Remembering the Newsreel Theatre

by Nat Bodian


Downtown Newark had more than a dozen theatres in the 1930s and 1940s, but the oddest and smallest among them was the Newsreel Theatre.

As I remember it, it was very narrow and had perhaps 100-150 seats. It was a located on the ground floor of the City Investment Bldg. At 800 Broad Street, next door to the American Shops men’s clothing store, and a few steps from the Belmore Cafeteria.

I recall visiting the Newsreel Theatre many times in those years when I had an hour to kill, or when the showings featured some major news happening that captured my interest.

To those too young to remember what the newsreels were, they were filmed happenings of the day, and, at most regular movie houses, they were included with feature offerings as an extra, usually before the Coming Attractions.

But at Newark’s Newsreel Theatre, you got a solid hour of newsreels from the five then existing newsreel companies: Fox Movietone News, News of the Day, paramount, RKO-Pathe, and Universal.

The Newsreel shows were updated twice a week and, as I recall, for a small admission fee, you sat back in a comfortable soft seat and watched interesting happenings from around the world.

Each newsreel event, usually in black and white, was preceded by a title, and screened with musical background and a voiced commentary. This was before television and I was able to observe many major happenings of the day in more vivid form than the still photographs that were printed in the Newark Evening News and the Newark Ledger.

Since newsreels did not usually fill out a full hour, to round out the hour-long show program, the Newsreel Theatre would also show several short subjects on various topics. These would usually deal with current politics, movie stars, sporting events, foreign news happenings or technology. Occasionally there would be a short on oddities in the news.

I thought then that the Fox Movietone News and the News of the Day newsreels were the best of the five different newsreels regularly shown. I later learned that, while released by different Hollywood movie studios, both were owned by the Hearst Corporation and the property of the notorious press baron, William Randolph Hearst.

I do not remember when the Newsreel Theatre finally closed, but it was probably in the late 1960s when television in the home killed off movie attendance and the newsreels.

Looking back at those newsreel years, I fondly recall that the Newsreel Theatre provided a pleasant hour-long haven from the crowded downtown Newark streets and the pressures of the day

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I mentioned in my opening that Downtown Newark had more than a dozen theatres in the 1930s and 1940s. Living close to downtown Newark and being there frequently, I think I can recall the names of all of them:

Going down Market Street toward Mulberry, there were five: Proctors, the Capitol, the Paramount, the Market and the Garden.

Going down Branford Place toward Broad there was the Adams and the Branford.

Going over Washington Street from Lincoln Park toward North Newark, there was the Newark Opera House and the Empire Burlesque theatre.

Going over Broad Street from Lincoln Park toward North Newark, there was the Mosque, the Rialto, the Goodwin, the Newsreel, Loews, and the Little Theatre.

That’s all I can recall. Did I skip any?


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