“The only thing standing between you and a watery grave is your wits, and that’s not my idea of adequate protection.” – Humphrey Bogart in Beat the Devil
I feel so grateful that one of the great movie palaces still in existence is in my own backyard and is still an operating theater. Loew’s Jersey City, which opened in 1929, is a monument not only to the great architecture of old movie theaters, but also to the importance and almost religious intensity of the movie going experience in the pre-TV/pre-multiplex era. Before movie theaters became sad little plastic boxes, they were grand tributes to the communal pleasure and artistic relevance of American Cinema; proud buildings that reflected the primacy of the movie going experience in our culture.
The Loew’s Jersey City has been partially restored and shows at least three films a month on its massive screen. If you’re a New Yorker who cares about film, you should visit the Loew’s one Saturday night and watch a double feature. Last week a few friends and I went to see John Huston’s Beat the Devil there. Their programming is smart and fun. Other recent films we’ve seen there include Shanghai Express (1932), Goldfinger (1964), and Top Hat (1935).
If you want to understand what going to the movies used to mean, it’s important to see old films in their proper context: projected on large screens with audiences, preferably in an old theater. There is something about seeing a classic film in a breathtaking old theater that is pure magic.