Monday, May 24, 2010
Old Home Week Continues...
May has been the month in which I re-established contact with many old friends and acquaintances, Highlighted by my high school reunion. Another friend I haven't seen in twenty years was someone I knew in art school. We were really good friends in our freshmen foundation year but slowly lost contact in the ensuing years.
Facebook got us in contact with each other again. And as per usual with facebook it was a challenge to actually get together. The catalyst was a movie theater in Jersey City at Journal Square.
Loew's Jersey Theatre was was part of series of theater palaces built by Loews called Wonder Theatres. These were very elaborate movie/entertainment structures with huge capacities that were jewels of movie exhibitions for decades. Of course with the advent of television these buildings started to show its age and were not able to sustain itself. attempts to expand the screens from one to two and even four only delayed the closing for a few years. By the late 80's all these theaters had stopped running first run movies. Loews Jersey in Journal square closed in 1986 with Friday The 13th Part IV being the last movie.
Talk about ending on a whimper.
It was sold to a real estate developer who intended to tear it down and build a new structure. Luckily a grass roots effort prevented this and it was sold back to the city and after initial refurbishing it slowly started to renovate the building to its former glory. It's an arduous task but the renovation has gone well enough to appreciate the faded spectacular beauty of the theater.
It's an all volunteer effort. Volunteers contributed skilled and unskilled labor to the effort. It's fixed up enough to present movies and live shows. An antique organ was brought into the theater to replace one long gone. It rises and sinks into the floor which is a real treat for a modern audience not used to the showmanship of an earlier era.
Anyway, My friend and I were trying to get our schedule together to meet up for a movie. They don't show too many movies. They only shows three movies over one weekend a month from October to June. Neither my friend nor my schedule fit each others but finally last Saturday we were able to see the movie "Blazing Saddles" for 6 dollars. My friend had been there before but I had not.
Back when I lived in Jersey City the theater was shut down but still look impressive even boarded up. I had always wanted to see what it looked like on the inside. When I finally entered the building I was enthralled. Yes, Loews Jersey has seen better days but what I saw was spellbinding. ceiling as high as the eye can see, Beautiful chandeliers hanging in many places in the lobby. Grand staircases flowing up both sides of the lobby with amazing details. The ceilings! Oh my the ceilings with so much craftsmanship I can't give it justice trying to explain it.
The balcony was closed but no matter. The ground level screen room is huge and features some of the seating that was in the theater when it closed. Too bad because we have gotten fatter as a nation since then. The ceilings in the theater room were less elaborate than the lobby but just as spectacular. It featured cutouts which combined creative lighting with subtle painting that gives the illusion that you are looking up to the naked sky.
The movie was fine, Blazing Saddles is a great movie. A few glitches in the film presentation added to the charm of the DIY approach the volunteers who have kept this theater opened have contributed.
I recommend anyone who lives in Jersey City or nearby to go to the Jersey Loews website or visit the theater and see a show. the next set of shows will be June 4th and June 5th. These will be the last shows before the theater shuts down for the summer due to the lack of AC in the premises. Support the cause, Help keep this theater open by attending shows, live and otherwise.