Movie House of Worship: Jersey City’s Loew’s Jersey Theatre

By  · Published on September 30th, 2012

“Movie House of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, with help from guest cinephile Ellen Bliss, we look at an historic landmark cinema currently run not for profit. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor.

Name: The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre

Location: 54 Journal Square, Jersey City, New Jersey

Opened: September 28, 1929, as one of the state’s largest movie palaces. Reopened in 2001 for its current operation as a restored landmark and not-for-profit cinema and special event venue. For a history of the ups and downs of the building, see the theater’s website.

No. of screens: 1 (with a balcony-adorned auditorium seating more than 3,000)

Current first run titles: None. The Loew’s Jersey is no longer a first-run movie theater.

Repertory programming: Classics and second-run independents are the usual fare for the cinema, such as this weekend’s special showings of Marnie, Dr. No and Goldfinger. However, the programming appears to be on special occasion at the moment rather than daily.

Special Events: Movies are not the only offering here, and one highlighted special event of the future is a weekend-long festival of live theater and other performance pieces called STAGEfest, which happens in March of 2013. Concerts, weddings and other events are held here on a special or rented-out basis.

Why I worship here: “I don’t anymore, but I wish I could, especially this weekend. Marnie, Dr. No, and Goldfinger – a Sean Connery overdose is a good thing!

“By the time I was old enough to go to the movies, the Loews was a pretty tired old theatre. The ruby red carpets, once lush and fit for film stars to walk upon, now had paths worn into them from nearly forty years of heels and sneakers treading across them. The gold leaf was a little more than cracked, and the marble statues were dusty. Even though I was just a kid, I recognized its majesty, and every time I saw a movie there it felt like I was a guest at a palace, which I guess I was. No wonder no one ever raised their voices at the movies back then.

“I live out of state now, but one of these days, when I get “home” for a visit, I will be the first in line, and I will be there early to savor the beauty of that theatre.” (Ellen Bliss)

Why you should worship here: “It’s beautiful, it’s historic, and it’s cheap! You’ll feel like royalty sitting in a palace watching old favorites and future favorites. Oh, and did I mention the Wonder Morton Organ?

“A short “tube” ride from Manhattan, the Loews Jersey is easily accessible by public transportation from New York and northern New Jersey. Go already!” (Ellen Bliss)

Recent screening of note: In January of this year, actress Piper Laurie appeared at the theater for a double feature of The Hustler and Carrie. Photos of the event can be seen here.

Devotion to the concessions: “Nothing elaborate here, but the popcorn is made fresh for every show and at $1 a box, it won’t break the bank. Soda and water are also just a $1; boxed candy comes in at $2.” (Ellen Bliss)

Last word: Loew’s Jersey is operated by the non-profit organization Friends of the Loew’s and run with the help of volunteers. Here is their statement on the need to continue the venue as a cinema along with its many other purposes:

At the Loew’s, film presentations must be a significant part of programming along with stage productions – not merely to honor the Theatre’s heritage as a Movie Palace but because “the movies” are the medium through which many people, especially young people, are most comfortable discovering and exploring for the first time the various performing arts.

Ellen Bliss is a cinephile and displaced Jersey girl.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.