Washington Theatre

165 E. Washington Avenue,
Washington, NJ 07882

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Washington Theatre

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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 but had closed by 2016.

Contributed by Charles Van Bibber

Recent comments (view all 40 comments)

teecee on February 22, 2008 at 5:16 pm

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 on February 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm

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 on March 8, 2009 at 8:50 pm

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

JackCoursey on August 9, 2009 at 3:22 am

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 on January 13, 2010 at 1:12 pm

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 on April 24, 2010 at 9:35 pm

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.

Rstewart on October 21, 2014 at 1:04 am

Troubling news today: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/warren-county/express-times/index.ssf/2014/10/washington_theatre_building_in.html

Washington Theatre building in danger of demolition

HenrySchmidt on September 6, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Drove by this theater today. It doesn’t look active. Date on stone entablature is 1926. I’ve never been inside, but it would appear from photos that it’s strictly a movie house, i.e., no real stage, which limits its usefulness for other events and organizations that would require one, such as drama and musicals. Exterior evidence for the lack of a stage is that there’s no stage house; the building has a gable roof for its entire length behind the head house. Economic viability for this theater is going to be a difficult challenge, IMO.

movieguy on July 14, 2016 at 11:59 am

Theatre has been closed now for over six months. There was supposed to be some other group trying to take it over and turning into a performing arts Center that still shows movies as well. Nothing happening now with that plan

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