New York's Far-Flung Theaters

Outré cinephilia with the bridge-and-tunnel set

The Kings has recently been earmarked for a $70 million restoration by Houston-based ACE Theatrical Group to make it over as a concert venue, but the Jersey has been resuscitated entirely through the elbow grease of the Friends of the Loew's, born of the enthusiasm of Colin Egan and Pattie Giordan, who organized to undo the building's '70s triplexing and regild the crumbling plaster.

Sometimes the nostalgic are right: Loew’s Jersey Theatre
Courtesy Friends of the Loew’s
Sometimes the nostalgic are right: Loew’s Jersey Theatre

"What really does set the Loew's apart is that every aspect of the restoration of the past 15-odd years has all been a volunteer effort," says Melissa Skolnick, a participant of two and a half years. "There's just a core group that comes back every weekend. The people who fixed that organ came every weekend for a decade to fix that organ. It could not be more of a labor of love. I literally showed up at their door, and I wanted to help. And instead of just giving me a job, Colin talked to me for hours about the theater and the history of the theater, and they really make you feel a part of the process—then he gave me a bucket and a sponge, and I scrubbed the floor of the balcony for about a year. They create an atmosphere where everybody feels like you're not just restoring a theater, you're restoring a bygone form of American democracy. I kid you not, these are the speeches I've heard. It could not be more Capra-esque." And so stands the Loew's, a monument to a moment when the working class could enjoy a 35-cent interlude among the grandiose—like each of these outsider theaters, out of step with the march of time while defiantly alive.

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