Adams Theatre

The Adams is one of the 22 theaters in my new book “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.” Find out more here.

View of the Auditorium from the center of the balcony.
View of the Auditorium from the center of the balcony.

The Adams Theatre in Newark, New Jersey originally opened on January 12, 1912 as the Shubert Theatre. It was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by architect William E. Lehman, who also designed the Proctor’s Palace Theatre in Yonkers, NY. The 2,037 seat theater was originally used for theatrical productions, Broadway tryouts and revivals.

A look at the auditorium from the box seats.
Jerry Lewis was an usher at the Adams Theatre before he became a movie star.

In August 1939 the theater was purchased by A.A Adams. He changed the name to the Adams Theatre, after the name he had taken upon immigrating to the United States from Greece. The first stage show after the rename was “Susan and God” starring Jessie Royce Landis on September 4, 1939. Adams began booking big bands to support the theater in addition to the stage shows and films. Some very famous acts played at the theater during this time including; Eddie Cantor, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis, Jr, the Marx Brothers, Tommy Dorsey, Laurel and HardyThe Andrew Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway. In late August 1949, the Adams switched to booking vaudeville acts before each film. A week later the nearby RKO Proctor’s Theatre announced they would do the same.

The lobby of the Adams has been used for storage since the theater closed in 1986.
The lobby of the Adams has been used for storage since the theater closed in 1986.

Harold Minsky of Minsky’s Burlesque took over operating the theater in September 1952. Minsky applied for a permit to have burlesque shows and was denied. After an appeal he was allowed to have burlesque performances at the theater. On December 21, 1955 the city of Newark passed an ordinance that made burlesque illegal. The ordinance stated that shows in which an actor disrobed or gave the “illusion of nudeness” was not allowed. It also outlawed profane, indecent or lewd language. It was immediately challenged in court by the Adams Theatre Company and I. Hurst Enterprises. I. Hurst Enterprises operated the nearby Empire Theatre, another burlesque venue. The legal battle eventually reached the United States Supreme Court who declined to hear the case, and the ban on burlesque went into effect. However, Minsky did not wait for the verdict to come in and stopped showing burlesque at the theater on February 7, 1957.

During World War II some shows required the purchase of a war bond to enter
During World War II some shows required the purchase of a war bond to enter

Eventually the theater began showing grindhouse and b-movies. It closed on March 31, 1986 due to a 400% increase in the insurance rates which also caused the nearby Paramount Theatre to close. It was sold in 1990 to the Freeman Group, a Manhattan based investment firm, who planned to restore and reopen the theater. However, that did not come to pass and the building was sold again. A number of retail stores have occupied the former lobby space, but have since closed. The theater remains unused.

View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.
View of the auditorium from the side of the balcony.
Large pieces of the plaster ceiling have fallen on to the balcony.
Large pieces of the plaster ceiling have fallen on to the balcony.
One of the last projectionists at the Adams forgot his coat.
One of the last projectionists at the Adams left behind a change of clothes.


The film rewinder was most likely installed during the 1957 renovation.
The film rewinder was most likely installed during the 1957 renovation.

If you’d like to help with my exploring/research efforts, please consider purchasing a print, all support is very appreciated.

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


20 thoughts on “Adams Theatre

    1. Met my wife of 65 years there in July, 1947. Johnny Longs orchestra was playing with a movie feature..Adams theater at that time..many happy memories seeing many big bands ther during my teens & burlesque also.. never forget Lili St Cyr….

      1. It was on Branford Place one block off Broad St. It was across the street from the back lobby of the Branford movie theater whose main entrance and lobby was on Market Street

      2. I was home on leave from the Army Air Corp at the time and had a few hours to kill until I got a bus back to my base in Utah. I’m 89 years old now and meeting my wife there was the luckiest day of my life.

  1. Great photos as always Matt. Checked theatre using Google Earth, only one block from Prudential Center, maybe the theatre could be saved?

  2. May we we pleases use pictures of the derelict Adams Theatre in Britain’s OLD THEATRES magazine which is twinned with the Theatre Historical Society of America. Like us theatre enthusiasts who publish the magazine or readers would be very interested in seeing them. Best wishes Terry Kirtland Chairman

  3. The images are a bit haunting, yet beautiful at the same time. It’s a shame that the theater has fallen into such terrible conditions. Hopefully it will be renovated, or at least preserved!

  4. I was in the Adams Theater only once in 1961 or ’62 to see BEN-HUR. My mother and I took the train in from Woodbridge, NJ. The entire experience of my first train ride, my first time in Newark, and then the beautiful Adams Theater with the larger than life BEN-HUR has stayed with me all these years (I am now 66.) I am a poet and read at the 2010 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark and during one of my breaks I walked over to Bradford Place to see what remained of the Adams. It gave me goosebumps to stand in front of the building again and I thought of my deceased mother and that extraordinary day I spent with her.

  5. i saw plenty of movies during the 80 love that movie place i had great time there so many cinemas like that are gone those where the days now its not the same

  6. I’ve been working in Newark for five yrs and I have to say a great number of derelict buildings have been renovated in this time. There are three theaters like this all within a block of each other. The proctor is by far in the best. The sign from the paramount should be moved to the proctor. One thing about downtown Newark is how much of a time capsule it is. As if businesses closed decades ago and everything was left behind. You can see in the windows of empty 20 story buildings with torn blinds and faded signs. You see the neon signs of businesses that closed decades ago. Like Howard men’s store. Proctor is special because it has an incredible facade, better than paramount, and because it has two theaters. Although with today’s laws may not be safe or accessible. Would love to see Newark continue rebirth but with keeping all these relics from the past. The signs I mean. The buildings are great too. It’s amazing how utterly abandoned nwk was. A real example of how the suburbs killed the weaker cities. Even NYC almost didn’t make it.

  7. I saw Ben-Hur at the Adams Theatre in 1964 or so. I still have lunch at Hobby’s on Branford Place, but almost no one even knows the Adams is still there behind the retail store or iron facade today.

  8. Finally! Been going from A to Z repeatedly trying to remember “Adams” theater. I recall the big band era. Went with my older sister who idolized Vaughn Monroe who was performing there. Sat through a 90 min. Joe E. Brown comedy just to see another (free) performance of Vaughn Monroe and his orchestra (anyone remember Ghost Riders in the Sky or Ziggy Talent and The Rich Maharaja of Magador?) My sis and I stood at the stage door and awaited Vaughn Monroe to exit. Wow, and there he was in his camel hair top coat. Signing autographs. I was too intimidated to ask him for one (I was a very young teen then) and too in awe. Wow, what fond memories of the big bands at the Adams in the early 40’s.

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