Theater Naming Issue

posted by Ross Melnick on September 19, 2005 at 8:35 am

Following a report by the Baltimore Business Journal that Clear Channel will be amplifying its corporate sponsorship activities within its theatre division, the question arises once again about the historic preservation community’s position on naming rights for theaters. That is the subject of this week’s poll question and any comments you wish to post in our comments section to this story.

If a corporation or individual pays for the restoration and/or renovation of a theater, is there a responsibility to retain any or all of the original name? Examples of this range from the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City to the Cadillac Palace in Chicago to the American Airlines Theatre in New York. Past issues have also included the switch from Grauman’s Chinese to Mann’s Chinese, etc.

Comments (10)

HowardBHaas on September 19, 2005 at 10:40 am

Since the article refers to the Boyd, you might like some history of the name:For the majority of the 20th Century, Alexander BOYD was one of the most respected movie theater operators in Pennsylvania. A glassblower by trade, Boyd began operating movie theaters at the turn of the century. In 1962, before he died later that year at the age of 86, the Motion Picture Exhibitor wrote that “If anyone were to take a poll of this territory in an attempt to determine its best-loved exhibitor, the vote would overwhelmingly single out the dean of them all, A.R.Boyd….” “Boyd goes back as far as the industry itself, having built or participated in the operation of most of the downtown Philadelphia first-run theatres. Such famous houses as the Boyd, Mastbaum, Stanley, Arcadia, and Palace, among others, bear his stamp….All his life, he has made deals involving hundreds of thousands of dollars on a handshake, and the men with whom he does business know that Al Boyd’s handshake binds him more firmly to his word than could any iron-clad document.”

Philadelphia’s Exhibitor in early 1928 said much the same “Mr. Boyd, one of the most popular officials in the Stanley organization, enjoys the confidence of the film men because of his knowledge of picture values and his fair dealings. He has frequently been known voluntarily to increase the price set on a picture after it has played and proved to be a better box office draw than originally estimated.”

To build Center City’s Art Deco movie palace, with considerable financial risk to himself, Boyd left the Stanley Company, of which was a leader. He departed from the neoclassical style of movie palaces which Stanley was building in Center City. About the time the Boyd Theatre was opening, the Stanley theaters merged into Warner to become Stanley Warner, and Boyd sold his theater to Warner, but his name remained on the movie palace. Thru the major remodel in 1953 for Cinerama including the current marquee, and corporate changes that included Warner Bros selling their theaters, the theater remained as the Boyd until new owners renamed it Sameric in late 1971.

In reaching out to movie palace fans & the general public, our ad hoc Committee to Save the Sameric found almost everybody referred to the theater as THE BOYD and disliked the Sameric name. We met many people who recall patronizing the Boyd at the height of its Jazz Age elegance in the decades before television. Even more people fondly recall traveling up to hundreds of miles to the Boyd in the 1950’s & 1960’s to experience Cinerama. So, two months after we organized our committee, we incorporated our nonprofit Friends of the Boyd and expressed that we’d like to see the Boyd name restored along with its Art Deco features.
For more information about the Boyd, visit

VickieFeldman on September 19, 2005 at 10:56 am

My husband and I agree very strongly with Mr. Haas that the Boyd Theatre should REMAIN the Boyd Theatre. This is a Philadelphia landmark, and as such, the theatre should have a name with a real Philadelphia background. To do any less would be to cheapen to undermine any attempt at a truly historic restoration of this Art Deco architectural gem.

Thank you.

Vickie Feldman & Brian Gerstel

CharG98 on September 19, 2005 at 11:03 am

Yes, the Boyd Theatre will be restored and I do understand the need to raise funds to do so, but in lieu of selling naming rights to the theatre (unless rights are sold to Boyd’s clothing store up the street), how about selling naming rights to the auditorium, and keeping the Boyd Theatre name?! They can sell naming rights to the men’s/women’s lounges too, if they want…just keep the Boyd the Boyd to ensure its complete resoration!

phillylilypad on September 19, 2005 at 12:37 pm

While some of Philadelphia’s arts organizations have seen fit to name their entire organization for an individual/corporation based on a gift, most have remained true to their original identity – The Franklin Istitute was originally named after Ben Franklin – but does have interior spaces such as the Tuttleman Omniverse Theater named in grateful recognition of the Tuttleman family’s generous contributions. The Philadelphia Museum of Art would no more change the name of its landmark building than would the Metropolitan Museum in New York, yet both routinely name their galleries – and in the case of PMA, its ancillary building – The Perelman Builing after Ruth and Ray Perelman. I know I’ve only mentioned visual arts museums, but I know that theaters do this as well, and I think that naming interior spaces or wings makes a perfectly lovely compromise for corporations and philanthropically minded individuals.

jon6444 on September 20, 2005 at 12:28 pm

Wow, what a double edge sword, On one hand, finding funds to renovate and maintain a historical theatre are very hard to come by and many times corporate funding is appropriate, particularly if it is a company that has been in the community for years. In my opinion, naming the theatre after the highest bidder is sort of a sell out and cheapens the whole thing. After all we are “restoring” a theatre back to its original grandeur, that includes its original name. If a theatre has to be named after someone, it should be named after a local war hero, not some huge impersonal corporation. There are other ways to involve corporate sponsors, naming the auditorium, or other parts of the theatre. What do you think.

VickieFeldman on September 20, 2005 at 6:49 pm

Just as a follow-up, I agree that naming the auditorium or lounges after Clear Channel personnel, etc. might be a good compromise, although, if the truth be told, I’d prefer that these areas, too, be named rather for prominent Philadelphians. To me, anyway, this would be more appropriate. Restoring the theatre is about restoring the past grandeur of our city, so it would seem that those people who made important lifetime contributions to Philadelphia movie theaters should have THEIR names grace the auditorium, lounges, etc. of the Boyd. What about Irv Glazer, without whom many photographs and records of the Boyd, the Mastbaum, and other lovely Philadelphia movie palaces would have been lost forever? Why not name the auditorium after him??? What has happened to the tradition of honoring those who have made a city great, rather than just honoring strangers who — while their money is certainly needed — have no particular affection for Philadelphia? It’s wonderful that Clear Channel has agreed to put time and money into this project — thank God the theater will be saved — but, let’s not kid ourselves — Clear Channel is in it because the company feels that it can make a profit. They would gain more respect — and possibly attract more customers — if they kept in mind that this theater needs to appeal to Philadelphians, and that retaining REAL Philadelphia names and history will help to cultivate that appeal. One more thought — why not name part of the Boyd’s interior after Howard Haas? He, more than anyone, has fought tooth and nail to prevent the Boyd from being demolished, and he is still working very hard towards a historic restoration of the theater. What about THAT idea, Clear Channel????

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on September 21, 2005 at 2:59 pm

The old 1953 Cinerama marquee of the RKO Stanley Warner’s Boyd Theatre is in sad shape, along with the vertical Sameric 4 marquee. You can see holes in the “Boyd” name where the Sameric name was attached to back in November 1971, after Sam Shapiro acquired the theatre from Pacific Theatres Company’s RKO Stanley Warner Theatres division.

HowardBHaas on September 21, 2005 at 5:22 pm

The intent is to replace the modern Cinerama marquee with a recreation of the original Art Deco marquee from 1928, which it replaced in 1953. The original will be more in character with the movie palace’s exterior & interior French Art Deco design. Photos of both, and ways to help, at

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on September 22, 2005 at 7:04 am

Back in May, I took 2 pictures of the outside of the RKO Stanley Warner’s Boyd/Regal Entertainment Group’s United Artists Sameric 4 Theatre, with the exposed 1953 “Boyd” name on the marquee, and the Sameric 4 vertical marquee (Which is where the original 1928 vertical “Boyd” sign was located from December, 1928 to June, 1930.

It will be excellent to see the original 1928 marquee back on the RKO Stanley Warner’s Boyd Theatre once again.

HowardBHaas on September 22, 2005 at 8:56 am

People think the Boyd’s original vertical sign was removed in 1930 because Irv Glazer wrote so in a book. However, historic photos show the Boyd’s vertical sign still there in 1934, but gone in 1935. The Boyd’s vertical sign was removed in 1935 after litigation by the Chestnut Street Business Men’s Association. We’re going to further elaborate in a Weekly Update email, to receive them, enter yourself at
Friends of the Boyd don’t think of the current “vertical” as a real vertical sign, but as an ugly huge, signboard incosistent with the gorgeous French Art Deco architecture of the Boyd.

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