Threats to future of Philadelphia’s Boyd and Royal theaters

posted by HowardBHaas on February 18, 2008 at 3:41 pm

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The dire threats to the future of Philadelphia’s Boyd Theatre and the Royal Theatre on South Street are featured in this article in the Philadelphia Citypaper.

The Boyd on the 1900 block of Chestnut is again up for sale, according to its owner, Live Nation. (The 2,400-seat theater is the city’s sole remaining movie palace and has been closed since 2002.) And over on the 1500 block of South Street, the Royal Theater also faces an uncertain future, say its owners, Universal Companies. (Closed since 1970, the theater was once the city’s pre-eminent theatrical, movie and music venue for African-Americans.)

Live Nation spokesman John Vlautin acknowledged the Boyd “is currently on the market,” but declined comment on potential deals. “We are keeping all of our options open,” he says. That worries Howard Haas, a Center City attorney who founded Friends of the Boyd when the building’s demolition looked imminent in 2002. The group drew attention to its potential loss and steered it toward Live Nation (then the entertainment division of Clear Channel) in 2005.

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Comments (3)

TheaterBuff1 on February 19, 2008 at 8:06 am

When it comes to Center City Philadelphia with its ongoingly successful real estate market, it really is a miracle that the Boyd Theatre in its boarded-up state has survived for as long as it has — approximately 6 years now. And I truly hope that 6 years won’t all have been in vain, for it is Philly’s last still-standing movie palace after all.

Out in the Midwest, specifically, Saint Louis, Missouri, two minority St. Louis businessmen — Mike and Steve Roberts — have done a truly remarkable job in bringing St. Louis' Historic American Theater back to life once more and then some. Today it’s renamed the Roberts Orpheum Theater (Orpheum being what it was called originally) — a live performance venue — and got a great mention on PBS' Nightly Business Report several weeks back. More can be learned on it by visiting its website,

The moment I saw the Roberts Orpheum Theater I instantly thought, that could be the Boyd, albeit in the Boyd’s case it would have to lean toward featuring films more, given the steep competition it would face with Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, the all new Suzanne Roberts Theatre, the Academy of Music, etc., etc., etc., all within easy walking distance from there.

However, with 3-D digital cinema now starting to take hold in various theaters throughout the U.S., THAT’S what those who want to see the Boyd saved should be looking at, breakthrough technology of that nature. I have no doubt the recent Hannah Montana movie would’ve done exceptionally well there…if only it had been prepared for it by being up and running rather than all boarded up.

It should also be noted that director James Cameron (THE TITANIC) is spearheading a campaign to bring America’s movie palaces back to life once more, saying he doesn’t make films to be watched on cellphones. So with the right pitch, what would it take to get Mr. Cameron to take a special keen interest in Philadelphia’s Boyd? Not that much I wouldn’t think, given how much the Boyd, particularly once you step inside it, speaks for itself.

For after 6 long years of uncertainties, highly questionable excuses, etc., everything’s clearly come down to the wire now. No more long and mysterious delays regarding what comes next, it’s obviously make or break time at this point.

And it would be a huuuuuuge loss to Philadelphia if the Boyd failed to survive the next coming breaker.

ceasar on February 20, 2008 at 9:02 pm

TheatreBuff that is amazing that a cinema house like that has survivred in downtown Philadelphia. Down here most of the cinemas that were built in Vicksburg ms were destroyed like the Stranger theatre in downtown Vicksburg back during the ‘53 December tornado. Or the Deco Style Joy Theatre,a single screem cimema torned down for development in the '80s.
What has been interesting downhere is this: a lot of high end cinemas have turned Vicksburg. Their arguement is not enough population. It really irked some local leaders too. Just thought I pass that as an fyi.
Anyway I found the philly cinema story interesting.

TheaterBuff1 on February 21, 2008 at 7:07 am

It is truly amazing that the Boyd has remained in existence for as long as it has in light of how all of Philadelphia’s other classic movie theaters are now gone. And Howard Haas, the author of this thread, and the head of Friends of the Boyd, deserves much credit for that. After all, it was he who saved the Boyd from the wrecking ball approximately 6 years ago.

Meantime, if you were to see the Boyd you would quickly realize it has the potential to be far more than simply a local attraction. With its Art Deco magnificence combined with ideal location it stands out as a destination theater. Conveniently close to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Amtrak Station as well as to Philadelphia’s 15th Street Amtrak Station, on a dime’s notice it can easily be reached from Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., etc. And so far as Center City Philadelphia goes it’s in an especially nice area, near to Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, a sizeable and gorgeous Center City park.

So given all that it is indeed a mystery why it’s been kept on hold, boarded up for so long. For clearly it is just begging to come back to life once more. And the market for this is obviously there for it to.

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