BODIAN: Eddie, you owned or ran many neighborhood
Newark theatres between 1938 and 1968. Would you tell us something
STEINBERG: Gladly, I loved Newark and grew to maturity there. It
was a wonderful place to be and through my movie theatre experience
to interface with people from all parts of the City.
BODIAN: Okay, let’s first identify the theatres you ran in
Newark, the time periods, and their Newark locations.
STEINBERG: First: The Strand Theatre on South Orange Avenue and
12th Street. I had that one from 1938 until I went into the Army
in 1942 during World War II.
Second: The Ronson Theatre on South Orange Avenue and Littleton
Avenue, in 1939.
Third: The West End Theatre on 16th Avenue and 18th Street in the
1950’s and early 1960‘s.
Fourth: The Avon Theatre on Clinton Avenue, below Bergen Street,
from the mid 1950’s to 1968.
Fifth: The Elwood Theatre on Broadway in North Newark, mid 1950’s
Sixth: The Cameo Theatre on Elizabeth Avenue, just beyond Hayes
Circle, briefly in the early 1950’s.
BODIAN: Share with us some of your fond recollections of those
theatres. Let’s start with the Strand on South Orange Avenue.
STEINBERG: The Strand was my first Newark theatre. I had been a
film buyer and booker for the Island Theatre Circuit in New York
City, which bought and rented films for showing in theatres. My
territory included Newark, so I had an insight on knowing about
the movies Newarkers liked in different neighborhoods.
When I took ownership of the Strand, I had been living in the Bronx,
but I moved to 500 South 13th Street so I could be near the theatre.
The Strand catered to a mixed neighborhood. My customers were a
veritable League of Nations, representing all nationalities.
My mother moved from New York at that time and worked in the Strand
ticket office as cashier. She was quite on in years then and worked
as cashier in various theatres I owned for more than 20 years until
the age of 92. She died at 99.
What I remember best about the Strand was Tuesday nights. They were
good nights for business because, besides low prices, we gave out
free dishes on Tuesday nights. All the neighborhood people came
to accumulate sets. The sets were service for eight, so it took
over a year of Tuesday nights to accumulate a 72-piece set.
BODIAN: You said the Ronson was your second theatre. Anything special
about that one?
STEINBERG: I had that theatre only a short time. Practically none
of the old-time Newarkers even remember the Ronson. It was built
and owned by the Newark industrial tycoon, Lou Aronson, who also
owned the Ronson Lighter Company in Newark, one of the largest such
firms in the world. Years later, I learned that even members of
the Ronson family did not know that there had once been a Newark
theatre that carried the family name.
At the Ronson, I tried showing movie films in midweek and vaudeville
on weekends, using mostly black entertainers. It did not work out,
however and oftimes, there were more entertainers onstage than in
BODIAN: When you closed the Ronson, you picked up the West End
Theatre and had it from the 1950’s into the early 1960’s.
What are your recollections of that theatre?
STEINBERG: It was normal, decent good neighborhood movie, and I
had a policy of running double features and two or three program
changes every week.
BODIAN: Anything ‘special’ that you recall about the
STEINBERG: The one event that stands out in my mind about the West
End was the showing of the Elvis Presley move “Love Me Tender.”
The West End was an 800-seat capacity theatre. When we opened with
Love Me Tender, there must have been about 3,000 people waiting
in line outside. I’d never seen anything like that before
in a neighborhood theatre. Of course we had to turn away most of
them. I realized at that time how big Elvis was and it shocked me.
No other screen star in my movie experience had drawn that big.
BODIAN: Then, by the mid 1950’s you took on the Avon Theatre
on Clinton Avenue near Bergen Street. What are your recollections
of the Avon?
STEINBERG: It was a good theatre, business wise, drawing predominantly
Afro-American audience. I played pictures at the Avon that I felt
had appeal for the black audiences and the Avon prospered when other
Newark neighborhood theatres were closing.
I also ran double features, and three program changes a week. I
ran the theatre until 1968. What had happened, were the 1967 Newark
riots. After the riots, people were afraid to go out at night and,
after several months of no business, I was forced out of the movie
I also remember, that when our nearest competitor, the National
Theatre on Belmont Avenue, near Spruce, closed, business at the
BODIAN: You took over your fifth theatre, the Elwood Theatre, in
the mid-1950’s, another theatre that you were forced to close
in 1968 because of the Newark rots. What are your recollections
of the Elwood, and of its clientele?
STEINBERG: My main recollection of the Elwood is that it was one
of the most beautiful theatres I had ever seen anywhere, with about
800 or 900 seats. I recall it as the perfect movie house. The sound
was perfect, the vision was perfect and the seats were good. And
even though television was rapidly competing for movie business,
we were able to resist the competition from TV by playing double
features with three changes of program every week.
The Elwood catered, 90% to Italians from North Newark and residents
from Belleville. Besides being a beautiful theatre, my patrons got
a bargain. I kept prices low and gave good value.
Unfortunately, after the 1967 riots, the streets were empty for
months and that put me out of business1.
BODIAN: Eddie, you also mentioned the Cameo Theatre on Clinton
Avenue. What was your experience there?
STEINBERG: The Cameo Theatre on Elizabeth Avenue had been shut
down as a movie house when I took it over in the early 1950’s.
I decided that if the neighborhood didn’t want films, I would
go with stage shows only. We ran evenings and weekends and I relied
on a man to assemble and direct the shows, relying heavily on local
talent. The Cameo effort did not pan out, but I learned later that
the man I hired to direct the shows went on to a career in Hollywood.
BODIAN: Aside from your Cameo Theatre show director, did anyone
else associated with you make it in the world of entertainment?
STEINBERG: Just one. When I owned the Avon Theatre on Clinton Avenue,
I had a partner, Allan Pinsker. Allan was the son of the owner of
the Island Theatre Circuit in Manhattan. He later went on to become
CEO of a 3,000-theatre chain, owned by a Hollywood conglomerate.
BODIAN: Thank you, Eddie, for sharing your Newark neighborhood
theatre memories with me, and with the others who will be viewing
it on the Virtual Newark NJ web site.