The first of an upcoming series of Joel’s overlooked personal favorite places, events and other things that should be better known.
What is it?
A palatial movie theater.
Where is it hidden?
In Jersey City, New Jersey.
Why is it a treasure?
The screen is huuuge. Like, very huge. That-aquatic-dinosaur-in-Jurassic World-that-dwarfs-a-whale huge. While some IMAX and similar screens may be larger, the sheer feeling of an entire building devoted to one humongous screen is like nowhere else.
Popcorn and drinks are a dollar each. With tickets usually going for $8 (less for double or triple features!), there’s no better value for a dropped Hamilton.
The building is unique and historic.
It dates back to 1929! Built just before the stock market crash, the last pre-Great Derpession moment when lavish building for a mass audience was economically feasible, it maintains much of its original style. Much of the facade still needs fixing up from decades of disrepair, but the core functions of a theater are fully operational, and the twist on the original grandeur makes it perfect for an Addams family reunion (which actually was a theme this past Halloween!)
How did I find it?
I knew about it for a while (I’d sometimes seen flyers for its upcoming screenings at NYC theaters such as Film Forum), but it was the closing of Manhattan’s Ziegfeld theater in early 2016 that spurred me to check it out.
Why is it hidden?
It’s a little out of the way of the NYC-focused revival theater circuit, and not as hip as the Alamo Drafthouse theaters in Yonkers and Brooklyn. As a non-commercial theater, it doesn’t do current releases or have big marketing campaigns. (Then again, the Ziegfeld was neglected when it was run like a typical big-chain commercial theater in its later years.)
And unfortunately, it lacks a working air conditioning system, so it has to take a summer break during peak moviegoing season.
What is the path to the treasure? Well, literally a PATH, since it’s across the street from the Journal Square PATH station. “JSQ” is part of a subway line (though not part of the “NYC subway” system, another reason it’s quasi-“hidden”) that bridges New Jersey and Manhattan and connects to various transit systems.
There is one last movie screening tonight before the summer break — The Red Shoes at 7PM — and the building will be open for the JCArts Annual Year-End Gallery Show.