Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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raymondgordonsears
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Scholes188 on March 18, 2005 at 12:48 pm

Those were great pictures TC. Amazing pictures.

teecee
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
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
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
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 Cinematour.com 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

GlennM;
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
Mikeoaklandpark on March 5, 2005 at 12:26 pm

Veyoung
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
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
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)
Norelco

gmorrison
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?

Glenn
Wash., DC

gmorrison
gmorrison on March 5, 2005 at 8:34 am

Hello veyoung!

Thanks for responding.

Glenn M.
Wash., DC

veyoung52
veyoung52 on March 5, 2005 at 8:23 am

Glenn M, “Spartacus” opened in Philly in 70mm at the dearly-departed Goldman on 15th Street north of Chestnut. The theatre was demolished many years ago and an office tower stands in its place. Philly was the 4th premiere city of “Ben-Hur.” It opened Nov. 24, 1959 and ran until Jan. or Feb. of 1961.

gmorrison
gmorrison on March 5, 2005 at 8:12 am

If I had read the previous responses more carefully, I could have answered my first question about “Ben Hur!”

Glenn
Washington, DC

gmorrison
gmorrison on March 5, 2005 at 8:10 am

As a boy growing up in Hagerstown, Maryland (approx. 150 miles from Philly), my family made many trips to Phila. because my parents had both lived there before moving to Hagerstown in 1947—I was born in H-town in 1948. So, although Baltimore and DC were both 70 miles away, Phila. became the large city I became most acquainted with.
My father, while going to school at U.of P. (Wharton ‘35), was a motion picture projectionist in Phila. theatres and an IATSE member.
He taught me alot about projection systems, and his old union card could get us into projection booths.
I have great memories of seeing Cinerama movies at the Boyd including: “How the West Was Won,” and “the Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.” I still have my souvenir books that were sold at the concession stand in those days for Cinerama and other non-Cinerama “roadshow” movies. I really looked forward to going to the Boyd—it was/is a great theatre. Although I don’t get tp Philly very often, I’ve joined the “Friends of the Boyd, and made a small contribution—this theatre MUST be saved and restored!
Two questions to whomever may read this: 1) Did "Ben Hur” play at the Boyd? I think I saw it there. 2) What was the name of the theatre a few blocks east on Chestnut where I saw “Spartacus” and still have that souvenir book. I want to say the “Midtown,” but I don’t see that name on the Cinema Treasures list, and I don’t recognize any others.
Thanks for responding.

Glenn
Washington, DC

veyoung52
veyoung52 on February 3, 2005 at 9:38 pm

DennisZ, more Boyd info. (It’s getting late, and I didnt think of just pulling this source…) From the International Cinerama Society, Listing of United States Cinerama Theatres.
“Philadelphia (PA) – Boyd Theatre (Sam Eric I) 3s/70 [meaning it was equipped for both 3panel and 70mm Cinerama). Theatre no. 5. 3s:10-05-53 to 10-25-59. Screen: 76ft x 26 ft. Cinerama removed and Flat 70m installed from 11-24-59. 3-strip restored 08-07-62 to 12-01-63. 70m Cinerama from 12-19-63. Now Theatre I of Sam Eric multiplex. Original red curtains still in use. The remains of a poster for CINERAMA HOLIDAY visible on the rear wall 1993. Theatre has survived two demolition schemes and is now officially protected. Enlarged B booth still in use. Now no sign of A & C booths. 19th at Chestnut."
The above was from the 2001 Cinerama/CineMiracle/Kinopanorama/D-150 theatre listings. I know the author slightly, but am well acquainted with one of his best friends. If you would like, I can find out through Australian contacts if Keith Swadkins, president of the Intl C'rama Society is still operating. But with very few exceptions, his listings are flawless, and his information unassailable. Sorry I didnt think to use this resource until now.

veyoung52
veyoung52 on February 3, 2005 at 9:21 pm

DennisZ, this is relatively easy to check out. First of all, as for a sign above the marquee. There had always been a smaller one during the Cinerama travelogues, but was substantially enlarged for “B-H.” Check the newspapers and “Variety.” There were many printed reports that Cinerama was being removed at that time, for one reason, by dent of the Agreement between SWCinerama and the Dept of Justice in June of 1953, SW was no longer allowed to show C'rama in most theatres after Dec, 1958, later adjusted to Dec, 1959. Second, there were no more new travelogues to show. The 3 booths were dismantled, 70/35mm projectors put in upstairs, a FLAT screen was hung forward of the proscenium behind the original Cinerama curtain on a FLAT rigging. In contrast to the Boyd, the SW Warner in Washington DC retained the curtain on the curved track, but installed a flat screen behind it . You are right in that SamEric took out a curved screen when it took over operation, but THAT curved screen was not the one that was installed in 1953…it was the one that was installed in 1962. If you remember the size of the 1962 installation, and then go to a library and check out the Phila “Bulletin” photos taken in 1953 and published that Fall, you will see that there was a VAST difference in screen sizes. There is a gentleman who I will try to get to comment here. He lives in Cherry Hill, NJ, and was, along with his father, business agent of the IATSE projectionist local 307, no longer in existence, and has vivid memories of visiting the Boyds booth(s) and backstage.
Back to Cinerama, I dont know where the Philly equipment went in 1959…possibly to Europe. I have published reports of the SW Warner in New York, where the equipment was de-installed and then in a short time removed to the Syosset in Long Island. You can find other clues in “Variety,” by checking in the “theatre grosses” section and compare the seating capacities both before and after Nov 24, 1959 when “B-H” opened. As I said in my earlier post, seeing that vast red curtain, hearing the phenomenal 6-track sound system, and memory can trick you into thinking the 11/59-7/62 screen was curved. One other thing comes to mind: like many other theatres, when “Search For Paradise” (travelogue #3) tanked, many houses either closed down (the Houston Melba) or showed non-Cinerama product. From 3/58 to 10/58, the Boyd utilized the upstairs booth, having installed new vertical masking, 4-track mag soundheads, to show 35mm product On The Curved Screen. Opening film was Fox' “The Long, Hot Summer,” and this policy continued up through the Summer 58 roadshow run of “Gigi.” The downstairs booths weren’t touched. After “Gigi,” the house returned to 3-projector operation with “Windjammer.” Possibly you saw one of those films during that season when the screen, the original Cinerama one, was deeply curved.

dennisczimmerman
dennisczimmerman on February 3, 2005 at 8:53 pm

Maybe we can get someone else to verify which way it is. I am just as fairly certain that the curved Cinerama screen remained until Sameric Theatres took over. I remember walking in for a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1972 and seeing the proscenium for the first time. They used the red curtains over the flat screen they installed when they took over the theatre. Even living in Lancaster, Pa. I have seen over 25 films at the Boyd/Sameric. From the first Cinerama travelogues that my parents took me to, to “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” I am/was a big fan of Cinerama and 70mm film presentation. Since Lancaster had no theatres capable of that projection, any “big screen” films playing in Center city made a required trip there. Also, people keep talking about the sign that was added on top of the marquee by Sameric. They expanded on it with the addition of the other three theatres, but the sign was there prior to their taking over. Look at the picture of the Sameric in the book “Popcorn Palaces” during the engagement of “Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Even on the Save the Sameric Website they had picture of the premiere of “The Happiest Millionaire” and the sign was above the marquee then. Also their website has pictures from 1969 and later years and even as a single screen theatre there was the sign above the marquee. So, Veyoung, I have to amiably disagree with you about the screen. I remember too many times sitting in the loge section for “Doctor Zhivago,” “Ben Hur”, “The Bible,” and even “The Happiest Millionaire and looking at the curtains opening on that curved screen that covered beyond the proscenium. Is that anyone out there that can help settle this stalemate?! Thanks!