Loew’s Wonder Theatres – Loew’s Jersey

The Loew’s Jersey Theatre is one of the five Loew’s Wonder Theaters in the NY area. It was designed by architectural firm Rapp and Rapp like Kings Theatre, their sister theater. The Jersey theater opened to the public in 1929 in Journal Square, Jersey City. The building is built in Baroque/Rocco style. In 2009 it was designated a New Jersey Registered Historic Site. You met the sister theatre in our post here.

The theatre was turned into a triplex in 1974 and closed it’s doors in 1986. When it opened, Journal Square was a popular shopping and entertainment district.

It cost $2 million to construct in 1929 and seated 3,021 people.

The whitish line you see in the upper right is from a divider. After it’s heyday, the movie theatre was divided up into a few movie screening rooms.

Not all the seats are the same. They are working on installing theater seats in the future.

 

This theatre, unlike it’s sister in Brooklyn, still needs a lot of TLC. It’s an ongoing work and we met the volunteers who take pride in preserving and resurrecting the Jersey Theater to it’s splendor. It was nice listening to their restoration process. I dropped my phone in a toilet and lost all my notes from the past few tours we went on so I don’t have all the details.

The theatre is in the process of restoration and is an ongoing project. You can see water damage.

The theatre, like the other 4, were built to show movies and live performances. That’s what it was like going to the movies back in the day. People got all decked out for a day at the movies.

The volunteer was so excited to show us the lowering of the screen. It was nice hearing the passion and love he has for the theater. He was like a little kid showing off the elevator stage.

The volunteer took us all on a ride on the stage lift in the orchestral pit.

In 1974, the building was subdivided into a triplex. You can see the marks on floor and ceiling where the walls once stood. The last movie they aired before closing their doors was Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

Loew’s sold the building to Hartz Mountain who had plans to demolish the building but preservationists saved it and the building ended up getting sold to Jersey City.

From 1986 to 1996 the theater was closed so preservation could begin. Vandalism and other objects being taken occurred. The lack of maintenance, heating, humidity control, electrical services, etc., led to the building’s deterioration.

I can’t remember what happened to their original organ but the one you see today is it’s sister organ from Loew’s Paradise.

The tour took us into the projection room. It was really cool learning about the different types of film and material they were made of. My great granduncle worked as a projectionist in the early 1900s in Wisconsin. I didn’t know how volatile nitrate film is. It could combust easily and the theaters were built with a system to try and contain the fire. The guy in the theater told me that during my great grand uncle’s time, film was dangerous.

At the top of the building is a Seth Thomas animated clock. The statues are Saint George and a dragon. The dragon used to have a red bulb in it’s mouth representing fire and every quarter hour the statues would become animated – Saint George would tilt and appear to spear the dragon.

Friends of Loew’s is a group of people whose passion for the movies & history spared this gem from demolition. They still have struggles with Jersey City to preserve it. Real Estate is tricky and developers and big money tend to always win. Friend’s of Loew’s would like the theatre to serve the community as a non-profit arts and entertainment center. Every once in a while, they have movie showings on Saturdays.

If you’d like to go on a tour of the building, check out NY Adventure Club’s schedule, they host this one from time to time. They are one of our favorite NYC tour companies.

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12 thoughts on “Loew’s Wonder Theatres – Loew’s Jersey

    1. Thanks! I’m still going thru all the Canada and Seattle ones. Sometimes I snap a pic but I just put it under his name now. I get lazy to mark them under me. We’ve been craving dumplings ever since eating with you!

    1. Thanks! We just love these old theatres. I went to a new movie theater at the Seaport, it’s not this grand just modern nice. I’m so glad they have these things open to the public sometimes, it makes it easier to understand what my Dad was talking about.

  1. Seeing another theater with grand decor like this , makes me think how today theaters are much less of the place compared to these grand ones. I am wonder because back then going to a theater was probably a big thing than today.

  2. What a gorgeous theater! I’m glad that people want to save that place. I’d love to see the St. George and the Dragon clock work again.

    I also love seeing old mechanical vending machines like that chewing gum dispenser midway in your post. I’m old enough to remember putting a quarter in a machine like that to buy a package of Wrigley’s Double Mint Gum. (We used to be able to buy it for 20 cents at the grocery store, which is why my father used to yell at us for buying gum from a machine. He didn’t get how fun it was to pull the lever and see the gum fall out of the slot.)

    1. I wanna see St George so bad but we never get around to it. Love, love these old spaces.

      I love the vending machines at the supermarket. They have them at one of the Chinese restaurants we go to w Vic’s family. I have to make sure the nephews aren’t watching me buy stuff from them or they’ll go crazy and want them too (they have a ton already).

  3. You have invented a time machine because you just took me back to when I was a little girl more than half a century ago (yes, I’m THAT old). I grew up in southern California about an hour’s drive (back then….traffic now makes it more like two hours). A couple of times a year we would get dressed up…my sister and I wearing little white gloves, black patent leather shoes with white ankle socks and dresses that our mother had painstakingly made (I didn’t have a store bought dress till I was well into high school). My mother would pull down a hatbox off the shelf and take out one of her lovely hats that she hardly wore. My dad in a suit and hat drove us to a district in downtown Los Angeles that had all the old movie palaces. As you can see from the pictures in this blog they deserved the name palace.
    I remember walking down a staircase like the one pictured to get to the ladies room which was fit for Cleopatra and a lady in a maids uniform would hand you a warm white towel to dry your hands on. It was really a special day out for the family.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    1. You are welcome! Loved hearing your childhood story – thanks for sharing! It’s funny, I’m not really into dressing up but I wouldn’t mind going to an event at a place like this all dolled up. Vic and I feel like a lot of people don’t appreciate things anymore. Being able to see the treater up close was amazing. There’s another Loew’s on Canal St and it’s not landmarked or anything. It was converted to a store for a long while and I’m hoping the owner restores it and turns it into an art center. I read they wanted to but we know that restoration, etc can break even their bank. Hope it works out in the future for them and that building. Just love these buildings, they have so much more character and personality.

  4. Such an elegant and masterful place ~ what a true theatre should feel like. And then your beautiful contrasts to what lies behind the scenes makes it so much more real. Fantastic post. There is hope that the elegance of the past will not be forgotten, because it is valuable for us to reflect and remember. You always seem able to uncover something special 🙂

    1. Thanks! Love these theaters. There’s one near my mom that I keep hoping gets turned into an art center but that’s been in limbo for years. It really does feel like we are stepping back in time when we walk into one of these.

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