What are the ten most endangered theaters?

posted by Michael Zoldessy on November 16, 2007 at 6:30 am

As this year draws to a close, Cinema Treasures is putting together a list of the ten most endangered theaters.

The purpose of this list is to publicize the plight of theaters at risk, alert local and national media, and keep our focus on saving these theaters before it’s too late.

We’ve taken a first stab at the list, but we really want to get your feedback before making it official.

  1. [National Theatre](/theaters/799/) (Los Angeles, CA)
  2. [Boyd Theatre](/theaters/1209/) (Philadelphia, PA)
  3. [Wayne Theatre](/theaters/1650/) (Wayne, MI)
  4. [Port Theatre](/theaters/3114/) (Corona Del Mar, CA)
  5. [Isle Theatre](/theaters/20496/) (Cumberland, WI)
  6. [Uptown Theatre](/theaters/69/) (Chicago, IL)
  7. [Trylon Theater](/theaters/1941/) (Rego Park, Queens, NY)
  8. [NuWilshire](/theaters/1139/) (Santa Monica, CA)

If you’d like to nominate another theater, please add your theater in the comments below. Please make sure to include the theater’s full name, location, theater page link (if available), and why the theater is endangered.

This is an invaluable opportunity for everyone to make their voices heard and help us shape this important list of the most endangered Cinema Treasures in America.

(We’re also working on a separate list of theaters in the United Kingdom that will be published next Friday. Additional lists from Canada, France, China, etc. are welcome too.)

Comments (34)

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on November 16, 2007 at 7:08 am

The Friends of the Boyd, Inc., a nonprofit organization, www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org are most appreciative of this listing!

Please visit our website for more information.

Most cities in the US have saved, restored, and reopened, at least one downtown movie palace. Philadelphia hasn’t yet, and has one last opportunity as the Boyd is the sole survivor downtown. Yet, Boyd owner Live Nation has placed the closed theater for sale, and might be willing to sell it to a developer who like the last one might seek a demolition permit.

Here’s a brief description of the Boyd’s importance:
Built in 1928, the Boyd Theatre is the last surviving motion picture palace of downtown Philadelphia. Acclaimed as an “art-deco masterpiece” (Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic, May 7, 2002, page B1) and as a “suburb example” of the exuberant Art Deco style of the late 1920’s (Dr. David Brownlee, University of Pennsylvania chair of Department of the History of the Art, testimony before Philadelphia Historical Commission, April 2, 1987), the Boyd was “one of the world’s first Art Deco theaters” (Dennis D. Kinerk & Dennis W. Wilhelm, “Popcorn Palaces, the Art Deco Movie Theatre Paintings of Davis Cone”, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2001, page 21).

The Boyd was designed by the firm of Hoffman and Henon, Philadelphia’s premiere theater architects, responsible for 100 theaters in the area. The Boyd’s exterior included a towering vertical sign that advertised the theater a mile away, a retail arcade, a ticket booth, and a huge etched glass window with Art Deco motifs. The Boyd has one of Philadelphia’s grandest Art Deco lobbies, lined with etched glass mirrors. The foyer has dazzling colorful mirrors two stories high, marble fountains, elaborate plasterwork, and suites of restroom lounges. Equipped with an orchestra pit and a pipe organ, the auditorium had 2450 seats and perfect sightlines. The Opening Day program dedicated the Boyd to the theme of “The triumph of the modern woman” seen in the Proscenium Mural by famed artist Alfred Tulk of the Rambusch Company, and by metal silhouettes of women from around the world, including the modern American.

Movie palaces including the Boyd were places where the ordinary man could enjoy entertainment in a regal environment. On opening in 1928, for a mere 35 cents, an ordinary Joe could enjoy Walt Disney’s debut of Mickey Mouse in “Steamboat Willie” and Paramount’s first talking picture, “Interference.”

The Boyd drew patrons from throughout the Philadelphia area for films such as “Gone with the Wind,” 70 mm epics such as “Ben Hur” and “Doctor Zhivago” and blockbuster movies like “Star Wars.” Midcentury, the public traveled to the Boyd from a hundred miles away as the Boyd was the only local theater equipped to show Cinerama films. For decades, films began their local runs exclusively at the Boyd. Stars often appeared on opening nights such as Grace Kelly for “High Noon” in 1950. Hollywood style premieres were public spectacles, including the 1993 premiere of “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington appearing.

markinthedark
markinthedark on November 16, 2007 at 7:24 am

Thank you for putting my favorite theatre, The National, at the top of the list. Clearly there is an era of theatres (and architecture in general) that is not old enough to be considered “significant” enough to be protected. These buildings are being wiped out by urban growth.

The irony of the NuWilshire being on the list is that it was actually doing decent business as a neighborhood theatre, but the property owner wanted Landmark out so he could develop the building into retail. Santa Monica already has the nearby promenade which is expanding. What retailer is itching to get into this property?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 16, 2007 at 7:27 am

I’m sure many folks might consider these beyond salvation at this point, but I’d add the RKO Keith’s Flushing and the Loew’s Kings to this list. Perhaps the Kings is at least a more likely candidate for resurrection since the idea seems to have the support of the Borough President. The Keith’s, on the other hand, seems to be an eyesore that the local politicians just want to go away.

vic1964
vic1964 on November 16, 2007 at 8:47 am

I would like to add the Capitol Windsor Ontario Canada,a 2000 seat Thomas Lamb theatre.I need to learn how to create links but it has a page on Cinema Treasures and its own friends of the Capitol site on the web.

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on November 16, 2007 at 10:01 am

how about the newton theater? It’s still there although there’s no word of it being knocked down. It’s the only theater in New Jersey I can think of that has the makings of an old cinema treasure. Despite becoming a twin theater, I hope they restore the theater to its single screen glory so that it can show bigger and better movies.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 16, 2007 at 1:20 pm

It doesn’t belong on a top ten list, but probably does on a top 50:

RKO Boston (Boston, MA)

I consider it ‘endangered’ simply because it has been totally forgotten about by everyone, while plenty of attention has gone to other nearby theatres such as the Modern, Paramount, and Opera House (BF Keith Memorial). You can walk all around the building that contains it, without knowing the theatre is there. I don’t know if it’s used as a storage warehouse now, or just sits entirely empty. Some day it may just disappear by neglect.

warrendewey
warrendewey on November 16, 2007 at 4:35 pm

It might also be a good idea to add a list of theaters that were lost in the past year. This would include accidental loss, like the sad demise of the Paxton the other day, and willful destruction as in the case of the Raymond in Pasadena.

This kind of list might help demonstrate that the danger to these great buildings is real, and inspire people to do more to save them.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on November 16, 2007 at 8:52 pm

Although it’s sadly now gone, the late DuPage Theater of Lombard, Illinois, an atmospheric movie palace that had been designed by the theater architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp no less, continues to hold a great deal of relevance to this particular Cinema Treasures' news topic in that a particular politician of note who had been in the perfect position to save it (since it was within his senatorial district) but totally refused to — Senator Barack Obama of Illinois — is currently running for president of the U.S. And I think what happened to the DuPage Theater greatly exemplifies what kind of president he’ll make should worse come to worse and he actually does get elected. That is, if you think the significance of America’s movie palaces is being greatly downplayed now…

I can remember a time in the U.S. when it seemed there was nothing on more solid ground than America’s movie palaces, or its classic traditional neighborhood movie theaters for that matter. In times of greatest uncertainty they were always there for us to bring all back on a rightful course once more, showcasing such wonderful classics as BEN HUR, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and GONE WITH THE WIND. Now, in place of them, we have senseless politicians who “we should vote for” for whatever inane and pointless reason — as in “Vote for me, as I did NOTHING when the DuPage Theater’s fate was at stake. That makes me a ‘smart politician’ who knows what’s ‘most important’.” And a lot of people, like shear fools, or perhaps it’s voting machine rigging, vote for them. Why?

For each time another movie theater goes down America becomes that much darker a place. And Lombard, Illinois — which had once been home to the grand DuPage — is one of the darkest places in the U.S. I know of right now. And there are those who would like to get all America on that same dark and dreary level, and for the most part so far they’ve been “successful.” Call it the “rolling darkness.”

Among those who should be most sitting up and taking notice of America’s vanishing movie theaters right now is no less than Hollywood itself. I can’t conceive of being a film director or actor on one side of the equation not caring how my work gets seen when it comes time for American audiences to go see it. But such does seem to be the case with Hollywood right now. And I feel the vanishing movie theaters is most directly related to this indifference on its part, an indifference that’s all but impossible to make sense of.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on November 16, 2007 at 9:25 pm

In regard to Ed Solero’s comment, I feel no theaters are beyond salvation without committed theater fans. Even if a theater is almost down to its bare bones, the structure is still present to rebuild the rest. Most blueprints exist in archives, or at least in someone’s attic (although more difficult to track down). The bottom line is will power!

Thank you very much for including the Trylon Theater on the list of most endangered theaters! Your support will be integral, and the Committee To Save The Trylon Theater will be very grateful if it becomes official. Cinema Treasures' project is very commendable, and an asset towards rescuing several theaters which are the cornerstones of our communities, hold countless memories, and bridge the generations.

The Trylon Theater’s case is “unique.” It was built during the 1939 World’s Fair which was held in Flushing Meadows, Queens. The 1939 World’s Fair looked into the future with revolutionary exhibits, while paying tribute to George Washington. The Trylon Theater was referred to as the “Theater of Tomorrow,” and its mission was fulfilled as it helped shape & develop several neighboring communities of Queens. It was erected during one of the most influential periods of American history and that of the world, and its grandeur is reflected in its Art Deco facade. It was also responsible for a social shift, which ushered in new waves of immigrants to make America their home. The theme of both is also that of the motion picture, which is a seldom seen relationship.

The signature 1939 World’s Fair monuments were the Trylon & Perisphere, which were surprisingly designed as temporary structures, and melted down shortly after the Fair ended, to make bombs for WWII. The Trylon monument was memorialized in the Trylon Theater’s ticket booth mosaic tiles & entrance pavilion’s floor, not to mention some interior features. The facade is streamlined with an elliptical marquee that illuminates Queens Blvd. The vertical glass-block projection tower centrally extends throughout the facade, and also illuminates. It was considered to be notable architect Joseph Unger’s rectangular variation of the Perisphere. Joseph Unger designed many homes in surrounding communities, as well as the first synagogue-in-the-round and supermarket. He was a novel individual himself! The Trylon Theater is his major theater project. (He only designed one other which is non-descript, the Main St Cinema.)

In 2005, the Education Center for Russian Jewry (the new tenant) moved ahead with renovation plans that were disheartening for the community, and theater & World’s Fair enthusiasts. They didn’t see it fit to preserve some of the highly distinctive & rare features. The ticket booth was jackhammered, and the mosaic floor featuring chevrons with a terrazzo element of the Trylon monument in 3-D was covered over. The facade remains with an insecure future, based upon their willful mistreatment of one of the LAST structures paying architectural, cultural, and historical significance to one of the most important World’s Fairs! The Trylon Theater case is a test of city politics at its worst, and merits landmarking despite local councilmember’s opposition, and a cultural center that’s insensitive to culture. The theater is a stepping stone for future generations who deserve to be educated and feel inspired; and not stepped on! The Trylon sign (a later addition) was taken down a few weeks back despite the councilmember’s promise in writing. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission claims they cared at one point, but backed out after the councilmember’s opposition, which in turn led to more damage to the theater.

The Committee To Save The Trylon Theater vows to preserve its legacy in writing and most importantly, in the PHYSICAL sense. The Trylon-adorned ticket booth will be rebuilt from the original plans, with hopes of one day reinstalling it in the theater’s entrance pavilion. There’s still hope that the Trylon-adorned mosaic/terrazzo floor will be uncovered. Most recently, Michael Perlman (myself) of the Committee, completed a lengthy feature story/narrative, documenting the history of the Trylon Theater in context of the ‘39 World’s Fair, an interview with historians and theatergoers, an architectural analysis, and an interview with one son of Joseph Unger (Ronald Unger). It was printed in the Theater Historical Society of America’s publication, Marquee, and is now available: http://cinematreasures.org/news/17514_0_1_30_C/

Here is a superb 8 min. clip of footage from the ‘39 World’s Fair, which captures the spirit very well, and relates to the novelty of the Trylon Theater: http://youtube.com/watch?v=6f95JE6CYlI

Please help us in any way you can. Thank you in advance!

ceasar
ceasar on November 16, 2007 at 9:36 pm

On the list above I wouldn’t know where to start. But here’s some cinemas here in Vicksburg,Ms which are long gone.
Strand Theatre 1953 destroyed during the ‘53 December twister.
Joy Thearte Single screen torned sometime in the '80s
Original Cinema 4 four screen mulitplex. A stand alone cinema from the now torn down Battlefield Mall.
Pemberton Cinema 4 in the decaying CBL Associates Pemberton Mall/Plaza. Status unknown. Four screen multiplex.
U see the city leaders have never taken care of things historic.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on November 16, 2007 at 9:56 pm

NativeForestHiller, so much of what you describe of the Trylon, along with the Perisphere. appears to be excellently captured by Aimee Mann’s “Fifty Years After the Fair” on her WHATEVER album, very much worth a listen if you’ve not heard it yet. And you might even wish to add this great song to your important archiving.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on November 16, 2007 at 10:55 pm

Thank you very much for this useful & inspiring point, TheaterBuff1! I will look into it.

dfc
dfc on November 17, 2007 at 9:33 am

NYC’s landmarking rules make no sense. A gem like the Trylon probably should have some landmark protection. But in my S.I. neighborhood the landmarking of The Lane theater has turned it into an unmarketable and physically decaying structure.

The Lane Theater – Staten Island, NY

sdoerr
sdoerr on November 17, 2007 at 8:42 pm

Glad to see the Wayne Theatre present!

atmos
atmos on November 18, 2007 at 2:35 am

The Palace Theatre in Gary,Indiana could certainly be another one to add to the list having been closed since 1972.

fmbeall
fmbeall on November 18, 2007 at 8:39 am

I would like to add the theatre listed in CT as the Embassy 2, 3 and 4. It has a long history as the Columbia, Mayfair and DeMille. It has been standing vacant, covered with billboards, for years.

SteveR
SteveR on November 19, 2007 at 6:31 am

I would like to add the Ideal Theatre in Manhattan, aka the Playpen Theatre. It is in imminent danger of demolition. It is the last existing vaudeville theatre in the Times Square theatre district. The Committee to Save the Playpen is working on a plan to move the theatre, but time is working against them.

You can find out more by contacting the Committee at You can contact Richard Kielar, Sr. VP for Corp. Comm. for the Tishman Corporation, the theatre’s owner, at Thanks!

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 19, 2007 at 7:12 am

Fred Beall… I regret to inform you – and anyone else who didn’t already know – that demolition of the Embasy 2,3,4’s interior began several weeks ago, as reported on the theatre’s CT page. I believe that the gut job is all but complete by now and the space stands ready for (or is already in the process of) conversion to other commercial space.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on November 19, 2007 at 7:13 am

Correction… that should read “several MONTHS ago” not “weeks.”

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on November 19, 2007 at 8:20 am

I’d like to start an endangered theater list for SPAIN with two grand movie palaces on the Gran Via in Madrid, both of which have been proposed for retail use instead:

Palacio de la Musica
/theaters/18029/

Cine Avenida (which I added to this website so I could make this comment):
/theaters/22125/

afelder
afelder on November 19, 2007 at 8:40 am

Metro Theatre (San Francisco, CA)
The Metro Theatre is one of San Francisco’s finest remaining neighborhood movie theaters. It opened in 1924 and was designed by the Reid Bros., a prominent San Francisco firm that designed numerous Bay Area theaters. In 1941 the Metro was remodeled by master architect Timothy Pflueger (Paramount Theatre, Oakland). The Metro was the original home of the San Francisco International Film Festival – America’s oldest continuously operating Film Festival. The Metro was updated by UA in 1998 and was fitted with new seats and modern amenities. The Metro was closed in 2006 by Regal Entertainment who sold the 20-plus years remaining on their lease to the property owner. An interested local buyer has emerged who would preserve the Metro as a theatre, but the property owner has not given serious consideration to his very competitive offer. Local legislation will make it very difficult to convert the Metro to another use, but the property owner seems determined to gut the theatre. The Metro is a classic neighborhood theatre with a giant screen, a terrific location and a rich history. With a prospective buyer now willing to purchase the theatre at a fair price we need to get the property owner to listen before he attempts to do permanent damage to the theatre.
/theaters/3260/

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on November 19, 2007 at 8:48 am

I’d like to second inclusion on this list of San Francisco’s Metro as an intact theater that can be saved, and important for all the reasons stated at that theater’s page.

uptownadviser
uptownadviser on November 19, 2007 at 10:30 am

Nationally speaking, the LOEWS KINGS, Brooklyn, ranks right up there with UPTOWN, Chicago. BIG challenges to solve with both.

My favorite wildcard is the QUO VADIS, Westfield, Mich. High-quality materials in a modern/Jetsons entry from Yamasaki and Associates. It is a national treasure.

In Chicago, the PATIO, GATEWAY and RAMOVA come to mind. And the CENTRAL PARK always needs a helping hand.

(Not endangered) In North Carolina, I am excited to see something of the PARAMOUNT, Goldsboro, N.C. being rebuilt after the fire. Such a great history of use (armory, vaudeville, cinema and community theatre). I saw this building in use prior to the fire and was warmed to see if full of happy patrons. This is a good example for all of those civic leaders who shrug their shoulders and don’t work to rebuild.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on November 19, 2007 at 11:44 am

I think it would be best to promote at least 15 endangered theaters across the US, so we can take many more members' views into account. Please share your thoughts.

ceasar
ceasar on November 19, 2007 at 11:59 am

Now that’s a wonderful idea.
I can tell you when it comes to any historic structures the narrow minded leaders of Vicksburg don’t preserve histoy. They tear it down. U know no cinemas here were never put on any historic list. And towns like Vicksburg should be put on a list too. For not taking care of thier cinema history too.

NativeForestHiller
NativeForestHiller on November 19, 2007 at 11:40 pm

I wish to add to SteveR’s posting that the imminently endangered Playpen Theatre (693 8th Ave), originally the Beaux Art style Ideal Theatre in 1916, has attracted petition signers with comments of quality:

http://www.petitiononline.com/Playpen/

JSA
JSA on November 20, 2007 at 2:40 pm

I don’t know if any plans are in place to restore Pacific 1-2-3 at Hollywood Blvd, but if not it’s worthy of inclusion in the list.

Looking at Latin America and the Caribbean, the Laguna Gardens UA Cinema 150 at Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, tops my list. It is my understanding that the theatre is still closed, and salvageable. This was (is) a fantastic theatre with a giant D-150 screen and a terrific sound system.

JSA

ceasar
ceasar on November 21, 2007 at 4:06 am

When I was visting the caribbean island of St. Maartin on the Dutch side they had a wonderful stadium cinema. I can’t rememnber what franchise but it’s classy and big. It had a lot of American films there I saw the X-Men Last Stand there.

jurayj
jurayj on November 27, 2007 at 3:54 am

I would like to see Cinema 1 and 2 in new york city at Third Avenue and East 59th STreet added to the list. Would that be possible?
It is one of the most important International Style movie houses in the U.S. and I think the first piggy back duplex designed and built. Currently the owner which is the same owner of the Angelica Theater on Houston in NY has covered over the blue tile facade with stucco in a successful bid to prevent landmarking. The only hope is for the current owner or a new owner to see the value in what the have and restore it to its glamorous mid 1960’s style.

jurayj
jurayj on November 27, 2007 at 3:59 am

/theaters/1075/
here is the link for cinema 1 and 2
this is a must for your list

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on December 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

How about all ten?

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I nominate the Boston Cinerama(RKO BOSTON)theatre. It is still standing somewhat. I do not know if there is enough left to save. It is on Washington St. Downtown Boston. I also believe that the Orpheum Theatre(Loews Orpheum should be restored. It Is now a music hall and is falling apart. I heard Don Law was going to spend money to fix it up again. I wish someone would purchase and restore the balcony(put in a new one), and try to restore it to its former beauty as close as possible.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment