Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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gmorrison
gmorrison on March 5, 2005 at 9:12 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 9:10 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 10:38 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 10:21 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 9:53 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!

veyoung52
veyoung52 on February 3, 2005 at 3:55 pm

DennisZ, have to amiably disagree with you on “Ben-Hur” at the Boyd. When the final Cinerama travelogue, “South Seas Adventure” ended in Sept/Oct 1959, the 3-panel equipment was removed, and 70/35mm projectors installed in the original booth. The Cinerama curtain (and this is what may have confused you) was retained, but placed on a flat track that stretched across the entire width of the auditorium. I don’t know the exact width, but the Boyd (which reopened with BH) was one of the few 70mm houses that used the anamorphic lens for MGM Camera 65 (or UltraPanavision 70) that included a 1.25x squeeze rendering an approximate 2.7:1 screen aspect ratio. The screen, of course, was in front of the proscenium. Now, if the present day width for 70mm projection in 2.2:1 ratio is 56' (verified on a recent Boyd tour), then the 2.7:1 image had to be in the area of 75 feet.(The original 3-panel Cinerama with its 2.7:1 ratio was 76 feet wide.) But it was flat. And stayed that way through “Exodus,” “King of Kings,” and a number of other 70mm roadshows until Summer of 1962, when Cinerama was reinstalled for the “Bros Grimm” and “How the West Was Won.”

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on February 3, 2005 at 3:15 pm

Dennis
When I saw Man Of La Mancha in the early 70’s they had a curved screen. When I went back in 75, to see the rerelease of GWTW, the screen was flat and remained that way. The last time I was there was in 1991 to see Hook.

dennisczimmerman
dennisczimmerman on February 3, 2005 at 3:06 pm

I am almost sure from my first visit to see the original three projector Cinerama travelogues until Stanley Warner sold the Boyd to the Sameric Theatres, the curved Cinerama screen was always used. I remember seeing “Ben Hur,” “Doctor Zhivago”, and even “The Happiest Millionaire” and they were all on the curved screen. Only after my first visit to see the roadshow “Fiddler On The Roof” when it was renamed the Sameric Theatre, did I see a “flat” screen within the
prosceium of the “stage.” The 70mm rerelease of “Gone With The Wind” was shown at the Randolph Cinerama Theatre. The Randolph was converted to single projection Cinerama in 1967.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 29, 2005 at 6:46 pm

Interesting – Lion King is the first show in Boston’s Opera House after Clear Channel restored and reopened it last year. It has been playing for six months and departs next month.

yvgtspike
yvgtspike on January 29, 2005 at 6:17 pm

For those who never seen the Boyd, it is small theatre although it has 2400 seats with a great sight line. It should be good for a legit theatre. It’s history as a movie theatre was so so. I hope the future make everybody appreciate the theatre. Lion King suppose to be one of its first show. This Wedneday they are having a tour of the theatre. This should be the last time the public will be able to see the theatre untill it reopens in 07.

justin2rue
justin2rue on January 29, 2005 at 3:19 am

Yeah,I agree. Good to hear. Nice change of pace instead of finding out the place will be bull dozed like all of the Duece in New York… pick up the book Sleazoid Expess if you want to hear a real sad story. Best, Justin Zaharczuk— Production Designer(Bubba Ho-Tep, Phantasm)

deleted user
[Deleted] on January 28, 2005 at 9:52 pm

Good news for a change makes me happy.

justin2rue
justin2rue on January 21, 2005 at 4:22 pm

-Stephan,I will gladly assist any way possible. As stated,my family still resides across from the old Fern Rock Theatre. All the best with your book.The excerpt you sent me is rich in detail. Best, Justin Zaharczuk

veyoung52
veyoung52 on January 21, 2005 at 3:38 pm

I am trying to locate the negative of a photograph I took in the Sameric/Boyd auditorium sometime in the 1980’s. I want to give it to Howard Haas at the upcoming Boyd tour next week. I took the shot specifically to show the teaser in the “up” position which was used when the house showed 1:85.1 70mm prints (as opposed to anamorphically derived 2.2:1). Through the 1970’s, they ran ALL 70mm prints incorrectly in the ratio of somewhere between 1.9 and 2.0. I remember one sequence of “CE3K” in the electrical substation where Dreyfus and another employee are speaking to each other, each one standing at the corner of the frame. As projected here, neither actor could be seen, as the ratio was so far off the mark. At any rate, does anybody remember which 70mm 1.85:1 films (like THE ROSE, THATS ENTERTAINMENT) ran at the SamEric. As I said, the photo was taken sometime in the 1980s, but I can’t remember what the feature might have been at that time. Thanks for your help.

SteveG
SteveG on January 19, 2005 at 4:28 pm

Re: Fern Rock and Olney. Steve G’s email is

SteveG
SteveG on January 11, 2005 at 9:58 pm

Re: Fern Rock Theater. Mike or Justin, I grew up in Olney from ‘46 to '56 on Nedro Ave, and am writing a book that needs details. I saw Rebel Without a Cause at the theater on 5th Street across from Fisher’s Park when it came out, as well as the old serials like Flash Gordon and Tarzan. Where can I find some details about that neighborhood, like what kind of trees grow in Fisher’s Park, and was the theater named the Fern Rock back then. I can’t remember. I call it the Olney Cinema so far in my book because that’s all I can remember. I found this web site googling Fisher’s Park. Help. I’m too far from Philly to go take a look. Thanks, SteveG

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on January 9, 2005 at 2:56 pm

cypress;
Can you post that link of the photo of the Circle Theatre onto its page here on Cinema Treasures /theaters/9237/
Thanks

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on January 9, 2005 at 2:32 am

Cypress, the theatre that you see in the picture at the Margaret-Orthodox station of The Market Frankford Line was the former Stanley Warner’s Circle Theatre.

Scholes188
Scholes188 on January 8, 2005 at 12:35 pm

Does anyone know the name of the theater that is partially visible from this Philly El?

http://world.nycsubway.org/perl/show?16583

justin2rue
justin2rue on November 25, 2004 at 3:53 pm

If anyone finds more info on the FernRock Eric Theatre,contact me at I have pictures to trade as well. Gotta run,J.Z.

veyoung52
veyoung52 on November 25, 2004 at 10:37 am

Contact Howard Haas at savethesameric.org. They have occasional events, like a tour of the theatre this upcoming December 1, to raise funds for its preservation.

RobertR
RobertR on November 25, 2004 at 9:29 am

Has any progress been made to save this theatre?

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on November 25, 2004 at 8:09 am

If memeory serves me right, they installed a new screen sometime between 1973 and 1976. I saw the roadshow engagement of Man of La Mancha there. When I returned the next time to see a re-release in 70mm of Gone With The Wind they has a new screen. Is at in the balcony for La mancha, but rememebr even though the film was flat,they had a large curved screen. When I went back the screen was a normal flat widesceen. It was a very large screen. They had masking that opened across and up and down. By the early 80’s the masking on the right side was torna nd never replaced.

veyoung52
veyoung52 on November 25, 2004 at 8:03 am

When was this? Are you sure you are not speaking of the brief period in 1958 when 3 CineMiracle projectors were installed for “Windjammer.” Neither my (fading) memory nor the offical International Cinerama Society list of Cinerama installations has any mention of a 3-projector setup in Glenside. You may be referring to a partial installation at what became the GCC Cinema at the Cherry Hill Mall in N.J. Platforms for the A,B, and C booth were constructed in front of the conventional booth. Closer to Glenside, the then Stanley-Warner King of Prussia house was designed for D-150 projection. The booth was placed at the front edge of the balcony, but the curved screen was never installed. If you have any factual info about a 3-projector run at the Keswick (other than “Windjammer”’s), please inform us.