Maplewood Theatre

155 Maplewood Avenue,
Maplewood, NJ 07040

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John on May 14, 2016 at 5:51 pm

The exhibit was… astounding. The original blueprints were found and used to build a three dimensional model of the auditorium. A Wurlitzer Style E Console (same as it originally had) was on display, with actual recordings of the organ from 1927 made by Edison Records and never released! The National Park Service had found them. The exhibit covered every decade, even the dark and dank 70’s and 80’s era… with a few highlights like when they managed to get Jaws and sell the place out every night. The theater manager in the 80’s saved the posters, including the Ghostbusters poster that hung out front for months. (Not a poster, THE poster from THIS theater). The best had to be the 1940’s when the theater brought back the lives shows and ran through a different show every week with A-names in the cast like Helen Hayes, Ethel Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Robeson, Teresa Wright (who lived in Maplewood!) among endless more. The climax was the first revival of the thus-far-failed Porgy and Bess where Cheryl Crawford cut down the opera into a musical which was moved to Broadway after leaving Maplewood. Amazingly, there were photographs of these productions from the Billy Rose Library… as well as huge clippings binders reviewing every show. The exhibit was simply everything this theater deserved and more.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on November 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm

How did the exhibit go?

John on January 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Remember or hear family tales about the Maplewood Theater’s glory days? The Durand Hedden House and Garden Association wants to hear from you! In preparation for a forthcoming exhibit, Durand Hedden is collecting pictures, ephemera, and anecdotes about the Maplewood Theater’s 86 year run. Did you happen snap a Polaroid when Ghostbusters was playing? Found something on eBay you want to share with the world? Even as much as an old ticket stub, we want it! Stories and memories are also welcome. Contact or 973-763-7712 to help make this exhibit a success.

John Fink
John Fink on November 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm

@Poland – – this is one of the rare downtown ones Clearview didn’t buy. Clearivew as an operation has gotten better, and spends resources upgrading the concession areas, bathrooms, and seats – – but never on correcting major mistakes made in the projection room when subdividing theaters. So many of the theaters they buy were poorly built/subdivided that you’d have a better experience in a discount house.

John on November 26, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I posted some pictures including a handbill from 1936, some exterior shots from 60’s/70’s, an interior shot from about 5 years ago (Manager let me pop a ceiling tile and shoot the original ceiling)… and best of all, Bill Bojangles Robinson on stage in the 1940’s. Yes, that is Mr. Bojangles, and the show is “The Hot Mikado”. Glory days of the Maplewood Theater were the early 40’s that’s for sure.

poland626 on January 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I think I overheard the manager talking about having Clearview start to buy this theater but I’m not sure. This was a few months ago, like October

The only good theater, IMO, is the one that has the 3D projection. The screen isn’t the biggest but it has the best sound in the whole theater and every other screen has crappy sound quality but I still go here because it’s the closest place with big screens.

kencmcintyre on April 11, 2009 at 11:16 am

Here is another life photo, circa 1953:

moviebuff82 on March 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Starting tomorrow, Monsters vs Aliens will be shown in 3D.

JerseyChris on January 19, 2009 at 9:04 am

I grew up in Maplewood and have many fond memories of going to the movies at the Maplewood Theatre during the 1970’s, when it was one big auditorium. I especially remember going to Saturday matinee or having pizza at the Roman Gourmet before or after a show. I recall as a very young kid, during which must have been the very late 1960’s or maybe 1970, of seeing live singers before the movie began -I think it was a Christmas show. Great memories!

kencmcintyre on November 28, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Here is a photo of Tallulah Bankhead in front of the Maplewood in 1940. The photo is from Life Magazine:

MPol on November 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

FilmNoir1944: I don’t reside in, nor have I ever resided anywhere in NJ, including Maplewood, but I think that this:

“ The only thing that will motivate them to go to the theatres again are large high quality event pictures—an animated family picture, an excellent horror picture, a restored classic which baby boomers want to see and share with a house full of other boomers. This is what I predict will happen to the Maplewood Theatre. I’m hoping that it will happen faster than we think.”

is right on the money, and, if yours (and mine) prediction is correct, it will not only happen to the
Maplewood Theatre in New Jersey, but to various movie palaces throughout the country.

poland626 on November 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Does this theater have an email address? I need to contact them. Someone please reply!

jpcollins on August 6, 2007 at 5:06 pm

Do they still not allow people to bring in anything larger than a purse? I remember me and my buddies used to try to sneak in food and sodas, and we would always get busted and have to put our bags in the janitor’s closet.

hollister22nh on July 10, 2007 at 1:37 pm

This theater had a Wurlitzer Organ. Because of its proximity to Thomas Edison’s West Orange laboratories, Edison happened to use it on several occasions to make recordings. If anyone is interested in MP3s of these organ recordings, I can send them. The folks at Edison National Historic site were nice enough to record them for me, including the “never released” recordings.
Let me know exeterxj12c at yahoo dot com

FilmNoir1944 on July 4, 2007 at 10:33 am

Thank you for your pictures. When I was in high school I worked in the Maplewood Theatre behind the concession stand from about 1980-1984. It was probably one of the best jobs I ever had and will ever have. I used to look up at the ceiling and wonder about its past. It was so cold, lonely and empty and I remember thinking that it was not long before someone hacked it up and destroyed it. Like so many other old theatres it is a local tragedy.
The concession stand was the old school kind—located at the end of the aisle where one could view the movies while serving or purchasing. I went to college in the city and was stunned when I came back to visit Maplewood one day and discovered it had been carelessly chopped up into a painful eyesore. I now have family who have returned to Maplewood and the demographics have drastically changed. For the last 5 years i have been feeling that the current movie theatre will eventual fade and the Maplewood Theatre will be restored and turned into a community theatre featuring: revival movie festivals, live theatre and big scale commercial family “event” pictures all rolled into one. I think that this use mirrors what the current community needs. I also think it might be a part of trend that happens in many other communities around the country. I believe this might happen in the next 5 or 10 years possibly sooner. People do not watch movies in theatres as much and wide screen HD TV’s will become very inexpensive. People do not want to spend their money to see a movie which will go straight to DVD in less than 3 months. The only thing that will motivate them to go to the theatres again are large high quality event pictures—an animated family picture, an excellent horror picture, a restored classic which baby boomers want to see and share with a house full of other boomers. This is what I predict will happen to the Maplewood Theatre. I’m hoping that it will happen faster than we think.

Thanks again for the pictures.
s h u a n g 8500 at yahoo………com
Feel free to email me as I think I might know a person who might have some interesting memorabilia from the theatre.

SteveW on October 30, 2006 at 1:53 pm

Glad you all like the shots, that’s what they’re there for :)

hollister22nh on October 30, 2006 at 1:35 pm

Whoops how did you all find my pictures? We were hiding those pending the publication of an article about the Maplewood Theatre in a local magazine. Steve Weintraub found the 1968 and 1973 pictures for my article (soon to be printed) about the Maplewood Theatre’s interesting past. If you click on here: View link you can see what the interior looks like behind the false walls and dropped ceilings. I went with the long time management team and they were gracious enough to grab me a ladder from the neighboring pizzaria… lift a few ceiling tiles… and grab these pictures using a huge flash. Its pitch black, and completely invisible, until you pull the camera down and see what you found. I know you old school theater buffs would call it a tragedy, but you have to remember how beat and destroyed this place was BEFORE it was triplexed. Now with 5 screens, this theater keeps the downtown vibrant in a way no single screen could (or did). Luckily its mostly still up there, just out of view.

BrooklynJim on October 26, 2006 at 7:02 am

Excellent shots, LM. I informed my Maplewood cousin about them.

It’s funny, tho, regarding the foibles of my “lost memory.” The ‘68 shot is far more vivid in my mind than the one from '73 – and my cousin didn’t actually move there until 1978 or so! Hope to snap a new pic soon…

hollister22nh on July 25, 2006 at 3:04 pm

I’ve been looking into the Maplewood Theater for several years now, and most of the information I have is in my back pocket until it gels into something worth writing about… and that should be soon. So anyway, the Maplewood, as described the 1927 article above, was designed for both live production and movies… and in 1940-1942 it was a live theatre house. This one article from the New York Times Nov 17 1940 is so funny in how it describes Maplewood, and The Maplewood.

“Maplewood Concludes”
“A Note or Two on a Summer Season That Ran Well Into Fall”
Maplewood, N.J.

Shuffling among the fallen Autumn leaves on Maplewood’s main street these days, your shoes turn up countless yellowing theatre-ticket stubs. This is a jolt to any one familiar with the folkways of well-heeled suburban towns. Theatre-ticket stubs on streets, the animated chatter of local cops and butcher boys about the theatre go with the shimmering heat of Summer. But here it is November and the Maplewood theatre, started as a Summer stock venture, only a fortnight ago concluded its season. It had twenty-one successful weeks to its credit and the memory lingers on. The town took producer Cheryl Crawford and her theatre unto itself with wholehearted enthusiasm backed up by substantial attendance.

The Maplewood theatre soaked up the very solid substantiality that stands out all over the town. One expensive-looking suburb runs imperceptibly into the next in this New Jersey commuting belt. Streets are wide and wind languidly between rows of landscaped mansions, huge places in French provincial, with towering copper-patina turrets and carefully sagging roofs, in Southern colonial on the grand scale, in English Tudor with mullioned windows, and all the other romantic styles that architects figure out for the best people.

“There are three million people within twenty miles of the theatre,” Cheryl Crawford says, “and most of them have dough.” Besides good bank references, they had enthusiasm for the theatre. What more could a producer ask?

The astonishing thing is that this enthusiasm for the theatre apparently lay more or less dormant until the theatre moved to Maplewood. Miss Crawford had her biggest successes with shows that were hits not so long ago on Broadway. There was plenty of time for everybody in Maplewood to go to New York to see them. Judging from the way the big theatre was filled up night after night—the theatre has 1,411 seats, more than most New York theatres—Miss Crawford concluded that Maplewood doesn’t go to New York for shows as often as one might suppose. In a curtain speech Miss Crawford once very tentatively suggested that she might bring “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” to Maplewood. She was sure everyone had seen it, and said so. A well-bred bedlam broke loose. No, the audience said, it hadn’t seen the play, and please, Miss Crawford, do let’s have it. The plan finally fell through, but the demand was tremendous.

What with countless chummy curtain speeches, talks to Rotarians and Elks and Moose and strawberry festivals, church supper gathering, social clubs, Miss Crawford spread the word personally about her theatre to about 60,000 inhabitants, rich and not so rich. The community knew her as a personality.

Perfect strangers said hello to Miss Crawford on the street and blushed and giggled. She stopped at a cigar store in a near-by town one day to ask the way to the community church, and the clerk said he’d tell her if she’d give him two seats to the show. Letters poured in from people who signed themselves “A Maplewood Theatre Lover” and variations on the theme, and the letters were effusivve with gratitude for having Maplewood pushed onward and upward with arts. In six weeks 10,000 local folk signed little cards saying they wished to have the theatre back next year and asking to be kept in touch with developments.

Having identity as a producer, being known around town as the person who satisfies the appetite for theatre, is an ego-boosting experience that hasn’t happened to New York producers since the days of Belasco, and Miss Crawford frankly relished the role. She was having fun, and she was also making enough money, she said, “to pay a few debts and live comfortably for a year anyhow.” Box-office receipts, of course, did not touch the dizzy figures that gladden the heart of a New York producer with a hit. Neither did they sink to the sickening low that makes a New York producer begin to think about pigeon raising as a career. Maplewood receipts were steady and moderate, cost of production versus box-office take could be figured out pretty closely in advance.

There was a top price of $1.50 for evening performances, and 85 cents for matinees. Besides low prices, local people had the advantae of not having to get dressed up and go to town to see a show. Wives were very grateful for this, and said they could get thier husbands to the theatre much more often that way. Others said that with the theatre so cheap, they could see a real play instead of going to the movies so much. Anybody who can break into the movie habit in the suburbs deserves some kind of an award with palms.

BrooklynJim on July 11, 2006 at 1:54 pm

It seems as if every time I pass by on New Jersey Transit’s commuter trains, there are more screens at the Maplewood! This is the local theater of my beloved cousins who live mere blocks away. Will see if Cousin Matt can piggyback on these comments before he leaves for college in PA in the fall.

Question: Has anyone ever eliminated (or pared down the number of) those pesky yellow jackets emanating from nearby Kings Grocery? Most annoying l'il kamikazees I’ve ever encountered near any movie theater anywhere in the country…Ouch!

teecee on March 2, 2006 at 4:55 am

Listed as part of Independent Theater Service, Inc. in the 1956 Film Daily Yearbook.

asadsack on January 19, 2006 at 1:09 am

I saw “Jaws” at the Maplewood with my brother in 1976. That scene where that guy’s half-eaten head popped out of the bottom of the boat—geez, you talk about a collective scream!!

teecee on October 15, 2005 at 7:57 am

1940s live theater program here.

teecee on June 27, 2005 at 9:54 am

The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), Oct 1, 1998 p001
Choir does a rerun of ‘Silent Night’ at special screening of new movie In Maplewood, Christmas again comes early as Streep film opens. (IN THE TOWNS)
Byline: Ada Brunner

Christmas came early to Maplewood this year for the second year in a row.

Last year, it arrived in November, when 20 members of the Morrow Memorial Church Choir gathered on the pavement near the local movie theater to sing “Silent Night.”

This year, Yuletide was even earlier. Those same 20 carolers, along with the rest of the Morrow choir and other townspeople and out-of-town visitors, celebrated in September.

All of it was in connection with the film “One True Thing,” starring Meryl Streep, William Hurt and Renee Zellweger, which was shot in part in Maplewood and features members of the Morrowchoir as well as some 150 extras from the area.

Based on a novel by Anna Quindlen, the movie opened nationwide Sept. 18. But some 450 local and area residents got an advance look at it at a preview in the Maplewood Theatre the night before. The special screening, a benefit for the Maplewood Village Alliance (the corporation that manages the Maplewood Village special improvement district), was the highlight of an evening that started with a procession from the Women’s Club, led by the Youth Orchestra of Essex County playing “When the Saints Go Marchin' In.” When the walkers arrived at the theater, the choir, directed by David Hutchings of Colonia, gave a brief outdoor concert, singing “Silent Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Every Time I Feel the Spirit.”

After the screening of the film, a reception was held at the Burgdorff Cultural Center, with the choir once again performing. It sang “Amazing Grace,” “Music Has Brought Us Together” and a new version of “Silent Night” – one with words by choir member Mary Sims of Maplewood, describing what it’s like to be in a movie.

Area residents had learned what it’s like about a year earlier, when they learned of the decision to use Maplewood as a stand-in for Langhorne, Pa., the town where Quindlen’s story is set. ……..

teecee on April 1, 2005 at 12:44 pm

The movie “Garden State” was released on Wednesday, 28 July 2004, to eight theaters: three in Los Angeles, four in New York City, and at the Maplewood Theatre in Maplewood, New Jersey. This was the home theater of Zach Braff (who is from the adjacent town of South Orange). He attended the Maplewood premiere, and his father, who still lives in the area, was at the theatre for the film’s first Friday and Saturday.