Washington Theatre

165 E. Washington Avenue,
Washington, NJ 07882

Unfavorite 3 people favorited this theater

Washington Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Construction began on the Washington Theatre in 1928 and was completed in January, 1929. It was built for both silent movies and vaudeville. The theatre seated 800. It was proclaimed “The Showplace of Northwestern New Jersey”. Four years later it was modernized and wired with the addition of sound.

Opened by the Lions Theatre Circuit, the Washington has many owners. In the 1970’s the theatre was twinned. At this time much of its ornate style was covered over or destroyed. Over the years the Washington Theatre fell into a state of disrepair, and closed in 1997. It did not die however. It was briefly reopened by a local community group.

In 1998 the Washington Theatre was acquired by Galaxy Theatres. Extensive renovations were done to restore the lobby area back to its grandeur. Also extensive cleanups and repairs to the auditoriums was done. However, the Washington Theatre did not survive long again in operation, closing about 2001.

It was reopened in May 2006.

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 37 comments)

raymondstewart
raymondstewart on November 27, 2006 at 3:59 am

How is this place doing? I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but hope to stop in to see 007 sometime.

raymondstewart
raymondstewart on April 27, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Well, looks like I can answer my own question. Yesterday while driving by I noticed a side door open and some activity, so I stopped to take a quick peek. Well, I met Marco, the owner, who invited me in to look around. He and a couple of friends were there doing some upgrades and they were kind enough to give me a complete tour, including the booth and behind the screens.

You can still see the ceiling dome above the suspended ceiling in places and thankfully the beautiful two-color marble that graces various parts of the auditorium is all intact.

I didn’t count seats, but I’d say it’s 350 or so per side, with some being originals from the opening with a ribbed velvet cover. Other seats are rockers from somewhat later that were very comfortable. The rear loge area is “stadium seating” that was around long before the major chains act like they invented it! Each row in the loge is surrounded by iron railing.

In the booth were a pair of nice, clean RCA projection and sound heads along with Xetron lamphouses and a platter(sorry, didn’t notice the maker). The projectors are mounted on a pair of really nice vintage Simplex bases, I would guess that they could easily be the originals.

Behind the screens is a huge stage with tons of flyspace. As usual in an old twin, that area is full of odd items such as seats, organ bits and pieces and the oringinal Breckart lamphouses. Below the stage there are varouus storage rooms, dressing rooms from the vaudville days, heating equipment, etc.

I was very impressed with the owners enthusiasm about his theatre. He plans on some day restoring it to a single in all of its original splendor. At this point he is steadily working on improving the theatre. One side has a nice, fairly new sound system and he was woring on a digital projection system while I was there.

I was very honored that he would take time from his busy day to chat with an old theatre junky and I plan on visiting again soon. If you read this Marco, your place is looking nice and thanks again!

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on August 9, 2007 at 7:26 pm

There was a front page article (of the Entertainment section) on this theatre and its longtime proprietor in the Warren (NJ) Reporter from Thursday, August 9 (dated August 10). Unfortunately, they have no real good online source, so I’ll do the highlights.

It was titled “Former Owner’s legacy continues to project at Washington Theatre” and it has two pictures of former owner Alvin Sloan, 96, putting his hands into cement and signing his name.

“He was the building’s owner from the 1930s until the early 1970s and he was a trailblazer in promoting the motion picture business during the Golden Age of Hollywood. For years the theatre served as the HQ of a local movie empire owner by Sloan consisting of 14 theatres throughout the area, including ones in Belvidere, Hackettstown and Blairstown.”

The theatre opened in 1927 and the 1930s projectors and antique padded reclining chairs still remain.

Now the owner is Marco Matteo, who reopened it in 2006 after it was closed for 5 years.

Alvin grew up in Montclair and was obsessed with silent-film and after high school, opted not to attend college and became assistant manager of a theater in Washington and then did other theater jobs until he and his friend, Clifton Smith, operated 4 theaters, which eventually led him to own or lease 14 more.

They did giveaways like partnering with local businesses to give away a piece of silverware to women who attended each week and they would have a complete set by the end of the year.

“Sloan ended his 45 years in the motion picture business in 1972 when he sold all his theatre real estate.”

teecee
teecee on February 22, 2008 at 7:16 am

Nice obituary for the long time NJ theater man Alvin Sloan:

Alvin Sloan lived life with passion
Friday, February 22, 2008
A good man departed

The resume of Alvin Sloan is too long to publish, so here’s a condensed version: Theater projectionist. Theater owner. Justice of the peace. Youngest mayor in New Jersey (Washington Borough, 1936, age 24). Newspaper publisher (Warren Journal, Belvidere Apollo, The Forum). Band leader. Chairman of the Washington Parking Authority. Founder of the Vernon Oaks Society, a fund-raiser for the Washington Emergency Squad. Crusader for a Washington-area health clinic. Proponent of a borough library expansion. Author of the history of the Washington Police Department. Ardent defender of the borough’s manager-council government.

From his arrival in Washington in 1928 until his death last Saturday at 96, Alvin Sloan was an advocate for community advancement. He was a tireless hawker of ideas and a thorn in the side to those who disagreed with him, particularly in recent years, when he aired his differences with some borough council members.

Yet his involvement with his hometown covered eight decades, and if the term “civic leader” is becoming an anachronism, it is because people such as Sloan are no longer here to define it. Far from a government insider (he served in elected office briefly, in the 1930s) he was an entrepreneur who lent his acumen and organizing energies to the public good. His love of movies and the organ music that accompanied silent films led him into that line of work. At one point, he owned 14 movie theaters in Warren, Hunterdon and Sussex counties.

His passion didn’t end with making music and money. The borough’s emergency squad was formed while he was mayor. He saw it would be easier to support the squad by asking businesses to help, rather than have volunteers perform this task. He created the Vernon Oaks Society, named after his friend and former borough fire chief.

Along the way, Sloan donated or raised money for many causes, and sought little recognition. He was keenly interested in how governance could be improved, and he pushed for a switch to a council-manager government, which he thought could counter cronyism. In his later years, he became the person who could provide the historical reference for just about any issue or incomplete memory that arose.

With his death, Washington has lost a link to its most productive, eventful years. The matter of a fitting memorial to a big-hearted patriarch is sure to arise, and the questions might be: What? Where?

Just look around. They’re already there. Most of the borough’s public institutions are imbued with the spirit, sweat and support of a good man.

movieguy
movieguy on February 25, 2009 at 6:18 am

I am looking forward to coming down to this GEM of a theatre! This theatre has HEART AND SOUL! Marco Joni are doing a GREAT JOB!

adairmoore
adairmoore on March 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

Peter – thanks so much for your support -we really need it! see you soon! joni

JackCoursey
JackCoursey on August 8, 2009 at 5:22 pm

In 2009, the Washington Theatre Preservation Society is seeking to purchase the building and register it as a landmark. Owner Marco Matteo believes this step will allow the theater to prosper.

movieguy
movieguy on January 13, 2010 at 3:12 am

I live in Rockland County NY, just 15 min from the boarder of NJ. The Washington Theatre is run with real PASSION under the guidance of Marco and the crew! It is a 140 mile round trip, but is worth it!

I am looking forward to visiting the theatre this Saturday to see Sherlock Homes and The Book Of Eli!

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on April 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

Will this theater upgrade to digital 3d? Then this theater could show 3-D films again. I used to go by the theater when it was open on the way to work at the workshop Abilities of NWJ which is near Route 31. Has that old time feel. As for its location, it’s right between Mansfield to the right and Pohatcong to the left. It’s a shame that Warren County has three theaters left, which places it in third place behind Sussex’s 2 (Newton and Sparta) and Morris with a lot.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater