The New Brunswick State Theater was built in the heyday of the silent film era. The State Theater’s grand opening was in December 1921. For the last nine decades, the people of New Jersey have enjoyed watching top entertainers do what they do best. The Golden Age of Hollywood was also the Golden Age of the State Theater, according to real estate developer and Advisory Board member Sam Boraie. From 1930 to 1969, the State Theater booked big names like Bette Davis, James Dean, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. Those performers and others appeared in plays, and they also made live guest appearances. Hedy Lamar promoted war bonds at the State Theater in the 1940s, and Walter Cronkite made an appearance to promote the U.S. Infantry Band. The great acoustics attracted singers to the theater, and the acoustics still do. Some people still want to see pictures of stars like Minnie Pearl, Bob Hope, Gary Cooper and Houdini performing at the State Theater.
The 1970s were not kind to New Brunswick or the State Theater. People decided to move to the suburbs. People paid to see movies in the movie houses that popped up outside of the city. Downtown New Brunswick became a wasteland where drugs users and gangs hung out in plain sight. But one New Brunswick businessman wanted to bring New Brunswick back from the brink of disaster. Omar Boraie, Sam Boraie’s father, decided to invest in downtown New Brunswick. Twenty years later, Sam decided to follow in his father’s footsteps.
In the 1970s, Boraie Development LLC worked with city leaders, and according to Bloomberg, they came up with an urban renewal plan that made sense. The plan took a few years to implement, but the results of the urban renewal project have inspired other cities to follow New Brunswick’s lead. Boraie Development is part of the reason New Brunswick is now a hub for the pharmaceutical and medical professions. Johnson and Johnson also deserves some of the credit, and so does Rutgers University. But the inspiration and the energy came from the Boraie family. In 1983, the first Boraie high-rise office building opened on Albany Street in New Brunswick. And Sam and his siblings kept the momentum going through the 1990s and 2000s. Downtown New Brunswick is now an energetic inner city with great restaurants, retail shops, office space, apartments, and condominiums.
Sam Boraie was also part of the reason the New Brunswick State Theater was brought back to its original stature. The Advisory Board (https://www.statetheatrenj.org/board-of-trustees) of the State Theater decided to restore the theater, so the theater looked like it did in 1921. The successful restoration was a joint effort, but the Boraie family helped in several ways. Sam also plays a role in Elijah’s Promise, the New Jersey nonprofit that feeds the hungry. Elijah’s Promise operates a soup kitchen, café, cooking classes, and other services that help the hungry eat when they are hungry. New Brunswick may not be the New Jersey city that people think of when New Jersey is mentioned, but it should be. It is one of the most progressive cities in the state, thanks to Sam Boraie and his family.