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 1,447 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 21, 2015 at 9:59 am

Gasp…! Not the piss elegant BAM…! Get me the smelling salts…

theatrefan on September 22, 2015 at 5:25 am

Are there even any old time projectionists left who know how to do a proper changeover? Repertory films are usually not allowed to be run on a platter. Guess they better get the DCP version nowadays that’s all they know.

mdvoskin on September 22, 2015 at 5:48 am

Since I am no longer a projectionist at the Loews Jersey and I was not there this weekend, I cannot comment on why changeovers were missed. I can say that there are a lot of projectionist, young and old, who can do a proper changeover. It’s not that hard, you just have to pay attention.

An issue that probably nobody who has not run 35mm film, reel to reel, is aware of is that the repertory prints now in circulation are rather hit and miss in regard to damage, especially at the end of reels where the changeover cue marks are located. For every mint restoration print available, there are probably a dozen trashed prints in circulation. Back in the day, prints were sent to theatres well in advance, and the projectionist would hand crank through every reel, repairing bad splices and noting any bad/missing cue marks. That is no longer an option in many cases where the print arrives the at the last minute.

I’m not saying that there are no incompetent projectionist, but I am saying that there could be other reasons for a less than stellar presentation.

theatrefan on September 22, 2015 at 5:57 am

mdvoskin, thanks for the explanation. The past couple of 35mm screenings that I have been to have all had pretty good prints, so I have been fortunate in that regard. I also seem to remember earlier this past year when I saw Cat On A Hot Tin Roof at the Jersey, that print was leaving the theatre before the entire audience had entirely left the building.

markp on September 24, 2015 at 4:25 am

And here I sit with almost 40 years expierience as a projectionist, and I can tell you that no matter what condition the print is in, it can be made to look decent. In my early days working in dollar houses with double features, you always got lousey beat up prints, but I still put on the best I could. Im not being critical, Im just saying, that it hurts how my talents are wasting away while all I get is to run a digital projector, which requires no talent at all. Depressing

mdvoskin on September 24, 2015 at 5:26 am

Yes Mark, I agree that most prints can be made to look decent provided that the projectionist is given access to the print sufficiently in advance to go through it.

For example, I was told that last weekends print of Ocean’s 11 arrived at the theatre just in time for the show. They barely had time to make sure all the reels were heads out.

On the other hand, if the print is faded, scratched, or has splices with enough footage missing that the audience will notice it, there is nothing the projectionist can do.

Again, I am not saying that there no incompetent projectionist, but I am saying that there can be other reasons for a poor presentation.

theatrefan on September 24, 2015 at 6:34 am

Do different studios have better looking or newer prints available? I did notice when I saw “Some Like It Hot” at the Jersey it must have been a fairly newly struck print at the start it featured the 2000 MGM lion logo even though it was originally a United Artists film, an old print would have never had that logo at the beginning. Therefore a new one must have been struck by the studio.

mdvoskin on September 24, 2015 at 8:42 am

MGM acquired the assets of UA some time ago. Most of the James Bond films released since the late 1990’s have had MGM/UA above the lion.

The studios were striking new prints of select titles for repertory theatres up until about 4 years ago, and they still strike “vault” prints for their own archiving, reference, and special screening purposes. As to whether or not a venue outside of Los Angeles can get these vault prints is iffy at best.

markp on September 24, 2015 at 10:59 am

Yes mdvoskin, there are some times it cant be helped I guess, especially in this day and age when no one is supporting film anymore. Its really sad.

theatrefan on September 25, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Guess you have to have the right connections to get to special studio vault prints. I guess it’s hit or miss with the condition of the prints that the Jersey will get. On a side note: Warner Brothers thru their acquisition of Turner Entertainment controls all Pre-May 1986 Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) releases for repertory theatres.

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