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General Category => Hackensack History => Topic started by: Editor on November 15, 2012, 03:02:14 PM

Title: Oritani Theater
Post by: Editor on November 15, 2012, 03:02:14 PM
Then & Now: Hackensack's Oritani Theater (http://www.northjersey.com/hackensack/179429751_Fond_memories_of_Hackensack_s_Oritani_Theater.html)
Thursday November 15, 2012, 11:38 AM
The Record

File photo at top shows the Oritani and Fox theaters on Main Street in Hackensack. Today, the Oritani building houses a travel service and a clothing store.

THEN: Oritani Theater
NOW: A dress store and a travel service

"Moviegoing is back!" a feature article in The Record proclaimed in February of 1988.

After an almost decade-long codependent relationship with their videocassette recorders — technology that Jack Valenti, then the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, compared to the Boston strangler — folks were ready to leave their houses again to sample, on a BIG screen, such late 1980s hits as "Moonstruck," "Broadcast News," "Bull Durham" and "Fatal Attraction."

New theaters with numbers in their names, like Tenafly's Cinema Four, were ready to meet the demand with multiple screens, elaborate snack bars and state-of-the-art sound systems.

But they came with a price. The same decade that saw the rise of the multiplex also saw the end of the grand single-screen movie palaces that were once the pride of North Jersey.

Among the casualties was the Oritani Theater on Main Street in Hackensack, which closed in 1983 after years of dwindling attendance. (Two years earlier, the lavish Fox Theater, on the other side of Main Street, suffered a similar fate.)

Maureen Droste of River Vale recalls seeing "Jaws" at the Oritani. Tom Meyers, executive director of the Fort Lee Film Commission, says he has "great memories of going to the Oritani to see those cool Japanese monster movies in such classics as 'Destroy All Monsters!' ''

Former Bergen County Executive William "Pat" Schuber was also a Godzilla fan: "My sister and I took the Public Service bus from Main Street in Bogota to Main and Mercer in Hackensack every Saturday. The Oritani was smaller than the Fox and had no balcony but great movies. From Japanese science fiction to 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' the Oritani presented them all. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon."

Erected in 1926, the Oritani — named for Oritam, chief of the Achkinheskcy Indian tribe in the 17th century — quickly became a local landmark. It showed Will Rogers movies in the 1930s, Betty Grable movies in the 1940s and, yes, from 1977 to 1979 it even offered midnight showings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Leonard Maltin, a film critic and author who grew up in Teaneck, praised the Oritani in an interview with The Record shortly after the theater closed. Calling it one of his "second homes" as a child, Maltin said, "The Oritani showed the best Warner Brothers cartoons. I was mesmerized by all of this stuff."

Robert Droge, who now lives in Stroudsburg, Pa., recalls growing up in New Milford and going to the Oritani almost every weekend. "I'm 60 now,'' he said. "I used to go with my parents, and then, in my early teens, I'd go with my friends, which was a big deal: going to the movies by yourself! We took the bus, which we called the Brown Bomber in those days. It was brown and pretty decrepit. And it smelled. But it would take us down River Road in New Milford, over the bridge and finally up onto Main Street."

Droge says the first movie he and friends saw was "The Parent Trap" in 1961. "I know we got popcorn and sodas. Our parents frowned on candy, but soda was OK. My mother also took me to see 'Gone with the Wind' when it was reissued. I don't remember the year. All I remember was that it was long and thinking, 'When is this thing gonna be over?' "

Droge has fond memories of the place, "even though, when I think about it now, it was kind of old and dingy. Even when the lights were on, it was dark inside. I did like the ushers' uniforms, though. They were red uniforms with epaulets, brass buttons and those round hats."

An article in The Record in June 1985 detailed plans to redevelop the faded movie palace. There was talk of razing the theater to make way for a retail and office complex and a parking lot. Two brothers, May and Chung Fan of Fan's Capital Co. of Queens, bought the building from RKO-Century Warner Inc. that year.

In the end, the theater's building was divided up into small shops and restaurants, and the tenants have changed many times over the years.

Today, the theater's many fans remember the Oritani warmly — in part because of the classic films they saw there and because it was so much a part of their childhoods.

As Droge notes, "Many times, we sat through both showings on Saturday afternoons, and that was just fine with our parents. I think it was like a baby-sitter service for our folks. They knew we were safe and out of the way.

"By the late 1960s, though, you could tell this theater wasn't going to be around much longer. The newer theaters were so big, the sound was incredible. It was time for a change."

Email: ervolino@northjersey.com
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: johnny g on November 16, 2012, 02:37:00 PM
The last movie i remember seeing there was Sharky's Machine...i know I went to the Fox at some point but don't remember what I saw. I do remember passing there on the 165 on my way to school and them having a concert there in like 1982-83, anyone remember that?
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: johnny g on November 16, 2012, 02:37:52 PM
The concert took place at the Fox, not the Oritani
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: Editor on December 01, 2012, 11:47:57 AM
Below are cameraphone shots of photos that are hanging in V&T Salumeria on Main Street.  I'm told the elevated shot of the Oritani was taken from the marquee on the Fox. That's Jerry Lewis in the middle of crowd, promoting a film.  I'll see if I can find out more about it.

V&T is a great eatery by the way.  They have a four star Yelp rating (http://www.yelp.com/biz/v-and-t-salumeria-hackensack) and the owners and staff are very friendly.
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: Chief Oratam on December 02, 2012, 02:50:26 PM
I remember seeing......... Little Shop of Horrors ....acted out Live.....at the Fox....
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: Long Ago on April 15, 2016, 01:35:52 PM
Growing up in Hackensack during the early 1950s, I spent many happy Saturday afternoons at the Oritani.  TV was still in its infancy then, and movies were a popular place to go. 

Admission prices were 25 cents for kids (under 12 years old) and 50 cents for adults.  Age was monitored closely by the theater, and if a kid was tall for his age he would sometimes not be admitted unless he paid the adult price.  Of course, some kids paid nothing by sneaking inside the emergency door to the side of the front stage.  On special occasions the normal prices were waived and you could get admitted for the price of one penny, but it had to be an Indian Head penny only.

A typical show would consist of a newsreel, often followed by a cartoon, and then a double feature with an intermission between the two films.  The newsreel often contained coverage of events happening in the Korean war.  Most of the cartoons were the classic Warner Bros. fare, and I was fond of characters like Yosemite Sam and Marvin the Martian.  Western and sci-fi movies were popular, and I remember the introduction of 3-D movies with special glasses for the patrons.  The first 3-D movie I saw was House of Wax with Vincent Price.  Those were good times.
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: johnny g on April 18, 2016, 09:04:10 AM
Those side entrance sneak-in's were still going on in my day too. The exit to the left of the screen/stage
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: Long Ago on April 18, 2016, 12:37:47 PM
Well, I never used the emergency door to get inside the theater, but I was tempted to do so on one occasion.  I had just paid my admission price and was sitting on an aisle seat waiting for the show to begin.  Suddenly someone threw a piece of candy at me, and I returned fire with my Boston baked beans just as an usher walked by.  I was then escorted out of the theater, and they wouldn’t even refund my money.  I thought about returning through the emergency door, but as Sheriff Buford T. Justice used to say, “You can think about it, but don’t do it!”

Speaking of ushers, there was a very friendly elderly gentleman that used to take your tickets from you when you entered the theater.  He was always dressed in a red uniform with gold trim, and his hair was all white.  He used to joke around with the kids and show us how he was able to wiggle his ears.  Does anyone else remember him?
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: Editor on July 21, 2017, 01:21:25 PM

Vintage photos of N.J. movie theaters

Caption for first picture below:
The Oritani Theatre in Hackensack is shown in a photo from the late 1920s. It opened in 1926, directly across the street from the Fox Theatre. Named for a local Native American chief, it closed in 1983 after first having been divided into a multiplex cinema. Courtesy of Vintage Bergen County

Caption for second picture below:
The Oritani Theater sign comes down in 1983 after 57 years in Hackensack. Courtesy of Bobby Cole

(Thanks Homer!)
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: johnny g on July 24, 2017, 07:31:20 AM
Great memories of Friday and Saturday nights (uptown) hanging around by the theatres and the library. Anyone remember the name of the pizza place next to the Oritani?
Title: Re: Oritani Theater
Post by: irons35 on July 24, 2017, 07:22:23 PM
the Riviera, like the strip bar next door