Ritz Theater

46 Washington Avenue,
Carteret, NJ 07008

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Showing 1 - 25 of 55 comments

markp on February 1, 2015 at 7:49 am

walterk, Happy New year. I havent been by the Ritz lately, as I was very sick most of January. My wife said the block across the street from the parking lot has been completely demolished. As the weather warms I will swing by and check on the progress.

walterk on January 31, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Today marks a half century since the Ritz went dark, but its future is looking bright as the earliest stages of restoration/renovation began late last year with removal of the bakery structure which was basically built within the auditorium, leaving it pretty much intact. Remaining sand used to level the floor is still being removed and actual work will begin later this year and as mentioned, finished in 2017. I’ll post more as work progresses, but plans call for among other things an enlarged stage house.

markp on December 29, 2014 at 10:55 am

walterk, I just found another booth shot of Mr Spewak next to the projectors. Im thinking of bringing it to the historical society to scan. I will ask my wife if our scanner still works and then maybe I can get it out to you. If not then I will bring it to you the next time your in the state.

walterk on December 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Just added a few more pictures of the Ritz taken last week, more to come. markp, My Aunt remembers your mother, too. Small world it is.

markp on December 20, 2014 at 9:46 pm

walterk, I spoke to my mom the other day and she did indeed know and graduated with Alice. Small world.

markp on December 20, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Thanks for that walterk. It was my pleasure to supply the photo and sharing it with you and the group. Also the above header should now also include “renovating” “restoring”

walterk on December 20, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Just uploaded a couple new pictures, one from our visit to the building earlier this week, the other of longtime house projectionist Joe Pusillo with Ritz owner Maurice Spewak in the booth. I’ll post more pictures of our afternoon at the Ritz soon.

walterk on December 17, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Glad you enjoyed the day markp, I did too. It was great to finally meet you, and I think we both enjoyed meeting the various folks involved in the renovation project, along with members of the borough’s Historical Committee. I’ll be uploading a few pictures I took in the next few days, also that 1947 photo of your dad with Mr. Spewak in the Ritz projection room. I’ll post more when I upload, but yes, it needs a whole lot of work especially with plaster restoration. I’m confident the folks in charge will meet their goal of reopening the Ritz in 2017, I’m really looking forward to watching this project progress. I wish I lived a little closer so I could be more involved.

markp on December 17, 2014 at 6:30 pm

A big thank you to walterk for setting up the visit to the Ritz today. It was something for me to be in the same building my dad worked in all those years ago. I even got to go to the old projection room where he walked and worked. The old place needs a lot of work, but the people in charge have a vision and now lets hope the $$$$$ start rolling in.

markp on November 21, 2014 at 9:06 am

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

walterk on November 20, 2014 at 10:30 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 on October 23, 2014 at 3:48 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 on October 23, 2014 at 3:37 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 on October 23, 2014 at 10:47 am

And you know walterk, that Joe was my father.

walterk on October 22, 2014 at 7:46 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…

walterk on October 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm

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.

markp on October 4, 2014 at 12:51 pm

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 on October 3, 2014 at 10:01 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 on August 25, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Cant believe how good it looks above the false ceiling.

walterk on August 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Click this to read the article without having to do a cut and paste.

teecee on August 24, 2014 at 12:48 pm

online story posted today:


walterk on August 23, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Another media bit coming out this week was on NJTV NEWS last night. Only one quick glimpse of the theatre’s interior, but the piece runs about 3 minutes and talks a bit about the process, etc. The Ritz segment starts at about 22:30, for those not wanting to sit through a bunch of Jersey news.

markp on August 22, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Im sure hoping I get a job there when its done.

walterk on August 22, 2014 at 9:28 am

Workers in Carteret have started to remove the drop ceiling that hid the more ornate Ritz ceiling the last few decades. Here’s a few pictures taken by John O'Boyle of the Newark Star-Ledger.

walterk on August 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm

markp, I should be back again in December, maybe we can get together then. I had forgotten you mentioned the 1,250 seat figure the Mayor gave for the restored Ritz until I went to see if my comment posted, which reminded me to do a little updating, at least here in the comments section.

The 1,200 capacity mentioned on the overview page was sourced from 2 articles in the old “Carteret Press” newspaper, one from the week before the Ritz opened (“1200”) and one from the day after, describing opening night (“about 1200”) back in 1927. Since then, my ongoing search for info on the various theatres in Carteret and surrounding towns has uncovered two other numbers in trade publications. The Exhibitors Herald-World issue of September 27, 1930 contained a promo for the installation of Western Electric sound apparatus which mentions the Ritz as a recent install, giving the seating capacity as 1,044. The 1945 Film Daily Yearbook lists the Ritz with 1,000 seats. So my original number isn’t written in stone.

Having mentioned 1930 era Western Electric sound projection equipment, here is part of what they were installing that year.