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 1,453 comments)

theatrefan on September 24, 2015 at 12:34 pm

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 2:42 pm

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 4:59 pm

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 6:29 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.

vindanpar on October 27, 2015 at 9:51 pm

The print for Guns was very good. It was the changeovers that were sloppy. They work so hard to keep this theater going and to present 35mm films that I wish presentation wasn’t so uneven. It is as if half the time they have a professional and the other half an eager volunteer.

The gilt edged presentation of Flesh and the Devil a few years ago was royally messed up by the projectionist though probably the organist and myself were the only people who noticed and I had never even seen the film before!

markp on October 28, 2015 at 7:24 am

I had the pleasure of meeting Mitchell a few years ago and got a tour of the place. I certainly do not want to be critical because they are trying to preserve 35mm film presentation. But when I saw MAS*H there a few years ago, I said the same thing about the changeovers. And I knew this movie well from my early days as a projectionist. I knew they were clean and it seemed to me like some footage was already run thru as if the operator threaded up too far on the leader. It saddens me because I always took great care to make them as smooth as possible. My last 35mm presentation at the CountBasie was in January, “Interstellar” and folks were amazed how they couldnt tell where the changeovers were.

mdvoskin on November 8, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Hi Mark. Just a heads up, I am no longer involved with projecting films at the Loews, so I cannot comment on specific issues for specific shows. However, I do give them credit for being the only venue in Northern NJ that still runs classic films in 35mm whenever possible. It would be a lot easier and cheaper for them to just run digital, but everyone there appreciates the “magic” of presenting real film.

markp on November 8, 2015 at 8:35 pm

And for that they are to be applauded.

bolorkay on November 13, 2015 at 9:58 am

Hi mdvoskin,

Does the Loews have the ability to run digital? I always thought they were a strictly 35mm house. In any event the Loews is a venue that should be admired and supported in their efforts to keep a wonderful “movie palace” alive and well and for making an important chapter in film history available to us all.

mdvoskin on November 13, 2015 at 10:23 am

The Loews Jersey has the capability of running HD Digital, but not DCI Compliant DCPs that first run theatres are now using.

What that means in plain English is that for classic films, when they run digital, it tends to be a Bluray Disc.

I do know that they still go out of their way to obtain 35mm prints whenever possible.

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