In Jersey City, New Jersey, the Loew’s Jersey is one of five “Wonder Theaters” built in the tristate area in the late 1920s by the Loew’s Corporation, which had created and owned MGM Studios and was, at the time, one of the most important presenters of both live stage shows and movies.
The five theatres were movie palaces: a unique building type which, somewhat belying its name, combined large seating capacities and some of the most ornate architecture ever built with then state-of-the-art movie projection capabilities and also stage and backstage facilities to support large touring shows.
The Loew’s Corporation spared little expense in building the five Wonder Theatres, making them exceptionally ornate and functionally capable compared even to many other movie palaces. The Loew’s Jersey cost $2,000,000 to build; a very large sum at the time.
Now, on February 22, 2021, Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop announced a new partnership with Devils Arena Entertainment (DAE), the largest purveyor of entertainment in New Jersey and operator of Prudential Center, to move forward on a unique $72 million agreement for the transformative restoration of the historic Loew’s Theatre.
The revitalization intends to transform the century-old theatre into a state-of-the-art 3,300-seat venue to attract both superstar and up-and-coming performing artists, serve as an engine of economic development and hub for the local Journal Square community, and expand Jersey City’s growing reputation as an arts destination in New Jersey.
“The Loew’s restoration is decades in the making, and so I am encouraged and excited to partner with Devils Arena Entertainment, a reputable entertainment company and operator of the globally successful Prudential Center, as we take this monumental step forward in our commitment to restoring Loew’s Theatre to its former glory, reviving Journal Square, and growing our arts community,” said Mayor Fulop.
“This one-of-a-kind partnership signifies our long-term planning for a post-pandemic future where we’re confident arts and culture will be a staple of life,” he added.
The majestic Loew’s Jersey will be an integral part of the revival and rehabilitation of the Journal Square area; Jersey City’s historic city center and one of the busiest transportation hubs in the region.
Once called “The Most Lavish Temple of Entertainment In New Jersey” when it opened in Jersey City more than 90 years ago, the Loew’s Theatre has remained underutilized for decades following various roadblocks until the Fulop Administration stepped in and worked with local residents and community group Friends of the Loew’s (FOL) with a united goal of reviving the local gem and uncovering its untapped potential.
“We look forward to actively working with JCRA to create the detailed redevelopment agreement that will harness DAE’s expertise in commercial show management and marketing while also implementing all that last summer’s RFP guaranteed to FOL,” said Colin Egan, Founder of Friends of the Loew’s.
“That agreement will continue FOL’s role as the non-profit arm of the Loew’s, so we’ll go on with our volunteer activities that bring direct community participation in the life and preservation of this landmark, maintain and grow our support for local arts and other non-profit groups, and provide affordable programming. Perhaps most importantly of all, we’ll continue to ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the Loew’s,” he continued.
Construction is expected to begin in 2022 with an anticipated opening in 2025. Part of the agreement ensures priority to hire local, MWBE firms to help revitalize the regional economy and get people back to work.
“The Loew’s Jersey Theatre is an iconic community treasure that has played a long, distinguished role as Jersey City’s premier arts and entertainment venue. The opportunity to partner with Mayor Fulop, the Friends of the Loew’s, and the local Journal Square community to revitalize this historic venue is a privilege for us,” said Hugh Weber, President of Devils Arena Entertainment.
“As the operator of the nearby Prudential Center, one of the top entertainment destinations in the United States, we know the importance that live performances play in galvanizing communities and stimulating economic activity. We envision Loew’s Jersey Theatre as a catalyst to help the citizens of Northern Jersey get back, literally, on their feet to celebrate world-class arts and music,” he added.
The rehabilitation and operation agreement ensures the DAE will work closely with Jersey City and Friends of the Loew’s to return the iconic theatre into the world-class centerpiece of arts and entertainment it once was. The $72 million deal looks to optimize venue performance for the artists and audiences, including:
- Modernization of technology with state-of-the-art visual and acoustic upgrades as well as concessions
and ticketing areas;
- Reconceptualization of ingress and egress at the back and front of the house to meet ADA requirements
and expand audience capacity;
- Major infrastructure improvements (HVAC, plumbing, code requirements, electrical upgrades); and
- Historic preservation of the stage lighting control board, pop-up microphone, and orchestra and
In its first years, the Loew’s hosted stage shows with some of the greatest stars of the 1930s, including Cab Calloway, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Duke Ellington. Movie stars including Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart and Jean Harlow made promotional appearances there. The Four Seasons gave a concert at the Loew’s in 1967.
In recent years, stars like Patti Labelle, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett, Yo La Tengo, Sufjan Stevens, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Decemberists, The Duprees, and Beck have graced the Loew’s stage. Authors George R. Martin and Stephen King, as well stars Nick Offerman, Anna Faris, and Bryan Cranston have all sat down to discuss their new books.
More recently, the Theatre has become a filming location for movies, television shows, and music videos. In 2018, the Loew’s was used for scenes in the film The Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix in an Academy Award-winning performance.
Once open, DAE will continue to work with Jersey City to provide another extraordinary resource in support of the surrounding community.
All images courtesy of Office of Mayor Steven M. Fulop.