I am having my Sunday coffee and listening to Yusuf Lateef. With the semester in its final few days, it’s going to be a working Sunday. I have already sent a few emails and will tie up various loose ends over the course of the day. Yesterday a friend and I braved the rain and crossed the river to visit the Newark Museum of Art. I had not been there in 6-7 years and can say that officials there have been doing great work maintaining what has always been an outstanding cultural institution. If you live in New York City and are ever looking for a place to visit, I can attest that the Newark Museum is very easy to get to. Top it off with lunch or dinner in The Ironbound, as we did, and you’ve had a good day.
I took this photo of the Newark Paramount theater on the way to the museum. Some readers may know of the old Paramount Theater in Midtown Manhattan that they tore down decades ago. The reason there was “another” Paramount in Newark is because the movie studios owned their own theaters until losing a major antitrust case in 1948, after which Paramount and others had to divest themselves of their movie houses. As you can see, the Newark Paramount now stands empty. If my memory serves, the last time I was in the vicinity this was a storefront in which Rastafarians were selling oils and incense. Some rudimentary internet searching informs me that this opened as a vaudeville theater in 1886. To put that in perspective, that was the year after Ulysses S. Grant died.
The space in Newark came under new management and was expanded in 1916. Expansion in this period makes sense; in 1916 with the Great War raging in Europe there was a great deal of activity in Essex County, New Jersey. The docks were teeming and it makes sense that there would be entertainment options such as this. During and immediately after the First World War this would have meant live stage entertainment, and starting in the late 1920s moving pictures.
Last night on the train home I sent this photo to a friend who was born in the early 1960s and lived in this area until the mid-70s, when his family moved to a Sunbelt State. This led to a philosophical discussion over text messaging about loss and memory. My friend mentioned how this all seemed like eons in the past. The Newark Paramount closed as a movie theater in April 1986–itself now a lifetime ago–and while my friend in all likelihood never saw a film there, it is a good bet his mother and father did in their own early years.
I have a yen for these old theaters, having in the 1990s worked for a large chain bookstore based in old art deco move house that in the 2010s because a Trader Joe’s. The race seems to be on to save the Newark Paramount. A society cannot let things lie literally in ruins just for the sake of holding on to the past, but hopefully some vestige of this old treasure can be incorporated into Newark’s future as things continue to move forward. We’ll see how things develop, no pun intended.