Stories and Announcements
Looking Back AND Forward With FOL
At The End of 2020
We’re hoping that all Loew’s patrons and supporters and even people who are just a little curious about this big Theatre on Journal Square will take a few moments to read the following. We think it can give everyone a hopeful feeling as we look to 2021:
Every year at this time, Friends of the Loew’s puts up a collection of photos highlighting all that we did in the course of the past year to pursue the various goals that evolved out of the first, and most basic goal FOL took on and, ultimately, achieved years ago – saving the Theatre when it had been scheduled for demolition. Among those goals we continue to pursue: preserve and restore the Loew’s; give as many people as possible the opportunity to enjoy the Theatre; pursue diverse programing including affordable shows and events; promote local arts and young artists; provide volunteer opportunities for hands-on involvement in both historic preservation and the operation of a major arts venue; and generally be an asset to our community.
But of course, this is 2020, which means for theaters and so many other businesses and activities there were months of no, or at best, very limited operations.
So as we take a backward glance at a year many of us would rather mostly forget, we just don’t have a lot of pictures to show. But FOL can take some satisfaction in the fact that within the limitations and contortions wrought by the pandemic, we did find at least some ways to continue pursuing our goals:In the late spring and early summer, we used the Theatre’s big marquee to salute the graduating classes of Jersey City high schools and colleges that had lost out on commencement ceremonies thanks to the virus. Later, we made the Lobby into a training center for Census workers. We worked with a neighboring restaurant to allow it to set up outdoor dining in the concourse next to the Theatre in the warm weather. After the worst of the first wave of COVID in our area, we resumed limited volunteer work to maintain and improve the Loew’s – during this time, a team of our volunteer techs even found a way to revive our digital projector, which a year before had white-screened and been consigned to the electronic graveyard. In the fall when New Jersey allowed theaters to reopen to very limited capacity, we resumed our classic film screenings, albeit with some modifications; one of our volunteer staffers even created an advance ticket sales system to ensure we didn’t exceed the State-specified maximum audience size of 150 and also that, if the need arose, we could do contact tracing. And at the end of a year when want has become so severe, because of the generosity of our patrons, FOL was again able to collect toys for needy children.
We’re very honored and proud that so many people who have come to screenings since we were allowed to resume them went out of their way to thank FOL and our volunteers and say how important being able to enjoy a film and spend time in the Loew’s is to them – especially now, when so much else we all take for granted is still off limits.
Looking ahead, there is reason to hope. Of course, for everyone this includes the scientific advancements that we’re counting on to bring the virus under control, end the pandemic and start the return to normality. And for the Loew’s in particular, the dedication and resiliency of FOL and our volunteers, and the loyalty of our patrons and supporters – who to be honest, have faced and overcome a lot of difficulties in the decades since FOL was founded to save the Theatre from planned demolition – will carry through.
But in a year with a narrative that was dominated the world over by pandemic, there was also a much more hopeful storyline at the Loew’s. For several years, FOL and Jersey City’s Administration had been working toward finding a mutually agreeable plan for the Theatre’s future. Both agreed that the Loew’s needs more restoration and improvements, and once that’s done it should host a much-expanded schedule of major commercial acts. But FOL was also dedicated to upholding our other goals too, including continued volunteer involvement and making sure the Loew’s never becomes just another pop-concert hall by ensuring that as many people as possible can enjoy and benefit from the Theatre in any given season. For years, the plan was that all of this would be pursued in a traditional arts center format. But the Administration was concerned about that approach, so FOL and the City were trying to define an alternative way forward.
In the latter half of 2019 a concrete plan began to take shape out of this effort. Two entities would partner in the Loew’s: FOL would continue to curate local, affordable and most nonprofit programming and events – including film; would continue volunteer participation in both the operation and ongoing preservation of the Loew’s; would be the conservators of the Theatre’s history and protected architecture; and, of course, would be headquartered in the Theatre, though the idea of also creating a second smaller performance venue attached or very close to the Loew’s would be a possibility. Meanwhile, a for-profit operator would handle major commercial shows and events, and would be required to use some of the revenue it generates to maintain the Theatre, pay overhead and also help support FOL activities.
By early 2020, both the City and FOL felt we were just about there in this planning, and ready to bring a major commercial operator that had previously expressed interest in the Loew’s on board under those terms. But a last-minute regulatory concern caused the City to determine it needed to do a formal bid process for a commercial operator. That meant even more preparatory work for the City and FOL to create an RFP, craft supporting documents, prepare for site tours, etc. And then, little more than two weeks after this development, the pandemic hit – throwing so much of the planet, very much including the entertainment industry and arts world, into uncharted territory.
But FOL and the City pressed on, and in June the RFP was finally ready, and Mayor Steven Fulop came to the Loew’s to formally announce it. On that occasion the Mayor spoke eloquently not just about the importance of the Loew’s, but also of FOL and our vital ongoing mission. Colin Egan of FOL talked of how an effective partnership had grown as the Administration and FOL worked to develop the plan for the Loew’s and the RFP to pursue it, and said how much he believed good things for the Loew’s and Jersey City would continue to come from it.
The RFP was issued, but the ongoing upheaval in the entertainment industry caused by COVID continues to slow progress. That will not, however, last forever.
Admittedly, some people fear that the arts and entertainment industry will not come back. Without question, artists and venues are hurting badly right now, and need help just to survive this fraught moment. But the arts and entertainment are fundamental to human nature and society, so they will recover, and likely quickly once the virus has been caged. The Loew’s itself offers proof of this — what was arguably the first real movie palace (the Chicago Theatre) opened in 1921, just two years after the end of the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919. By then, live theatre and the movies were already flourishing again, and continued to do so throughout the decade, with thousands of theaters big and small being built across the country. And in 1929, a mere decade after the end of the Spanish Flu, the Loew’s Jersey opened.
Art and entertainment WILL thrive again this time too. So we can look forward to better days, beginning hopefully as soon as later in 2021. And that will include more progress in carrying forward FOL’s and the City’s plan for the Loew’s. We’ll be sure to keep everyone apprised as things move along in that department.
But just to be clear – that will not mean a diminution in the role of, and need for FOL. Quite the opposite, actually – since it will be up to us to ensure that preservation work is done right, that volunteers and the community remain engaged, and that the Loew’s can always continue to be what it needs to be – a place where everyone is welcome, enjoys the arts, and feels special.
FOL thanks all the patrons and donors who have helped support FOL throughout 2020. Now at the close of this most difficult year, we hope you will consider an end-of-year, tax deductible contribution to help FOL continue our mission.
Thank you. Stay safe. And see you in the New 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.