Loew's Jersey Theatre

54 Journal Square,
Jersey City, NJ 07306

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Loew's Jersey Theatre exterior

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The Loew’s Jersey Theatre was the 4th of five Loew’s ‘Wonder Theatres’ to open in the New York City area, opening just two weeks after the Loew’s Paradise Theatre, Bronx and the Loew’s Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, which had both opened on September 7, 1929. The Loew’s Jersey Theatre opened September 28, 1929 with Ruth Chatterton and Lewis Stone in “Madame X”. On stage were Ben Black and his Rhythm Kings and in the orchestra pit were the Loew’s Symphony Orchestra and the mighty Robert Morton ‘Wonder’ organ which had 4 manuals and 23 ranks. Resident organist for many years was Ted Meyn. The building had cost $2 million to build and the wonderful Baroque style façade still boasts the mechanical clock of George & the Dragon, a companion piece to the one (now lost) on the top of the façade of Loew’s Paradise Theatre, Bronx.

The opulent Italian Renaissance style auditorium with its 50 foot wide proscenium is reached by passing through a dramatic three-storey lobby rotunda, supported by jade-green columns. In the music gallery above the entrance on the first floor, a grand piano was played to entertain waiting patrons. As was the case in all big movie palaces, the 35 foot deep x 82 foot wide stage was put to good use in the early years with artistes such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, The Ritz Brothers, Jackie Coogan, Russ Columbo and His Band and many others appearing. The orchestra pit (which is on an elevator) was boarded over in 1949.

Later in January 1975, two additional screens, each seating 524, were placed in the orchestra seating area beneath the balcony, leaving the main screen in the balcony, with a seating capacity of 1,078. The Robert Morton ‘Wonder’ organ was removed at this time and now resides in the Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara, California. The Loew’s Jersey Theatre closed on Thursday August 21, 1986 with “Friday the 13th Part VI:Jason Lives”.

In April 1987 it was sold to a private company for demolition, but preservationists saved the theatre from becoming an office building and the theatre was purchased by the city in 1993. The Friends of the Loew’s had been formed and they embarked on an ongoing renovation/restoration project beginning in 1995. The wall dividing the orchestra seating into two screens was removed, and the theatre was re-opened to the public in 2001 (albeit in the beginning using only a fraction of the seating area in the orchestra level). Regular monthly screenings of classic and revival films began during fall, winter and spring, and as work by the dedicated team of volunteers has progressed over the years, the program expanded to also presenting occasional live performances and concerts.

The Garden State Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society acquired a ‘sister’ identical Robert Morton ‘Wonder’ organ that had been originally installed in the Loew’s Paradise Theatre, Bronx. After several years extensive work on the instrument, it was ready for its debut in its new home at the Loew’s Jersey Theatre in late-2007.

The Loew’s Jersey Theatre has become the centerpiece of the Journal Square renaissance, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 1,431 comments)

mdvoskin
mdvoskin on May 29, 2015 at 10:52 am

Friends Of The Loews won today’s round in their court case with the city. Their lease is valid, the city can’t throw them out and lease the theatre to someone else.

Click Here For News Story

Congratulations…

bolorkay
bolorkay on May 29, 2015 at 11:09 am

Congratulations to the FOL.

Great news indeed.

LuisV
LuisV on May 29, 2015 at 11:22 am

Seems to me the best of both worlds would be to bring in AEG to work WITH Friends of Loews to finish the restoration of the grand theater along with installing AC and hopefully restoring the Blade while REQUIRING that showing films always be a part of the programming at the Loews Jersey! They have the desperately needed money. Why is that a problem??

markp
markp on May 29, 2015 at 7:59 pm

I think LuisV has a great idea. Now if only the right people would see it.

walterk
walterk on May 30, 2015 at 8:16 am

Here’s a link to FOL’s public statement on the court ruling. They apparently agree that bringing a concert promoter in would be a good thing and also mention a little more than $2.5 million that is available for repairs and upgrades, a little more than $500k is grant money FOL won for fire safety and other code upgrades, and the city received another $2 million from an area developer to make repairs on the theatre.

Let’s hope we start seeing this money spent now that the court case is over.

theatrefan
theatrefan on August 12, 2015 at 6:14 am

I was looking at the movies that played here as a Loews house in it’s final years of operation from about 82-86 and the endless parade of B-movie Blood, Gore, Slasher, Exploitation, Kung Fu films never seemed to end. I think every movie that such secondary studios like New World Pictures put out played here. Was film booking for this theatre handled centrally at the Loews Headquarters in Secaucus NJ or locally? If so were they intentionally trying to drive this place into the ground or was it just Hollywood’s release pattern that existed at the time?

mdvoskin
mdvoskin on August 12, 2015 at 7:25 am

All Loews Theatres, as with most other large circuits, were booked by the headquarters booking office. A theatre manager could make suggestions, but that is about it for local involvement. I believe, but not sure, that the booking office was located in Manhattan at the time.

I doubt that they were trying to drive the place into the ground. More likely, exploitation films are the ones that were the most profitable for that location at the time. The same forces that drove the 42nd street NYC theatres from being the showplace of the nation to the sleaze center of the nation was at work in all the major cities. These theatres could only draw customers from the immediate area, and there were a lot of screens in Jersey City for the given population.

theatrefan
theatrefan on August 12, 2015 at 8:10 am

Thanks mdvoskin, Your right the UA State in the immediate area tended to play similar types of films. The one thing also to keep in mind is that these films tended to sometimes attract a rough and rowdy crowd, so I wonder if vandalism was an issue during the waning days of the Loew’s Jersey as well?

Chris1982
Chris1982 on August 12, 2015 at 9:02 pm

The booking office for Loew’s was 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.

theatrefan
theatrefan on August 14, 2015 at 2:01 pm

When did they leave 1540 Broadway to move to 400 Plaza Drive in Secaucus N.J. was it around 87/88? I know the headquarters were moved back to Manhattan by then owner Sony Corp in 1993.

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