Mayfair Theater

1444 N. Broad Street,
Hillside, NJ 07205

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Independent Theater Service Inc.

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Mayfair Theater

Opened in the 1920’s, this neighborhood theater featured second run until the late-1960’s. The theater ended its days as a porno house in the mid-1970’s and then housed a liquor store which had closed by 2017.

Contributed by jim thatcher

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

asadsack on January 18, 2006 at 3:14 pm

I grew up Hillside and went to the Mayfair many times. First pic I remember seeing was “The Blob” with Steve McQueen. I was about 4 or 5. Went to many Satuday matinees. That was a trip—a theater full of screaming, belching, candy-throwing kids!! Seems funny now.
I remember the lady that either owned or ran the place. I know my mother used to talk with her. I remember the Mayfair was overhauled in the mid-60s—new paint, upholstery, and carpets. For many years,
there was a restaurant next-door called “The Flamingo Diner”. Funny thing is, this place was always closed. It was leveled in the early
70s. The slot car place was called Tom Thumb Raceway and there was another one in Union. It was in a vacant Woolworth.

asadsack on January 27, 2006 at 5:49 pm

Extra tidbits about the Mayfair. My parents grew up in Newark and
since the Mayfair is very close to the Hillside/Newark line, they
both remember the Mayfair from their youth (although they can’t recall having gone there) Anyway, they do recall that the building
next door to the theater originally housed a tobacco company which
was actually a front for the well-known New Jersey crime boss and Meyer Lansky pal, Longy Zwillman. Longy was from Newark and in those
days, it was an open secret what he was up to. As a matter of fact,
my friend’s mother, who also grew up in Hillside and lived near the
Mayfair, told me that she was friends with Zwillman’s sister and met him several times. Of course, he was called a businessman but…

izzy272 on January 29, 2006 at 10:45 pm

I thank you for your info “Movie Guy”. It did jar my memory a bit. I spoke with my Father last night. He grew up in that area of Newark. As I am sure you must know back in those days it was a mostly Jewish area and my Zada (Grandfather) was the local bookmaker. He also owned a few nightclubs. The following is almost verbatim what my Father toll me.

“The There was Two Mayfairs. One somewhere off of South Orange ave the one you mean was in Hillside across from Moon Motors. Longie die some time in the mid 50’s. I don’t remember when but before I meet your Mother (1958). His business was taken over by a guy name Myron Surgerman. His big this was pinball. I knew they guy who own the Mayfair in fact I knew he since we were kids. His father bought it right after the war”

My Father gave me the name and I remember this man. I will try and track him down and report back.

markp on January 27, 2008 at 10:06 am

Not sure, but I don’t think this house was ever a triplex. I know in its last days it ran XXX porno.

Oleksij on September 30, 2010 at 10:47 am

My mother grew up in Hillside in the 1920s and ‘30s. In those days the Mayfair was the big,beautiful, first run theatre in town. There was another, run down theatre that locals called “The Flea Circus.” (Anyone out there have any idea what the real name of this other theatre might have been?)

My mother especially recalled one time her grandfather took her to the Mayfair and tried to buy tickets with coins left over from the Civil War! He couldn’t convince the box office clerk that it was still valid currency.

ozzie on July 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Hi, This is an old conversation, so I may not get any response which is understandable….. I was interested in Izzy’s comments about his family’s involvement in bookmaking and nightclubs. My family lived in Hillside and may have had some connection to Zwillman, etc. and I was curious if you had more info.

chl123chl on July 26, 2012 at 3:11 am

The Mayfair theatre began as both a vaudeville house and a theatre showing silent films..In the sub-basement there were small dressing rooms for the performers complete with those stereotypical light bulb encircled mirrors ..In later years,long after live acts were no longer part of the Mayfair’s schedule these cubicles remained,the light bulbs still in place but no longer working the paint peeling from the walls..The theatre was owned and operated by the Unger family..For most of it’s existence the theatre was a second-run house showing normal Hollywood fare..Only after the original Unger couple had both died off did the theatre fall onto hard times under the oldest son,who turned it into a porno house.The refurbishing,done in the 1960s was allowed to decay,with broken seats going unrepaired,the cloth-covered walls torn and smoke-stained,the whole interior of the theatre looking as run-down as possible.. In the basement of the theatre,where performers had once stored thier props the oldest Unger son had constructed a firing range,complete with sandbags and police issued paper targets..Mornings would find this fellow in the basement-turned-firing-range happily shooting away ..There was also a small room where he made up his cartridges for his rifles.. It has been mentioned here that an organ had been part of the attraction of the early Mayfair theatre..This may indeed have been the case,however in the old orchestra pit ,in the 1960s and beyond,all that remained was an old piano,one which,unaccountably,a water pipe extension had been placed over,making movement of the piano impossible..Despite its age the piano did still play,if off-key.. Before it’s decline into a pornohouse the building itself housed a real estate and insurance office,a package store,and on the upper floor several offices devoted to professional people..The package store in particular had a tragic history at the end in that the man who operated the business was killed during a hold-up,his son,who took over after the father’s death was killed in a traffic accident on Route 22,and the wife,who took over after her son’s death could not contend with these events and let the business slide into failure…With the tranformation into a pornohouse all of the other businesses left,never being replaced..In the 1980s these vacant spaces were either used for storage of left empty..Coming back to this theatre,in which as a youth I had worked as an usher(and parking lot attendant,in that the Unger family owned a vacant dirt-covered nearby in which,for a quarter,one could park one’s car)I was truly appalled by its decline and ruin..Having started my own pest control business I became the theatre’s last exterminator .. The theatre need not have fallen on such hard times,at least not as early as the 1980s….Oddly enough the son who operated the theatre at the time blamed ,among other things,a changing neighborhood and the advent of the video cassette for his decision to switch from Hollywood films to porn..Ultimately the fact that the same porno films that he was then showing on the big screen found thier way onto video cassette and could be rented(or bought)for viewing in one’s own house spelled the ultimate doom for the Mayfair theatre…

ALLANF on January 24, 2014 at 11:21 pm

I went to see Bruce Lee movies here in the early 70s

PhillG on January 1, 2018 at 12:50 pm

I went by this theatre today — pretty much done for, even as a commercial building. The alleys are all fenced off, and there are no active tenants in the building, exits are sealed other than the front. The block is completely industrial now. There are two roof sheds on top with their doors hanging open (visible from the car dealer next door’s driveway). The building next door on the left side is still there, and a car dealership is now on the right. Both alleys are blocked/gone.

ALLANF on July 2, 2023 at 2:34 pm

My friend Jeff and would go see Bruce Lee movies there in the early 70s when we were about 8.

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