Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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veyoung52 on March 18, 2005 at 3:03 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 10:48 am

Those were great pictures TC. Amazing pictures.

teecee on March 18, 2005 at 10:41 am

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

View link

gmorrison on March 11, 2005 at 6:55 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 3:51 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 9:36 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 11:07 am

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 10:30 am

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 10:26 am

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 9:47 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 7:45 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 6:43 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

gmorrison on March 5, 2005 at 6:34 am

Hello veyoung!

Thanks for responding.

Glenn M.
Wash., DC

veyoung52 on March 5, 2005 at 6:23 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 on March 5, 2005 at 6:12 am

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

Washington, DC

gmorrison on March 5, 2005 at 6:10 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.

Washington, DC

veyoung52 on February 3, 2005 at 7:38 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 on February 3, 2005 at 7:21 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 on February 3, 2005 at 6:53 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 on February 3, 2005 at 12:55 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 on February 3, 2005 at 12:15 pm

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 on February 3, 2005 at 12:06 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 3:46 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 on January 29, 2005 at 3:17 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 on January 29, 2005 at 12:19 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)