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Labor costs have risen so high that studios can’t afford to film a movie with Ben Hur quality anymore! But, even if the could, one difference is that there were no megaplexes back then! MOST people on this site prefer movie palaces, but we aren’t most people in America. Most people in America visit megaplexes, and once they find one they like, return again and again.
As to filling the Boyd daily, United Artists Circuit didn’t expect huge crowds Monday to Thursday. In the glory days of movie palaces, from before TV, and also during Cinerama in the Boyd’s case, they were filled seven days a week, and scheduled movies from early in morning to late at night. TV killed many downtown moviehouses, and 90% of neighborhood moviehouses. What TV didn’t kill was killed over time by the mass move to the burbs and the development of multiplexes and megaplexes.
There’s no effort to prevent the Boyd from being a success! The new owner operator is investing more than $30 milion to revitalize the movie palace!
I’ve never met the above correspondent at one of our film fundraisers so far, and we’ve had six at International House (which is single screen, though not a daily moviehouse). And, I didn’t meet him at any of the many tours of the Boyd that I led, to show people what it looked like, and discuss the plans. Nor was he in our Saturday afternoon Vigil protests in 2002 EVERY Saturday from May to the end of the year, to protest the then owner’s plans to demolish. Numerous of our volunteers have generously donated their time to assist to ensure that the Boyd will be a tremendous asset to Philadelphia! Where’s he been?
Of course, the movie experience was superior in a single screen movie house! We are just not going to return to those days.
There were a few downtown movie PALACES that studios tolerated if they didn’t make a profit, but any single screen neighborhood moviehouse, like the Mayfair, had to make a profit or CLOSE.
The Ambler isn’t single screen. There are two “black box” (megaplex style) auditoriums carved within it, and the main, middle auditorium not yet restored or reopen will make a total of three.
The Colonial, which I frequent, is nonprofit and also has live events.
The choice for the Boyd was demolition or reinvention to being a viable theater, just as the choice was for so many nationwide. I’ve spent 4 years leading a group fighting to save it, see it properly restored, and working to include a film series, public tours, and exhibits of its history. Those four years are volunteer, and cost my income, savings, and free time dearly and the correspondent calls ME arrogant! So, far as I know, the extent of his effort is taking a
few photos of the exteriors of theaters, and ranting on this site.
I don’t mean that no single screen theater is viable, as there are some I can think of that are making money. But, many neighborhoods can’t support a single screen theater.
The City has no money to invest, not even in the Boyd, because over the last half a century rocket scientists like you bled it to death by imposing high taxes. Even if the City had money, would you have it invest in typewriters, horses and carriages, and phonographs? Single screen theaters aren’t viable anymore in most places, including most of Philadelphia.
There is nothing I’d like better than to see the Boyd as a daily moviehouse again, but it isn’t possible! I was a customer until it closed, but too few were for the last couple decades! You just can’t keep a movie palace built for about 2400 open daily as a single screen in the US except Los Angeles. It has been my honor to lead a group to save the Boyd from demolition, and to assist the current owner who is pouring money to restore and revitalize the Boyd. Its survival, like that of hundreds elsewhere in the US, depends on live events. The Friends of the Boyd are working to ensure film (classics, festivals, premieres) can return as well. Now perhaps the above correspondent can return to haunting the pages of various closed theaters in NE Philly with the same unrealistic rant.
I had someone inquire. The new operator told us they run another theater at or near Harrisburg, PA. I don’t think this theater is stadium seated, so with audiences flocking to theaters that are stadium seated, Regal must have decided to not renew the lease, and the shopping mall operator must have looked for another theater operator.
Jack’s photos of the marquee in 1984 look great. Today’s movie theaters don’t look so good in comparision. My guess is original marquee sign’s letters are in a “storage facility” but one called a dump, unless anyone has a specific reason to think they were stored away somewhere.
There’s no link to a theater included, so now I am curious. Is this a mdoern Regal multiplex, but one that isn’t stadium seated? What year built? How many auditoriums? Did a nearby newer theater take away customers?
THANKS! Wonderful photo of the Art Deco mural. Do you have more photos of the murals? Were there only two murals, huge ones on each side wall of the auditorium?
Loved your other photos, too, looks wonderful!
According to today’s Delaware County Daily Times, the fire started in, and was confined to the lobby/vestibule structure. This is the last John Eberson designed theater in the Philadelphia area. Engineers will determine if the building can stay up. This article does not appear on the internet site of the newspaper, but I have a faxed copy.
As I have with some of my theater photos, please open a free account on any website such as http://www.flickr.com/
post your photos there. Then, link your flickr site on a comment here, as I have with some of my photos of theaters, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/howardbhaas/
Linking other websites with photos is quite common for this website, and a good thing, since it won’t overload this site. I am really eager to see your photos, if you will be so kind! Thanks.
On August 27, 2003, I attended the pre-demolition ceremony at the Yeadon, inviting Rob Bender whose photos are above. Working with others, we convinced the town to stop demolition, albeit after the auditorium’s back wall was demolished the next day. The current plan mentioned above to save the lobby building including facade didn’t include any specific reuse for performing arts center. I have been volunteering as the advocate from the theater community. This is sad news, indeed, for an Art Moderne moviehouse that I grew up attending, and attended in the 1990’s.
Was the drugstore using the auditorium or just the lobby? Or the murals still visible on the side walls of the auditoriums? I hope Jack Ferry posts his photos!
According to Irv Glazer’s hardback book Philadelphia Theares, A-Z, the Mayfair opened with 1009 seats.
Theaters don’t reopen because of hot air on this website. They reopen because companies, or more usually, nonprofit organizations are formed to save & reopen them. And, with no disrespect meant, TheaterBuff 1 doesn’t have a viable business plan to make that happen, not for acquisition or rental, not for renovation, and not for reuse.
This is another reason why the intermission should return to long movies, especially a 3 hour movie like the new King Kong, so moviegoers don’t need to miss the movie to obtain refreshments and the related visit to the restrooms. There would also be less disruption, as people wouldn’t need to leave their seats during the movie. Presumably an intermission work work to the beneifit of the movie operators.
Here’s a photo of the marquee that I took in May 2005, and prior photo is that of the store.
In my opinion, movie ticket prices are still bargain entertainment, though I recognize that a working class family may view prices as high. Concession prices for popcorn, soda, etc. are way too high, and especially for families! Hollywood studios need work out a better split so theaters don’t depend almost solely on concessions for profit.
Commercials are a turn off. I’d rather see curtains replace the slide show, too, to return elegance & decorum to the experience.
Cell phone signals must be blocked, and block them in live entertainment venues, too. I’ve heard them while attending the Philadelphia Orchestra!
Better companies like Muvico and National Amusements (the Bridge) are designing cinemas with fantasy and upscale architecture.
Megaplexes are better than multiplexes (though not as good as single screens!) but what will also increase attendence are better movies!
One thing I don’t understand is why when studios remake a popular TV show the movie is always poorly written and bombs at the box office? Why not do a better job?
For those of us reading this cite, a reminder: if you like classic cinemas, attend them often & buy the concessions albeit overpriced!
The Penn, Tivoli, Loew’s Capitol, and Loew’s Palace are already listed on this site. It may be that some names were generic, because reviewing Robert Headley’s excellent book: Motion Picture Exhibition in Washington, D.C., there doesn’t seem to have been a Roxy, Paradise, or State in the District. There was more than one Orpheum, but I’m not sure one fits. There was an Avenue Grand- which is the biggest auditorium in Union Station, and I can add it later.
Does anybody know if AMC named auditoriums in other theaters?
The Mazza Gallerie was opened by GCC (General cinema) in 2000. Later, AMC bought GCC and rebranded the name.
You disagree with my first line? Well, ok, you are correct, somebody would be studying theaters even just plainer more recent ones, for the reasons you state. However, I do believe that if movie theaters began with the ones of the 1980’s rather than the palaces & those before palaces, then most people writing on this site wouldn’t be doing so. Historians, marketing professionals, and others would study the newer theaters, but most people seem to be fans of the pre-WW2 elaborate houses. My best evidence is that many more recent houses aren’t even listed yet on this site, but the older ones are.
and, I do agree that all the cinemas are important to study and document! I just don’t think many people have as much interest in the recent ones as the number of people with keen interest in older ones.
If movie theaters began with those constructed in the 1980’s, sure, there wouldn’t be any websites celebrating them!
My understanding is we are documenting all movie theaters.
We document the palaces, mostly built for silents, which in Washington D.C. there’s only one with an intact interior that survives downtown: the Warner, just as in Philadelphia there’s only one that survives downtown: the Boyd.
We also document the more modest single screen movie theaters, often Art Moderne that were built in the talkie era.
And, we also document the multiplexes and megaplexes. And, that includes lousy ones such as the Copley Plaza in Boston that Sacks opened in the 1980’s and which there are many comments on this website, including of its passing. As a law student in the early to mid 1980’s, I attended movies there, and that wasn’t a fun environment. Fun was the Charles' main single, and the big screen in the Cheri. The Charles & Cheri weren’t palaces, weren’t even historic movie houses from the pre-WW2 era, but were modern. They had large screens and large auditoriums.
The wonderful Cinema Treasures book documents all, but if I am wrong about this website, tell me!
As to the DC cinemas, the Wisconsin Avenue was lavishly built by a chain, Cineplex Odeon, that overspent (and eventually paid the price). Carpets, seats, granite benches in the foyers, testify to a grander environment than many other 1980’s theaters. Other companies were building multiplexes with screens that seem to range from 15 to 25 feet wide. The Wisconsin Avenue has two big houses with screens of about 35 to 40 feet wide! And, each of the small auditoriums was bigger than other multiplex construction: witness the auditorium size of the Dupont 5. I’ve only seen a few movies there, especially in the two big houses, a pleasant experience. I’m sorry to hear the sound bleads to a smaller auditorium.
Union Station was built with the features of the arches of the station incorporated within, and with other luxury touches, from what I read. I’ve seen it a billion times, but never seen a movie
It is possible that within a few years, both will be closed as they reach 20 and leases may expire. Neither was in the “yuck” category, rather both were among the best built in their time, and very popular for a long time.
12-25-1928 marked the 77th Anniversary of the opening of the Boyd Theatre by ALEXANDER R. BOYD. He sold the theater soon afterwards to the Warner Bros, who were also buying the Stanley Theater, and so it became a Stanley Warner theater. Boyd left Stanley Warner, where he was pivotal, to open his own movie palace and chain of theaters. Evenutally, in 1934, he had a chain, though not including the Boyd on Chestnut Street. Why did he sell the Boyd? Maybe with Warner Bros. moving in, he was afraid he couldn’t get “product” (the Warner and Paramount films he was booking in the Stanley theaters), maybe he ran out of money, or maybe Warner Bros. paid him enough he was happy with the profit.
Visit www.FriendsOfTheBoyd for more fascinating history.
When I tried to add the Wisconsin Avenue over the weekend, it didn’t seem to want to take, but thanks to Ron, I see it is there. I just added the Union Station now, so perhaps it will take another few days to appear. These are the first theaters I’ve ever added! No doubt, later, I will add more from Washington, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.
I also attended King Kong this past weekend. The Uptown is not falling apart. Some armrests need repair in the balcony, but that’s all. I was told the landlord would show movies if AMC pulls out, and had shown them before. That makes the landlord the Pedas Brothers who had the Circle chain, selling the Chain (but apparently not the Uptown building) to Cineplex Odeon, which then merged into Loews, and is now merging into AMC.
What will save the Uptown for some time is PATRONAGE. From New York City to Washington, there’s not a greater moviehouse experience than the Uptown! The exterior is a great, and the auditorium’s huge 70 to
80 feet wide movie screen fantastic!
I also saw the restored Lawrence of Arabia, My Fair Lady, and Vertigo, and agree such experiences were wonderful. In the last few years, I also enjoyed restored or reissues of Raiders of the Lost Arc, 2001, and Alien, and new movies. In 1997, I enjoyed the Warner Bros 75th Anniv. films, and the big screen epics like The Wild Bunch and Blade Runner were terrific on the huge screen. And, I’ve been fortunate to see many other classics & new films there.
AFI isn’t going to takeover the Uptown. They have the Silver. The Avalon programs arthouse & classics in a historic moviehouse. The Uptown is too big for arthouse of fulltime classic. The asset is the enormous auditorum including balcony.
As to original decoration, it looks like the ceiling was gutted. My gut feeling is American Indian decoration on the walls is also gone, but I don’t know for sure. We found lots of decoration hidden in niches in the Boyd auditorium, but you could see those niches still present. Although the Uptown’s original decoration appears neat in photos, it was relatively modest. For full Art Deco spendlor, visit the Boyd in Philadelphia when it reopens in 2007,
Again, patronize the Uptown if you like it. And, buy from the concession counter, because that’s how the operator profits, and profits keep the place open, and only profits will keep it open. Otherwise, it may end up being a giant retail store. Anybody really prefer the CVS in the (also John Zink designed) MacArthur?
Wisconsin Avenue will likely be reused for mainstream Hollywood fare, at least until the lease expires. Arthouse fare exists in Washington at the downtown Landmark, at Dupont Circle, at the Avalon, and nearby at the AFI Silver. Looking at the DC area, I see National Amusements and Consolidated operating megaplexes, but their websites indicate preference for stadium seating. Crown operates one theater in the area. That leaves Regal as most likely to takeover, but we shall see.
I agree as to the locale. I used to live in D.C., and returned for a few days vacation. I was surprised by the dreadful walk from Tenleytown Metro to the Wisconsin Avenue Cinemas. So much more pleasant are Cleveland Park, with the fantastic Uptown Theatre, Friendship Heights with the AMC Mazza Gallerie, and Chevy Chase with the Avalon. All of those are real neighborhoods.
Here’s a nice interior photo found on a popular photo website-