Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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savingtheboyd on April 17, 2005 at 11:24 am

This isn’t realistic. Built for 2400 seats, there are enormous costs such as heat and air conditioning. The Hollywood Dome is very small compared to the Boyd & survives with a megaplex attached to it. Single screen houses like the DC Cinema, the New York Astor Plaza & Beekman are closing, and others like the Ziefeld are struggling. The Boyd prospered with first run exclusives, but there are no more 1st run exclusive mainstream films! They open nationwide, and throughout the Philadelphia area on many screens.

Fortunately, movie exhibition has improved from multiplexes with small screens, small rooms, lousy sound, lousy chairs, and no decor. Philadelphia’s Bridge has 2 decent sized screens, decent sound, plush seats. The screens are not huge like the Boyd’s and they don’t use a curtain, but those 2 are more than tolerable, and the theater has pleasant decorin the common areas.

Many movie palaces were built by Hollywood studios, or in the case of the Boyd, sold to them shortly after being built, to showcase product. The studios were forced to divest of their movie palaces, one reason for the decline in the movie palaces. The distibutors- studios- today care about a return on their investment in movies. The theaters make their profit from concessions. The wonderful new book with the same title as this website tells the story quite well, and one of its co-authors, Andreas Fuchs, will be our Guest Speaker on May 5 at International House at our VIP Reception before our
1970’s Philadelphia themed film, Rocky. Our Guest Speakers take Q & A.

veyoung52 on April 16, 2005 at 7:59 pm

I understand. And I appreciate your efforts. However, I do think – and I am not the only one who thinks this – that the Boyd could be…again… a magnificent “movie theatre.” The problem is with the distributors who will willingly book films into tiny boxes like the Sansom Street Roxy, and apparently dont give a damn about audience appreciation. I absolutely and totally disagree about your theory that Boyd’s not being possible to be operated as a single-screen first-run downtown theatre. But that’s just my opinion, Howard, as a patron of the Boyd since October, 1953. I will continue to support your efforts, but as a member of a large Cinerama-loving-and-supporting group, I am SURE it can be saved as as a “destination” first run house, much like the ones I mentioned earler. It can be done! Again, I appreciate your efforts, but I would like to see the Boyd restored to its 1953 glamour and glitz, not its 1928. Vince

savingtheboyd on April 16, 2005 at 7:43 pm

Unlike the Hollywood Dome’s main auditorium or the Seattle one, the Boyd is a 2400 seat theater in downtown real estate. It is TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE to operate the historic theater with a single screen on a daily basis for movies, as downtown exclusives are over, and suburbs & megaplexes are in. I have spent 3 years now volunteering to save the Boyd, seeking authentic restoration, permanent preservation, and a program to include classic films, film festivals, film premieres, organ concerts, public tours, and exhibits of the Boyd’s history. But, it can’t return to being a daily moviehouse anymore than Radio City Music Hall could, and for the same reasons.

As to the current marquee, it looks appropriate for a midcentury building, not a French Art Deco movie palace. The original Boyd marquee was beautiful, just as the original ticket booth was beautiful.

I could only be aware of any use of the upstairs projection booth from historical accounts, in this instance Irv Glazer. Vince says otherwise, and that was informative. As to his apparently being upset with the demolition of the orchestra projection booth, well, we hope to return film including 70 MM to a decent standard from the upstairs booth that he tells us was used after 1953.

Broadway musicals will be the primary use of the theater. That’s a respectible use. The Boyd will be gorgeously restored, unlike the fixer upper that Vince saw on his visit with me. If Broadway musicals or other live events were not interested, then Philadelphia would have lost its last premiere movie palace forever. The building
would have been demolished. Instead, the movie palace will be returned to its original glory as built.
Howard B. Haas, Esq. President, Friends of the Boyd, Inc. www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.Inc next film fundraiser to restore the Boyd, and film to the Boyd, May 6, the original Rocky, at International House, see our website for details

veyoung52 on April 16, 2005 at 7:13 pm

To avoid serious litigation, I will try to hold my tongue here as much as possible, but the group of people (and I am seriously holding tongue here) who are trying to
turn the SamEric/aka Boyd in Philadelphia from a former formidable Cinerama venue into some artsy-fartsy performance venue have just
announced gleefully the following:

“The orchestra level projection booth was built for Cinerama in 1953 & expanded in 1962. The booth is an ugly intrusion on the Art Deco
showplace, and takes up prime seats. Once the delay in changing theater owners
was over, demolition began on the cinder block booth. I quickly
assembled a team to rescue the two 35/70 mm MOVIE PROJECTORS & SOUND
EQUIPMENT. Brian Hartman, 1990’s projectionist at the theater, has assisted
for 3 years. After having knocked down half of the booth, the sledge
hammers paused just long enough so that amidst the rubble, Brian could
disassemble the projectors & sound equipment. Professional movers took
them from the theater. Once renovation is complete, film equipment will be
in the original, upstairs booth.”

I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the Boyd with these people (tongue
still held in cheek) a couple of months ago and got a
chance to explore the stagehouse, both booths, offices, dressing rooms, etc.
These people (tongue squirming now) want to turn
this place back to its original state, even removing the 1953 Cinerama
marquee and replacing it with its ugly-a** 1928 white-lettering-on-black

They haven’t a clue about how to return this theatre into one of the East
Coast’s most fantastic single-screen theatres. Now that the DC Uptown
has begun its ride into Hell, and the D-150 house in Long Island now gone, and the Music Hall too expensive to distributors to show films on a regular basis, thiswould be – for a forward-thinking business person – the perfect opportunity for a top-grossing house, like the Dome(s), like the Seattle Cinerama, etc. Instead, what we’re going to have in Philadelphia is a building which has
gone from GWTW to TIC to Britney Spears!!!!!!
I should let you know that these statements about the circumcision of the Boyd were made by a person who debated me about whether the original booth had ever been used since 1953. Some idiot who was often mistaken about the history of Philadelphia theatres (no, I’m not saying his name) stated in a published book that the Boyd’s original upstairs booth had not been used since 1953. I guess those prologues and breakdown reels were projected from across the street.

veyoung52 on April 9, 2005 at 10:32 pm

Dennis, there are pictures of the original Cinerama auditorium head-on installation at the Temple Univ archives site. These were probably from the “Bulletin.” There are other pictures from the “Inquirer”. If you wait a minute, and be sure to remind me, i can get you the date of the Inquirer photo. The one i have is a reprint from an article that appeared a little while back when the restoration program began..the “Bulletin” photos i know exist because someone in the current SavetheSameric program showed them to me, but he refused to let me know the dates. But they do exist. If you find them before I do, I would hope you would share them. Yes, they are alive!!!!

dennisczimmerman on April 9, 2005 at 10:16 pm

“Fiddler On The Roof” premiered at the “New Sameric” (AKA Boyd) on
Dec. 14, 1971. It moved over to the Eric’s Mark 1 on June 21, 1972. At that time it changed from a Reserved Seat Engagement to a Reserved Performance engagement. It was still separate showings, but not reserved seats. It closed at the Mark 1 on Sept. 26, 1972. Can anyone tell me where an “outsider” – not living in Center City – get any pictures of the Boyd during its times of using the Cinerama screen. The pictures on the Save The Sameric website are great. But they are either from the opening years of the theatre or after the 1971 change to the Sameric. I am more interested in interior pictures from the 50’s and 60’s showing the screen and interior. I would also love to have some interior pictures of the Stanley, Fox, and other long gone center city movie palaces. I have many pictures of their marquees that I took when attending those theatres. But have none of their interiors. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

veyoung52 on April 3, 2005 at 9:39 am

rg, interesting. it may be that i saw “fiddler” after the hard-ticket, roadshow run had been discontinued. this often happened, and the house would go continous-“popular prices” midway through the run…i seem to recall (and this is dangerous) that i sat my self down front row center with my friend without having to have had reserved seats. btw, i went to the last show at the Fox.

raymondgordonsears on April 3, 2005 at 7:31 am

Speaking of the souvenier books, in my collection I have FUNNY LADY,JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR,BLUE MAX, hard covered books AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, BEN HUR, KING OF KINGS, JUST TO NAME A FEW. Do you remember the little containers of orange drink some of the theatres sold during these shows. I would see these great movies in center city and waite for them to come north. The BEST theatre of them all was the MASTBAUM. I made a point of going to the last show when it closed. Unfortunately it was domed from opening day.

dennisczimmerman on April 2, 2005 at 9:32 pm

I started seeing the roadshow attraction films back in the 50’s with my parents. The Cinerama Travelogues, “Ben Hur”, “Grimm”, “How The West Was Won”, “Circus World”. However, my ticket stub collection only started in the 60’s. Here is a list of the 70mm epics seen at the Boyd and the date I saw them.
“The Greatest Story Ever Told” 5/31/65
“Doctor Zhivago” 5/29/66
“The Bible” 3/21/67
“The Happiest Millionaire” ½/68
“Star” 12/22/68
“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” 12/31/69
and at the “Sameric"
"Fiddler On The Roof” 2/26/72 – Which was a reserved seat showing as the ticket stubs indicate our seats were Left Center, Row E, Seats 118 and 120 in the balcony. When “Fiddler” moved over to the Mark 1 on Market street, the reserved seat policy was discontinued I believe.
I have the souvenier programs from “Ben Hur” and the later Cinerama films, but since my Father bought the tickets I was not old enough the think I would really appreciate them in later years! As I have said many times, I still miss the movie going experience of the reserved seat Cinerama/70mm presentations. There was something magical about them, especially the movie palace surroundings. Thanks to this website, I realize I am not the only person that feels this way!

veyoung52 on April 2, 2005 at 7:48 am

rg, i don’t know everything, and am sorry to have given you that impression. as i recall – and i admit i may be mistaken- the original Ben-Hur run in Phillytown began 11/24/59 (or within a few days) in anamorphic 70m. It is entirely possible that the some of the sites of the initial 2nd run were in 70mm. Excuse me. Fading memories recollect a possible 70mm booking somewhere in the Northeast. This would have been a house prior to the Goldman Orleans or the GCC Northeast, somewhere in Lower Bucks County. I forget the name. Please enlighten me, as I am always willing to learn more history. Vince

raymondgordonsears on April 2, 2005 at 6:57 am

Excuse me: I forgot that you know everything> The showing of BEN HUR were the complete, uncut with intermission at the two theatres above. The only difference from center city was price and NO resv. seating and in some cases no 70mm. However some theatres were able to feature 70mm.

veyoung52 on April 1, 2005 at 7:58 pm

Like all other theatres that featured roadshows in the 1950-60’s, the schedule could change depending on film length, and time of year. Although it was always customary to have one evening show daily with matinees Wed, Sat, & Sun. Almost always it was matinees every day during the Summer months and holiday weeks. In particular, the Boyd was host to many prestigious roadshows, going back possibly even earlier than the 1939 GWTW. Beginning in 1953, there were the Cinerama and CineMiracle travelogues, with a C'scoped “Gigi” in the Summer of 1958. After the temporary removal of Cinerama equipment, the Boyd roadshowed Ben-Hur, Exodus, Judgement at Nuremburg and King of Kings. After re-establishing Cinerama in 1962: Brothers Grimm, and HTWWW, followed by numerous 70mm projections: IAMMW, Greatest Story, Hallelujah Trail, Khartoum, Circus World…The Bible, Dr. Doolittle..the list goes on. The last semi-roadshow there was the opening attraction as the severely unattractive SamEric: “Fiddler On The Roof,” on “modified” roadshow….reserved performances, but not reserved seats. Just a small point: in general a roadshow performance means reserved seats & performances. The 2nd run billings of Ben-Hur and Exodus were not, as was mentioned in the posts regarding the Erlen and Merben Theatres in Philadelphia, strictly speaking, roadshows. They were, to quote the print media, “special exclusive engagements”…seats were not reserved, though in some theatres the performances may have been. And, of course, in those days, the 70mm projection prints were not used at these 2nd-run houses. Other cities used somewhat different tactics: in a racially segregated Washington, DC in 1962, a 70mm print of “West Side Story” was being truly “roadshowed” simultaneously with a 35mm “continous performance-popular prices” (“grind”) booking at a theatre in heavily segregated neighborhood.

raymondgordonsears on April 1, 2005 at 6:56 pm

This theatre was featuring the resevered seat performance of “EXODUS"
matinees 2pm & evenings 8pm. What a great theatre to see this movie. rg

veyoung52 on March 18, 2005 at 5:03 pm

Just keep firmly in mind that the few auditorium shots do in no way present the Boyd in its glory days 1952-1959, 1962-1971 as a Cinerama showcase, initially with the largest Cinerama screen ever installed. Both the Philadelphia Inquirer microfilms at the public libraries, and the Philadelphia Bulletin collection at Temple University Urban Archives have photographs of the initial installations.

Scholes188 on March 18, 2005 at 12:48 pm

Those were great pictures TC. Amazing pictures.

teecee on March 18, 2005 at 12:41 pm

Further to the post of 3/25/04, here is the link to the interior photos:

View link

gmorrison on March 11, 2005 at 8:55 pm

While writing the comment above about my father being a projectionist in Phila. and environs from 1930-1941, I remembered some things he told me:
1) He worked for awhile at a theatre with another projectionist who was the brother of Ed Wynn. Ed Wynn was born Isaiah Leopold in Phila. in 1886. My fahter was born in 1911 and arrived in Phila. in 1930 from Kansas when he was 19 years old. Both brothers were in show business, I guess—one a vaudeville performer, and the other a projectionist!
2) Although a member of the IATSE, my father attempted with others to start a rival (?) union that I believe failed. I remember coming across some old dues books and stamps in our attic of “The Keystone State Moving Picture Machine Operators Association.” This would have been approx. 1935.
Does anyone know anything about either of the above?

Glenn M.
Washington, DC

veyoung52 on March 8, 2005 at 5:51 am

DennisZ, “I just remember the curtain and screen always extending out past the proscenium until the Sameric take over of the theatre”. I understand that there are photographs available of the original Cinerama installation at the Temple University Urban ARchives section. You can “google” that name to get to the site. I don’t have time to search their files as I work weekdays, and I believe the archives are open weekends only once a month. The great thing about sitting in the Loge section of the Boyd was that the screen still extended above your head and still nearly completely filled your peripheral vision. Wasn’t it grand?

dennisczimmerman on March 7, 2005 at 11:36 pm

veyoung: I concede to your expertice. I was only 12 years old when my parents took us to see “Ben Hur” at the Boyd. I remember seeing the Cinerama travelogues prior to that, but do not remember much else.I do not have the resource information a lot of the other contributors to this site have available to them. My resource is my memory, ticket stubs, and the souvenir book collection. Maybe it is just that I was not info savy back then. I just remember the curtain and screen always extending out past the proscenium until the Sameric take over of the theatre. We also sat in either the balcony or loge sections. Either way, it was still an awesome experience seeing the many movies I traveled from Lancaster to see at the Boyd!

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on March 5, 2005 at 1:07 pm

Thanks for that location info Mikeoaklandpark.

I have located the Brookline Theatre, 34 Brookline Blvd, Havertown, PA listed on the website. It is listed as closed. Strange that it doesn’t show up in any of my Film Daily Yearbooks? eh.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on March 5, 2005 at 12:30 pm

Looking through the Film Daily Yearbook, 1941 for all of PA theatres, the only Brookline Theatre that comes up is for Pittsburgh, located at 1734 Brookline Blvd with a 300 seat capacity.

Mikeoaklandpark on March 5, 2005 at 12:26 pm

The Brookline theater was in the burbs in Havertown. It closed in the early 80’s and the last time I was there in 1991 it was a gym. Also,The Boyd had the roadshow re-release engagement of Ben Hur sometimes during the mid 60’s.

veyoung52 on March 5, 2005 at 11:47 am

Glenn M, i seem to remember a Brookline theatre outside of Philly outside. I would suggest trying to get a copy of Irving Glazer’s “Philadelphia Theatres” at the library (very rare). Next time I’m at a the only branch of Camden County libraries that has a copy, I will look it up for you. There are tons of theatres that are not on c.t., simply because no one has posted the information

carolgrau on March 5, 2005 at 9:45 am

I remember the Eric Theatre in Harrisburg,Pa. I ran the sound of music in 70mm. It had a big curved screen,it was later twined. Then they took over the Trans-Lux as well, and they had the Eric twin in Union Deposit, along with the old Keystone Drive-In. I Liked working for them at the time.
Dave Grau (Mungo)

gmorrison on March 5, 2005 at 8:43 am

To veyoung or anyone else,

My father was a projectionist (IATSE) in Phila. from approx. 1930-1941. He spoke most often of working his longest job at the “Brookline” Theatre in suburban Philly. I don’t see that on the CT list of theatres either. Is that another faulty memory of mine or is it not listed for some reason?

Wash., DC