During the hype of the ‘Roaring 20s’ when the popularity and demand for performing arts venues was at it’s peak, The Newton Theatre was built by William Houghton, following the design plans of Reilly & Hall. Using sturdy and reliable materials, such as 50 tons of steel, provided by the Submarine Boat Corporation of Newark, as well as tapestry brick and decorative stonework, the initial structure that would one day become today’s theatre was created. Especially intriguing after the installment of Sussex County’s largest pipe organ, the theatre would be on its way to new heights. Both modern and safe, the stadium-type theatre was able to accommodate 1,000 patrons (D’Amico).
New and current owners, Jonathan Peirce and Paul Larena took on the responsibility of rescuing and preserving the lost history of The Newton Theatre. Now capable of holding a more intimate crowd of 605 patrons, The Newton Theatre proudly presented the grand reopening of the theatre by celebrating with Todd Rundgren performing to a sold out house. Entertaining crowds with live performances, the owners aimed to recreate the atmosphere of a celebrated theatre. The community rallied behind the theatre, garnering support from all of Newton as well as neighboring towns.
The theatre was once again closed due to competition from surrounding theatre’s. Theatre’s located both north and south of The Newton Theatre took attention away from the small venue. In addition to competition, the purchases needed to stay afloat such as a $130,000 investment in order to show 3D movies were too much for the theatre to keep up with. The town was devastated as such an important aspect of the towns history had been closed down (Howell).
May 16, 2008: The Newton Theatre reopened showing top rated first run movies as well as widely loved classics that dominated the movie business. The two first movies shown were Narnia: Prince Caspian and Baby Mama, one on each side of the theatre. Patrons were once again enthused about having a movie theatre so close to home.
The Newton Theatre is purchased by New Day Cinemas from Nelson Page in hopes of continuing the success of the beloved small-town theatre. They set goals of bringing the theatre into modern times in terms of programming, but also wished to preserve the rich history that the theatre had held on throughout the years.
New Day Cinemas closed The Newton Theatre for seven months to carry out renovations they deemed necessary for succeeding. New programming was introduced and perfected to impress and entertain audiences after opening.
Nelson Page chose to use The Newton Theatre to preserve the history of the venue by capturing the feel of the 1920s while also remaining modern by showing new and updated films. The twin cinema featured John Baratta, the former organist, who would entertain movie-goers during intermission. Patrons strongly supported the artistic performances, they allowed for a break from manufactured music that had been pouring out of speakers everywhere. Older guests would recollect about the old days while the younger crowd would be introduced to the beautiful music from another time. The installment of the pipe organ gave The Newton Theatre an edge, offering guests something they couldn't get at another movie theatre (Lockwood).
May 15, 1924: The original official opening date of The Newton Theatre, citizens of Newton as well as the surrounding areas were enthusiastic to see what would come of this significantly grand theatre in the small and cozy town of Newton. People took notice of the noteworthy size and popularity the opening of the theatre brought.
Richard Nathan, the owner of the Newton Sparta, and Washington theatre’s made the decision to close down his theaters for fear that they could not keep up with competing theatre and multiplexes. The growing number of multiplexes were intimidating as they could offer a larger variety of films to a wider number of patrons, leaving the Newton Theatre behind. However, Nelson Page held up hope for the historic theatre and took over the ownership with a goal to revamp and modernize the venue.
The Newton Theatre acquired an all new Christie digital cinema projector, Meyer Surround Sound System, and a 30’ screen, allowing for movies to make a comeback in Newton. With both live performances and new as well as classic movies, the theatre made a strong name for itself with the support of loyal patrons.
Photo by Keith Utter