Stories and Announcements
There was good news about the Loew’s yesterday – and it’s even BETTER than some folks may realize.
As news outlets reported, yesterday the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency conditionally designated the company that owns the Devils and manages the Prudential Center as the commercial operator of the Loew’s. And as part of the plan, more that $70 million dollars will be found to fully restore the Theatre, bring it into full code compliance, and completely upgrade its production capabilities.
But not all the news stories about this made clear one more important part of the plan: Friends of the Loew’s isn’t going anywhere. We will continue doing much of what we do now, still very much part of the Loew’s.
In fact, we’ll be the non-profit arm of the Theatre’s expanded operation. And our most important role is to make sure that as many people as possible continue to have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the Loew’s – even if they can’t afford, or don’t want tickets to expensive pop concerts.
Now, FOL has always said that such shows have to be a part of programming at the Loew’s, and one reason the Theatre needs more renovations is to make presenting them easier. But it’s no secret that FOL opposed an effort some years ago that we felt would have turned the Loew’s into nothing but a pop-concert venue without the kind of affordable and varied programming and community involvement that it has now. That wouldn’t have been right because the Loew’s was built to be EVERYONE’S palace – an iconic landmark everyone can enjoy and feel welcome in. Plus, the local arts scene deserves a showplace like the Loew’s.
Fortunately, despite this difficult start, FOL and Mayor Fulop came to have a better appreciation of where the other was coming from. And a couple years ago, the City and FOL turned the page and began to work together to find the right way forward for the Loew’s. At first the idea was to work out a comprehensive plan with the promoter that the City had previously wanted to bring in, and a lot of effort went in to doing that. But unfortunately, it was eventually determined that redevelopment law required a full RFP process before the City and FOL could partner with a for-profit entity.
However, the effort of putting together that comprehensive plan wasn’t wasted. Mayor Fulop guaranteed that what had been identified as necessary by FOL to ensure the proper restoration of the Loew’s and give as many people as possible the chance to enjoy and benefit from the Theatre would be included in whatever agreement eventually emerged.
So during most of last Spring, FOL worked closely with JCRA to help fashion a new RFP, which Mayor Fulop formally announced in a July press conference held in the Loew’s lobby. During the rest of the Summer, together with Eric Holtermann of HMR architects who has been the Loew’s preservation architect for years, FOL took prospective respondents on tours of the Loew’s.
Unfortunately, as we all now know all too well, the pandemic has been even more long-lasting and worse than most expected at first, and it has caused a disruption in the entertainment business the like of which hasn’t been seen in a hundred years. That unavoidably was an obstacle to getting as many responses to the RFP as was originally hoped. But three proposal were received, and FOL was part of a joint committee with the JCRA and City that reviewed them. The proposal made by the Devils / Prudential Center group was by far the most comprehensive. And in response to the RFP, it expressed a strong desire to work with FOL.
Yesterday’s designation of the group as conditional redeveloper was an important step in the still unfolding process, and it will now be followed by negotiations to create a detailed agreement that, among other things, honors and memorializes all the guarantees outlined to FOL in the RFP. As Mayor Fulop said, the agreement will be shaped to include what FOL previously defined as necessary to ensure the best preservation and operation of the Loew’s. And because JCRA continues to recognize FOL’s unique knowledge of the Loew’s and understanding of how to best proceed, it is giving FOL an active role in those negotiations. And at the same time, the City will continue to identify funding sources for the coming full restoration and upgrade of the Theatre.
So what do we mean when we say FOL will be the non-profit arm of the expanded Loew’s operation?
Among other things, it will be our role to create / book diverse and affordable programming that will include shows by local and regional arts organizations, educational and young peoples’ programs, community-focused events, film – of course! – and more. And we’ll run concessions at our events to make sure they’re affordable too. Every year there will be more than 50 days of this non-profit programming by FOL. In addition, we’ll even present a half dozen or so commercial events a year to help round out the Theatre’s offerings.
FOL will also have oversight of the planning and implementation of the restoration work, in concert with Eric Holtermann and others from HMR who will continue as the Theatre’s preservation architects and who, like us, have years of experience with, and dedication to the Theatre. We’ll be the keepers of the Theatre’s history – archiving, documenting and publicizing it. FOL will have our offices in the Theatre.
And importantly, FOL will continue the active volunteer programs that have become a signature way of involving the community in the life of the Loew’s. We’ll still need volunteers to help keep our shows and concessions affordable and to continue the signature patron experience many of the people who come to our shows enjoy. But even in terms of preservation, though we don’t expect we’ll have to ask volunteers to do quite as much in terms of restoration thanks to the promised $70+ million work, ongoing preservation and minor repairs – including periodic inspections, cleaning of historic surfaces, and the recurring need to touch up ornately painted walls — is both something very important the Theatre will always need and an excellent way to keep giving people the rare opportunity to have hands-on participation in the preservation of a significant landmark.
So the good news about the Loew’s is VERY good news at this juncture. We’ll keep you updated as the crucial next steps proceed.
We’d be remiss if we did not close with thanks to Mayor Fulop and JCRA for working closely with FOL as we move toward achieving all of our goals for the Loew’s. And County Commissioner Bill O’Dea, who is also one of the original advocates for saving the Loew’s and a long-time FOL Board member, deserves a shout out for his hard work in keeping the process moving. It goes without saying we are always grateful for the ongoing backing of FOL’s patrons and supporters who help us accomplish what most people think is impossible – and please don’t stop! FOL and the Loew’s will always need your support. (And a long-distance thanks to former Jersey City Business Administrator Brian Platt who worked hard on behalf of the Loew’s before moving on at the beginning of the year.)
Masks must be worn above the nose in the Theatre at all times except when eating & drinking concessions.
Distancing is required when in line.
Only alternate rows in the auditorium will be used, and patrons who are not part of one party will be expected to sit at least two seats apart.
Hand sanitizer will be available at multiple stations in the Loew’s.
Doors, handrails, etc. will be periodically wiped down by Theatre staff during events.
Information from ticket sales will be provided to official contact tracers should the need arise.
The Theatre will make every effort to have the auditorium ready and open at the time patrons start to enter the building so as to reduce the need to congregate in the Lobby.
Leaving and re-entering the building between multiple screenings will be allowed to help reduce wait lines and congregating in the Lobby, provided patrons keep proof of ticket purchase.
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Friends of the Loew’s believes that The Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre must serve its community as a not-for-profit arts and entertainment center that increases the visibility and role of the performing arts in the lives of the diverse peoples who live in Hudson County and our whole region. It must strive to present a broad spectrum of quality programming that breaks down preconceived divisions between different performance disciplines — artificial divisions that prevent many people, especially young people, from thoroughly exploring and enjoying the rich diversity of performance art. This programming must highlight the best accomplishments of American popular stage and motion picture arts.