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.
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, 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 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.