo “The Rosary”. I suspect this was the same organ, and perhaps the paperwork from 1928 reflects an upgrade or some such.

In current news, the Borough of Carteret received $350,000 dollars from Middlesex County earlier this week towards renovating the Ritz as a performing arts venue. I mention it only as a lead into a photo of the Mayor receiving a check that is posted on his Facebook page here. The reason I posted this link is for the ornate plaster work visible, I am pretty sure that is the bottom of the stage left organ loft they are standing in front of, if my memory serves me well after a half century.

markp
markp on November 21, 2014 at 6:06 am

Drove by here just the other day. All quiet. Nothing going on lately.

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