NJ – Jersey City: Journal Square – Loew’s Theater
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The Loew’s Jersey Theatre opened in Jersey City on September 28, 1929. It was one of five Loew’s Wonder Theatres, a series of flagship movie palaces of movie theater baron Marcus Loew, and the only one built outside of New York City. The others were the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre in Manhattan, now called the United Palace Theatre; Loew’s King’s Theatre in Brooklyn; Loew’s Paradise Theatre in the Bronx; and Loew’s Valencia Theatre in Queens. It was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places (#85003617) in 1985, and the New Jersey State Register of Historic Places on August 15, 1985.
The Loews Jersey was designed in Baroque/Rococo-style by acclaimed theatre architectural firm, Rapp and Rapp. Built on land purchased from the Pennsylania Railroad, initial construction costs were a lavish for their time, million. With a seating capacity of 3,300, the Loews Jersey opened the film Madame X, a live musical performance by Ben Black and his Rhythm Kings and the Loew’s Symphony Orchestra, at 35-cents a ticket.
A magnificent Seth Thomas clock is mounted atop an intricate terra cotta facade. A bigger-than-life mechanical St. George on Horseback slays a dragon at the cue of the sounding of the hourly bells. A large vertical sign once rose on the righthand tower of the building’s face, and a large marquee with interchangeable lettering sits over the entrance. The Italian Baroque interior, decked in marble, bronze cystal and gold leaf brocade, features an enormous three-story oval lobby with a grand chandelier, a promenade, and green marble columns supporting the rotunda. Restroom facilities on the second level feture elaborate decoration and area for makeup application and socialization.
The enormous domed Rococo auditorium is laid out with approximately 1,500 seats and 37 rows on a sloping orchestra level, divided into sections by two aisles, and an additional 1,800 seats on a steeply sloped balcony. The stage is equipped with a full counterweighted fly system with the 50-foot wide screen. A three-segement orchestra pit fronts the stage. The left segment contains an independent organ lift, designed for the original 4 manual/23 rank Robert Morton "Wonder Morton" pipe organ. The remaining width of the pit also rises, lifting the orchestra up to stage level. The third segment is an integrated piano lift in the center of the orchestra lift that can either rise independently or with the orchestra lift. Beneath the stage sit two levels of dressing rooms, along with a trap room and rehearsal hall.
In 1974, the Loew’s Corporation had the theatre subdivided into three smaller theatres. Two were created on the ground floor with a wall in the center aisle of the auditorium extending from the lobby entrance to just beyond the balcony and a wall across the width connecting the dividing center wall to the auditorium’s outer walls. The third theatre seated patrons in the balcony watching the original screen. In an effort to reduce cleaning efforts and expenses, the seating on the ground floor that was no longer accessible was stripped and disposed of. The pipe organ was also removed from the theatre.
The theatre closed in August 1986, with a final showing of Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. The Loew’s Corporation sold it to a real estate development company, who announced demolition plans. Preservationists campaigned to save the structure and it was subsequently sold to the city of Jersey City. The Loews remained closed from through 1996, while volunteers restored it to its original design. The Garden State Theatre Organ Society acquired a sister pipe organ, originally installed at the Loew’s Paradise theatre, and installed it in the orhcestra.
In addition to hosting private events, The Loews Jersey presents a wide range of public programming. Film weekends are generally held one weekend a month from September through June. The stage has hosted hosted opera performances, touring productions, and concerts, by artists like Beck and The Decemberists. The Trans-Siberia Orchestra recorded one of their popular Christmas albums in the Loew’s Jersey. The Loew’s Jersey is also a popular venue for film and photography shoots. The lobby served as the disco in the Whit Stillman’s film The Last Days of Disco, and the climax setting for the Gabrielle Union-Morris Chestnut tritefest, The Perfect Holiday.