Majestic Theatre

273 Madison Avenue,
Perth Amboy, NJ 08861

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johnnyA
johnnyA on August 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm

markp, fascinating with your dad and uncle working at the Majestic and Royal. I have fond memories of going to both theaters countless times growing up in the 60s. The Majestic was the classier operation but the Royal had its own particular charm despite the musty smell, worn seats and frayed carpeting. There were one or two elderly gentlemen we’d always see I’m assuming owned or operated the Royal. Unlike the Majestic which had uniformed ushers these old codgers were right on top of any potential trouble in the auditorium and wouldn’t hesitate to eject any youthful offenders.

markp
markp on August 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm

johnnyA, my uncle was a projectionist at the Majestic, and my father was at the Royal around the corner. The Majestic switched to, and stayed with porn in 1969 until it closed sometime in the late 70’s. The Royal ran mostly black action and kung fu movies in that same time frame.

johnnyA
johnnyA on August 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm

The old Perth Amboy High School was located on State Street in the downtown area. I don’t know when the tradition began but the senior class graduation ceremony would always take place at the Majestic Theater. Much more seating room for friends and relatives than the school auditorium. I was a graduate of the Class of ‘71 and a member of the last group to have the festivities take place in that great old theater. The following school year would see the opening of the new high school several miles away in another part of town. As we all filed into the Majestic the X-rated advertising was still on display as that’s what the theater was showing at the time. From what I remember they would occasionally switch to mainstream movies but porn apparently proved more lucrative and that is what they stayed with until the the theater finally closed some years later.

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on March 18, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Here’s an article on the TV lounge. There is another picture on the cover of this issue: http://www.boxoffice.com/the_vault/issue_page?issue_id=1949-3-5&page_no=20#page_start

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 7, 2009 at 11:54 pm

I haven’t been able to discover the original architect of the New Majestic, but Boxoffice of March 5, 1949, said that the architect for a recent $150,000 remodeling was William Hohauser. A major feature of the remodeling was the installation of a 200-seat television lounge on the mezzanine level of the theater. The New Majestic was then operated by Walter Reade Theatres.

Avagara
Avagara on June 6, 2009 at 6:26 pm

If anyone is interested, I posted a current photo of the Cathedral International (Majestic Theater):
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/23156841

The church started as the Second Baptist Church in 1892, founded by 35 African-Americans. The church had several buildings around town until moving into this structure in 1992.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 24, 2009 at 7:42 am

“Purchased” can be a tricky word in historical research on theatres. In many cases, circuits purchased only the operating leases of theatres, and not the actual theatres. Leases were for a fixed period of time and usually had an option for renewal. Theatres were often built and owned by people who saw them solely as an investment oppoertunity, and never intended to operate them on their own.

markp
markp on March 24, 2009 at 7:10 am

I remember my father who was a projectionist at the Royal Theatre around the corner telling me that this theatre started to show porno around 1971. His childhood buddy Nick was the projectionist at this place during that time, and they would carpool together to work, since they set their schedule to work the same days and hours. They bothb left the 2 theatres to open up the brand new Jerry Lewis Twin Cinema in Carteret N.J. in June 1972.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 24, 2009 at 5:59 am

The 1927 Film Daily Year Book lists the Majestic as a Walter Reade theatre. At that time in Perth Amboy, Reade also ran the Crescent, Ditmas, and Strand Theatres. The Reade circuit’s headquarters were in Trenton.

Tiger09
Tiger09 on March 23, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Regarding my previous post, it appears I made a mistake. By the Great Depression, the Majestic was already showing double features. It must have been purchased by Walter Reade during the 1920s. (source: View link )

Tiger09
Tiger09 on March 23, 2009 at 12:46 pm

According to a history book about Perth Amboy (google book preview available here View link ), this theater was actually owned by Counihan and Shannon as a playhouse before it became Proctor’s and was turned into a vaudeville stage. I’m guessing that at some point in the late 1930s or early 1940s it was purchased by the Walter Reade Organization, renamed the Majestic, and started showing movies, since it was already quite popular by the mid 1940s. The link above also has two pretty good pictures, on page 63.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 8, 2008 at 10:49 am

In December, 1930, Warner Bros. announced that it would build a new theatre with around 2,000 seats in Perth Amboy, NJ, employing John Eberson as architect. The theatre had not yet been named, but I guess it was never built, since the details don’t fit any of the listings for Perth Amboy at Cinema Treasures or in Film Daily Year Books.

teecee
teecee on August 20, 2006 at 12:42 pm

The Sound of Music played here on 8/17/1968. So it still must have been a fairly “clean” theater at that time:
View link

teecee
teecee on October 29, 2005 at 8:46 am

Looks like the Majestic was a Proctor’s Theatre at one time. Notice the title on the attached postcard:

View link

That vertical Majestic marquee so prominent in the other photos does indeed look like an add on.

teecee
teecee on October 29, 2005 at 6:33 am

Old postcard from the 1920s or 30s:
View link

JerryK
JerryK on July 6, 2005 at 12:25 pm

The Ditmas! THAT was the name! My mom and dad always recalled seeing “Song Of The South” there. From what I was told, the theater burned down not long afterwords.

Jerry Kampo

ErnieN
ErnieN on July 5, 2005 at 4:07 pm

I am surprised becuase I have a pretty good recollection of the movie scene in Perth Amboy in 1942 and neither Ditman nor Ditmas rings a bell. However, if Film Daily Yearbook shows a movie theater on State Street in 1940 or 1941 I am in no position to argue.

Thanks for these various postinjgs.

Ernie Nagy

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 5, 2005 at 3:04 pm

TC; Thanks for the organ information you have been providing. It usually gives a fairly accurate date of year of opening of a theatre.

I query the name Ditman Theatre though, as I have listed in the Film Daily Yearbook 1941 edition, a 750 seat Ditmas Theatre at 280 State Street, Perth Amboy as well as the Majestic Theatre. Surely two theatres with similar names, Ditman and Ditmas would have caused confusion back then. Or is that why the Ditman became the Majestic when the Ditmas opened(whenever that was)?

teecee
teecee on July 5, 2005 at 8:55 am

A Moller organ, opus 4144, was installed in this theater in 1925. It also was called the Ditman theater at that time.

ErnieN
ErnieN on June 15, 2005 at 9:40 am

What a perfectly splendid description of what made The Majestic majestic. It’s sad to think that this magnificent palace of the cinema descended into the unbearably sleazy world of porn only to be further reduced from grandeur by being stripped of all of its finery by the current inhabitants, as I understand it.

In any event, grateful thanks to Jerry Kampo for his vivid recollections.

Ernie Nagy

JerryK
JerryK on June 14, 2005 at 4:38 pm

It’s amazing how well I can still remember what the interior of the Majestic looked like when I used to frequent the theater in the early to mid 60’s! Picture this, if you will…as you approached the front of the theater from the curb, you passed under a large marquee. Directly in front, situated between two sets of double doors of shiny stainless steel, was the ticket booth. The double doors doors opened into an outer lobby where people could remove their coats and hats, in general, a “transition” area where the walls were covered with posters and 8 by 10 photos of upcoming motion pictures. From there, as you moved forward toward the lobby, you passed through two more sets of double doors where the tickets were collected by an usher. That was where one entered the main lobby. The concession stand was straight ahead. However, to your immediate right and left were two curved grand staircases, with beautiful polished brass railings guiding you to the upper lounge area. Once you climbed those stairs, you entered a large room furnished with sofas and chairs on which one could relax during intermission. Tables and lamps ringed the room. The floor was covered with a luxurious red carpet inlayed with the Walter Reade logo and their trademark which were the masks of Comedy and Tragedy. There were rest rooms (a “powder room” for the ladies) also located at this level. On each side of this room two passageways, or “tunnels”, were located which eventually led to the first level of the balcony which stretched the width of the building. On each side of this level of the balcony a step or two down, but located closser to the screen, were two “boxes” with 4 or 5 seats each. The balcony eventually reached the projection booth, about 8 stories from street level! From the upper balcony, the screen appeared as a mere speck, although it was about 50 feet long!
Downstairs, in the rear of the auditorium, was a soundproof room, with a large glass window facing the screen. It was named the “party room” where groups could “rent” the space out and have their own little “get together” while watching the movie. It also provided a much needed place for new moms and their noisy infants! Eventually, during the Majestic’s porno era, this room became an auxillary projection booth and was equipped with 16mm projectors which could be remote controlled from the main 35mm booth. A little note on the 35mm booth: the power supply for the old carbon arc lamps was a motor/generator set. This unit was SO noisy that there was a thick steel door between it’s room and the booth, AND at the entrance to the booth!
I will always the remember the Majestic….seeing first run movies on it’s big screen with huge red velvet curtains, watching for the cue marks and then turning around to watch the light beams switch from one port hole to the other. I am so very proud that I eventually had the chance to work there a few times before it was closed as a theater forever. There will never be another like her.

ErnieN
ErnieN on June 13, 2005 at 4:16 pm

There was also the Roky, well along on Smith Street, left side, as you headed for the Tottenville ferry. I distinctly remember that, in the late 30s/early 40s, you could buy your way into the Roky in the afternoon for a dime and never see the same thing twice for hours on end. There would typically be a double feature (“B” movies, often westerns) plus a serial (usually a westernj, in serial/chapter form. You would also get long “coming attractions” (i.e., trailers) various short features and/or cartoons and maybe a newsreel.

I somehow have the feeling that, in later years, the Roky was given over mostly to foreign language films. As a matter of fact, even in “my” time, I remember that at various times they would show Hungarian movies usually starring the Hungarian heartthrob Javor Pal (really Pal Javor, but in Hungarian the last name comes first).

Ernie Nagy

JerryK
JerryK on June 13, 2005 at 2:46 pm

Growing up in the 50’s and living in Fords, I would attend the Fords Playhouse. But, I could remember a few movie houses in Perth Amboy…The Majestic, a Walter Reade house(first run) on Madison Ave. The Royal, on Smith Street (right around the corner from the Majestic)and the Strand on lower Smith Street. I remember my dad talking about the Crescent (about where the Coney Island Lunch is) and the Diptmis(spelling?) which was across the street from the old high school. That theater burned down in the late 40’s, I believe. I remember going to the Strand and the Royal to see the Sci-Fi movies of the 50’s including Godzilla, Rodan and 20 Million Miles to Earth. The last movie I saw at the Majestic was “Paint Your Wagon”. I worked twice at the Majestic as a projectionist in the mid 70’s when she became a porno house. The “party room” (a sound proof room with a window facing the screen, below the balconey) was converted into a 16mm booth. The 35mm remained upstairs..about 8 stories from street level!!