Central Theatre

19 Central Avenue,
Passaic, NJ 07055

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Additional Info

Architects: Drew Eberson, John Adolph Emil Eberson

Styles: Streamline Moderne

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Central Theatre

This strikingly modern theatre was designed by John and Drew Eberson for the Fabian circuit and first opened in September 10, 1941, with a seating capacity for 2,400. Since the top Hollywood movies were already divided up between the city’s Capitol Theatre and Montauk Theatre, the Central Theatre’s main attraction was stage shows, with B-movies shown just as fillers. It was the height of the Big Band era, so the Central Theatre booked all the top entertainers of the time, starting with its opening bill of Charlie Spivak’s Orchestra and The Three Stooges.

The Central Theatre will always been remembered for bandleader Glenn Miller’s last American engagement before he left to entertain the troops in Europe and ended up being killed in a plane crash over the English Channel.

After WWII ended, the Central Theatre continued stage shows until it could no longer compete with the variety programs that people could watch free on newfangled television. The Central Theatre switched to movies exclusively. It was closed on September 25, 1979 with Ron O'Neal in “The Hitter” & Ling Chia in “Queen Boxer” (aka Chou).

Demolition proved to be diffucult due to the sturdiness of the building and it commenced in October 1979 and was completed in May 1980. It was replaced by a McDonald’s.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 53 comments)

pwolsko on September 10, 2011 at 12:58 am

I was an usher at the Central from 1961 until 1965. Other users I can recall were: Bob Laird, Richie Harris, Stan Freedman and Ostap Pruchninsky (sic). Managers were Rudy DeBlasio and Roger Nargi.Owner was Harry Hecht? (cannot quite recall) There was another fellow, Roger Prince..I forget his role at the theater – later became a cop in Passaic. Popcorn girl was Audrey Havriliak (her dad was a Byzantine Priest in Passaic. Electrician was John Graham? (memory fuzzy) I forget the names of the projectionists – they still used used carbon-arc projectors back then! Wish I has used my head and taken lots of pictures back then of the upstairs dressing rooms, etc…but I was young and dumb. There was an old guy who took wickets – short and I think his name was Saul. I remember the blind guy who sold newspapers at night in front of the Central – think his name was Joe, but it’s been many years now.

Michael  Sopoliga
Michael Sopoliga on July 17, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I along with my sister were in many dance recitals held there. Dotty Locker and Walter Kormin Dance Studios were the two we danced in back in the late 50’s. Like others, too bad I didn’t take more pictures of the place!

dwill123 on August 20, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I saw Pink Floyd here in 1971. Much nicer concert venue than the Capitol just around the block.

frapol on October 16, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Just found this site. Was an usher in late 50’s with Pete Noto and Andy Abdul. DeBalsio was the manager with Mr.O'Brian and Mr. Gerard. Rodger Nargi replaced one of them.Jane Palko was the popcorn girl.Loved the blue clock in the corner. Hope someone saved it. Sweep up alot of spilled popcorn and saw some good movies.

CSWalczak on October 16, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Scroll down to see two pictures of the Central from 1968 on this webpage.

Most of the links to pictures in the preceding omments are dead; perhaps some fans of this theater could help find some, especially of the interior.

BobFurmanek on January 4, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Seventy years ago, on January 4, 1943, the “Voice that Thrilled Millions” aired the first broadcast of his daily CBS radio show. Only three months earlier, Frank Sinatra had first appeared as a solo artist the week of October 8, 1942 at the Central Theater in Passaic, NJ. He played a return engagement at the Passaic showplace two months later starting the week of December 17, 1942. These are important and represent two significant moments in Frank’s career: On September 8, he made his final appearance with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, so his first appearance at the Central was only one month into his career as a solo artist.

The December 17 booking is significant because, only two weeks later on December 30, he opened as an “Extra Added Attraction” with Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee at the New York Paramount Theatre. This was the legendary gig with thousands of screaming girls in the audience and Times Square. Sinatra appeared for ten weeks, shattering all records at the 3,664 seat showplace. Billboard noted in their January 9 review, “Boyish appearance and mannerisms all catnip for the ladies.”

While the Paramount engagement is considered his official debut as a solo artist, these two Central Theatre gigs are significant during this transitional point. His life – and career – would never be the same again.

clevergems on February 16, 2013 at 1:31 am

Just an update as I am in possession of a Ticket for the inaugeral performance and it is dated 9/10/1941 not 1940

rivest266 on November 4, 2018 at 10:37 pm

This opened on September 10th, 1941. Grand opening ad in the photo section. clevergems, how about uploading that ticket here.

dallasmovietheaters on February 21, 2019 at 9:09 pm

Closed on September 25, 1979 with “The Hitter” and “Queen Boxer.” The theatre proved challenging to raze and was demolished from October of 1979 to May of 1980.

rivest266 on March 12, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Another grand opening ad posted, this time from the Hearld-News.

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