Loew's Jersey Theatre

54 Journal Square,
Jersey City, NJ 07306

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Loew's Jersey Theatre exterior

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 plus “Cameos” direct from the Capitol Theatre, New York featuring Chester Hales Girls. 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 1,485 comments)

DaveM
DaveM on October 16, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Yes. The Newark Paramount (marquee only) and the Loews Kings (extensive interiors) also show up.

Robert Kratky
Robert Kratky on December 17, 2019 at 10:45 am

Would anyone have any up-dates as to the status of this terrific theatre? There hasn’t been any movie activity (or much of “any” activity) since October.(As I understand it, they’ve been having some issues with their digital projection.) I regularly check their Facebook page..which is a small group of us asking the same question and their “official” website which seems to be a ghost town in terms of new events. (By this time of year, the Loews would be in the process of announcing their Holiday Programs but, as of this morning….nothing!)

markp
markp on December 17, 2019 at 8:43 pm

Don’t know if you would interested but this Sat Dec 21 at the Union County Arts Center in Rahway we will be showing National Lampoons Christmas Vacation in 35MM. 8 pm

Robert Kratky
Robert Kratky on December 18, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Thanks, Markp, But I’ve got an appointment with a Wookie and some Storm Troopers, this Saturday. I hope the film program goes well for you.

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on July 9, 2020 at 5:27 am

i hear this theater is being renovated while we are in a pandemic. Can’t wait to check it out soon.

Robert Kratky
Robert Kratky on July 9, 2020 at 6:06 am

Yes, that’s what I’ve read over at the Loews Facebook page recently. I am hopeful that “renovate”, in this case means installing a functional air conditioning system (to allow summer screenings!) and perhaps “improved” projection facilities such as 70mm. Color me “skeptical” but I hope none of the beautiful character and atmosphere of this grand movie palace is lost as the renovations proceed. And… I wonder where the money is coming from, especially during these “tough times”? (Private investors?)

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on July 9, 2020 at 6:17 am

This has been “renovating” for decades now. I would guess that work is just resuming after a pandemic enforced suspension.

hdtv267
hdtv267 on July 9, 2020 at 10:21 am

it’s a shame certain posters on here can’t make it through a week without posting the word pandemic. Someone really needs a visit from Dr Robin Zasio.

mdvoskin
mdvoskin on July 9, 2020 at 10:37 am

It is my understanding that the current FOL 5 year lease for the venue has now expired and Jersey City is now moving forward with the plan the mayor tried to push though 5 years ago. This involves contracting out the restoration and operation of the theatre to companies experienced in this.

If the plan is successful and once it is complete, the venue will primarily be a concert facility. The difference between now and 5 years ago is that FOL’s roll in the theatre is more formally defined, better giving them the ability to plan and run local interest events including movies.

Please note that I have no “inside” information, and of course this may work out differently than either party expects. I have my doubt that any commercial organization will be in a hurry to spending millions of dollars on a venue where at least for the next few years, they will not be able to have any hope of recouping their investment.

Robert Kratky
Robert Kratky on July 9, 2020 at 11:32 am

I’m trying to maintain a sense of optimism in that if the Loews Jersey is “transformed” into a performing arts center the show runners can strike a “happy medium” between concert performances and classic film programs. (As a self-declared classic film fanatic, I’d hate to see another vintage film venue fall by the wayside.) And I’m still wondering. how will the Journal Square area handle the one thousand or more ticket-holding concert fans as they converge the on Lowes for a concert event?

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