Loews Movie-Theater Chain
Verena Dobnik, AP
Those are some of the tales livening up the centennial
of one of the world's oldest movie theater chains, started by
Marcus Loew, born to poor Jewish immigrants on Manhattan's Lower
East Side. On Nov. 14, 1904, he co-founded the company that
opened the first theaters in Cincinnati and New York, and now
runs 198 theaters with 2,193 screens in the United States, Mexico,
Spain and South Korea (news - web sites).
|Elvis Presley was once fired as an usher at a Loews movie
theater for punching out another usher, the story goes.
By the time he returned years later, his face graced the
silver screen. Barbra Streisand (news) is believed to
have seen her first movies at a Loews theater in Brooklyn.
And in recent years, actor Matt Damon (news) was a Loews
On Wednesday, the American Museum of the Moving Image
in Queens is launching its celebration of the Loews centennial
with an exhibit. And Manhattan's Jewish Museum is hosting
a panel including actor Elliot Gould in a Nov. 18 discussion
of movies and media, inspired by its exhibit last year titled
"Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting."
"Jews were a persecuted minority, and they were pushed
to accomplish in order to survive," says Gould, 66, a native
New Yorker whose grandparents were Jewish immigrants.
"With God directing — or maybe Marcus Loew — Jews in
America developed a culture, whether it was in movies, writing,
law or science," says Gould, speaking by telephone from his
Los Angeles home. Loew, born in 1870, started hawking oranges
and newspapers at the age of 6, sleeping in the streets to
be first when customers awoke.
He turned penny arcades in Cincinnati and New York into
America's first movie theaters, and quickly became a theater
mogul. But he never forgot his childhood struggles, building
one new theater on the site of his childhood tenement, which
he had torn down. By the 1920s, Loew-run theaters warmed up
spectators with ballerinas, singers and vaudeville performers,
plus newsreels — before the organ- or orchestra-accompanied
silent film. He engineered a series of business mergers that
resulted in the creation of the MGM studios, headed by Louis
"Without Marcus Loew," said film historian Ross Melnick,
"MGM would never have been formed, and films like `Singin'
in the Rain' and `The Wizard of Oz' might never have been
The centennial display at the Moving Image museum tracks
the evolution of movie houses through archival film footage
of premieres, vintage photos and other objects from film history.
In one Elvis photo, "The King" returns to the Loews State
Theatre in Memphis where he worked as an usher in 1952. According
to theater lore, he was fired after five weeks on the job.
He apparently punched a fellow usher who, prompted by jealousy,
had told the manager Elvis was getting free candy from a young
woman at the concession stand who was fond of the handsome
singer. Having watched America's love affair with the movies
over the decades, Gould said the biggest change is that "the
popcorn costs more." But for one day, Tuesday, Loews is rolling
back popcorn prices nationwide — to $1 for a medium size.
Source: Associated Press)