Prince Music Theater

1412 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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Showing 26 - 50 of 51 comments

andyp on May 13, 2009 at 4:57 pm

TO: John Benson and Barry Goodkin: I worked as a usher at the Midtown in the late 60’s. Saw Oliver for ten months. When I started I was only 14 years old (had to be 16 to work), and when Mr. Gordon found out, he decided to keep me instead of firing me. I appreciated his kindness and knowledge of the movie business. The best theatre manager that I had the pleasure to work with. I spent my high school years 1968-1972, working at the Midtown (filled in at the Goldman and Randolph when they were short of ushers), also at the Milgram and Stage Door Cinema.

Andy P

HowardBHaas on May 6, 2009 at 7:05 am

Here’s some early 1950s history of films shown at the Midtown, from Box Office:
10 June 1950 Box Office “So Young, So Bad” given premiere on June 7th
10 May 1952 Box Office: Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie will greet people May 14 in the Midtown lobby when their film “No Room for the Groom” opens
8 Aug 1953 Box Office: Michener’s Return to Paradise" had eastern premiere at Midtown on 5 Aug

HowardBHaas on May 3, 2009 at 9:11 am

If you search exactly “BoxOffice March 3, 1951” page 108 has description with photos of renovated Midtown exterior & interior including auditorium facing screen.
Box Office 24 Nov 1951 BoxOffice page 123 has an ad, which at lower right has photos Midtown foyer’s leather doors & Ladies Powder room

veyoung52 on February 26, 2009 at 9:25 pm

It was the Sansom St. Cinema which either began its life as a porno house or morphed into one towards the end, and I think was in the same block as but across the street from the Roxy. It may have also been under Sackett’s supervision that one of the most amazing double-feature bills of all time was shown: “The Wizard of Oz” and Tod Browning’s “Freaks” in one sitting. Among his other ventures, Sackett was also the chief proponent of a short-focal length lens attachment he marketed in the 1970-1980’s as “SuperVision,” which, according to him and his press releases was installed in at least two theatres in Las Vegas, and was even used at an Oscar ceremony for projecting the film clips utilized during the awards.

kencmcintyre on February 1, 2009 at 9:29 am

Do you mean Sansom Street? I don’t remember any Sampson in Center City.

barrygoodkin on February 1, 2009 at 8:33 am

Warner’s operated the Bromley at 5810 Old York Road. It is listed with 953. Barney Sackett had a radio program called “Two On The Dial.” He took over the Earle Theatre after Warner’s closed it and did “Death of a Salesman” on stage. He went on to operate an art house around 19th & Sampson.

JohnBenson on January 31, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I was able to find the Wayne Avenue Playhouse on this site by calling up all the theatres in Philadelphia, which seems to be a more reliable way to find theatres, unless the name has changed. Pretty shocking list; almost every one is closed. They were nearly all open when I left in 1963. I used to know Barney Sackett slightly, who ran the Wayne Avenue, and went there many times.

There was a little theatre near the Wayne Avenue Playhouse, I think it was on the other side of the railroad—looking at the map I would say somewhere like Wingohocking Street not far from where it meets Germantown Avenue. It was closed, but ca. 1962 a guy named Max Raab opened it as an art theatre as a tax shelter, and renamed it the Aardvark Theatre, a play on all the Aart theatres that clogged the neighborhood listings. A purist, he only ran single features until economic necessity forced him to go to the standard doubles. His big score was getting VIRIDIANA first run for Phila. It wasn’t open for very long. If listed on this site it wouldn’t be under Aardvark.

There was also a large theatre on the west side of Chelten Avenue between Wayne and Germantown, I think a chain theatre, but I don’t remember the name.

I can’t remember for sure, but I think the Esquire was the theatre that Gordon managed before moving to the Midtown. It’s the right area and a Goldman theatre.

barrygoodkin on January 31, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The Wayne Avenue Playhouse was located at 4910 Wayne Avenue. In Philly there were many sub-run theatres that were located in residential areas. The Wayne with 504 sets was one of those. The Bandbox was located at 30 E. Armat Street. Both the Bandbox and Wayne were in Germantown. Goldman took over the Grange theatre from Warner Bros., extensively renovated it and reopened as the Esquire. It was located on the Northeast corner of Broad & olney It had about a 1,000 seats. Moe stein was the first manager.

JohnBenson on January 31, 2009 at 11:46 am

You are correct on all points. At the time I was working for Goldman, the Erlanger and the Locust were both legitimate theatres, owned by Goldman. The box office at the Midtown when there were reserved seat roadshows was operated by “treasurers” (according to their contract). They basically operated independently of the theatre management and would move from venue to venue according to need. I got to know a number of the treasurers, who were great people. Freebies being a more established tradition in the legitimate theatre, the treasurers would often get me seats to legitimate shows (in any theatre, not necessarily Goldman’s). Lyle Trenchard was still general manager of the chain when I was there. (Thanks, your mention of the name brings it back to me.) I guess I knew that Gordon was once at the Bandbox. I lived close to the Bandbox in the mid-fifties and went there several times because it showed revivals. I wonder if he was there then. He had also managed a Goldman theatre somewhere in North Philadelphia, possibly on Broad Street. I wish I could remember the name. That was the theatre that he talked about. It was someone else who told me that he once was general manager. Whatever the reason, it is a fact that he did not report to Trenchard but was his own “general manager.” At the time I worked at the Midtown, ushers made 50 cents an hour, a ridiculously low amount even then. (I was never an usher.) I left the Midtown in 1963 and moved to New York but would always drop in to see Gordon when I came back to the city as long as he was at the Midtown. When I worked there, we used to talk about the “art theatre” phenomenon, which he was contemptuous of. Later, I returned to the city to find the Midtown (still a Goldman theatre, still managed by Gordon) showing a hard core feature! (When hard core went legal in Phila, it also went legit, which never happened in NYC, the sleaze relegated to sleaze houses.) Gordon said “business was pretty good for a skin flick.”

By the way, I note that the Wayne Avenue Playhouse is not on this site. Do you know exactly where that was located?

barrygoodkin on January 31, 2009 at 9:26 am

I worked for Goldman Theatres during the period 1950 to 1953. At that time Norman Gordon was the manager of the the Goldman Band Box Theatre in Germantown. That theatre was quite successful running off-beat films. E. Lyle trenchard was the general manager of the Philadelphia area theatres. He was also sceretary of William Goldman Theatres, Inc. I assume the two legitimate theatres mentioned in the above posting were the Erlanger and Locust Street opposite the side doors of the academy of Music. Although Goldman had taken over the Erlanger at 21st & Market Streets to exhibit films the major film producers would not release films to him and he initiated a landmark legal case which he won that required the major film producers to require competitive bidding for their product and to prohibit restrictive booking. This ultimately resulted in the separation of film production and distribution from exhibition. The Fox Locust was opened by the Fox Film Corporation and because of its poor location for a film theatre was nor successful. Fox gave up the theatre in 1931 and it became a legetimate house. The Philadelphia legitimate houses were the Forrest, Shubert and Walnut. I believe that the locust was the smallest of the legitimate houses. That theatre is sometimes confused with the Locust Theatre that was located at 52nd and locust Streets in West Philadelphia.

JohnBenson on January 30, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I worked at the Midtown Theatre from 1960 to 1963 when Norman Gordon was manager. I believe Gordon had been general manager for the chain at one point, and he was the only house manager that did not report to the current general manager, but reported directly to William Goldman. In practice he was his own general manager with little oversight. He really knew the movie theatre business and he taught me a lot. I really liked and respected him. While I was there we showed WEST SIDE STORY (9 AM Saturday Girl Scout shows with not a dry eye in the house), SPARTACUS, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, THE ALAMO and CAN-CAN, all on a reserved seat roadshow basis, in addition to various films shown “continuous.” Goldman at the time also owned two legitimate theatres in Philadelphia. He was one of the first to build a new theatre after the long decline of movie theatres due to the rise of television. That was the Orleans, a shopping center theatre.

barrygoodkin on October 16, 2008 at 9:38 am

My colleague Edwin Allen searched the micro film copies of the Philadelphia Inquirer in the Philadelphia Free Library and found that the new Midtown Theater was opened by William Goldman on December 23, 1950. The opening film was “The Goldbergs” with Molly (Gertrude Berg) and the entre cast appearing at the opening ceremonies. Mayor Bernard Samuel, Ralph Kelley, president of the Chamber of Commerce, and a large group of civic and business leaders were present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony

kencmcintyre on May 4, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Here is an old ad for the Budco Midtown:

Oliver on September 4, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Howard: I mean Mr. Norman Gordon, I guess he got his orders from Mr. William Goldman. There was so much showmanship when you went to a reserved seat engagement, ushers show you to your seat, the theatre went dark, the overture played and then the curtain went up and the feature started. I only met Mr. Goldman about three times when I worked at the Midtown, Randolph and Goldman theatres from January 1969 to November 1970, then I worked for the Milgram theatre chain from December 1970 to about November 1972. At the Milgram I worked up from usher to assistant manager.

HowardBHaas on September 4, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Such a contrast to today’s movie going!

You probably mean Mr. William Goldman, the owner of this and other theaters?

Oliver on September 4, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Dennis: Thanks for the memories, I worked as an usher during Oliver’s ten month run. Mr. Gordon was a perferectionist when it came to how the ushers should be dressed, especially Friday, Saturday and Sundayt, we had to wear white gloves.

Andy P.

HowardBHaas on August 22, 2007 at 7:02 am

Photo by Dennis Zimmerman with Oliver on marquee:
View link
Thanks to Dennis for taking the photo & allowing it to be posted.

TheaterBuff1 on March 15, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Yes, that’s correct. And she was also the leading lady in the first (1931) version of “The Maltese Falcon” opposite Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade. And her acting career continued on into the early years of television as well, then all appears to end there, although she died in 1971. Also noteworthy, by age four she had already toured in stage productions, having been born in 1901. And she starred as Dorothy in the 1910 silent version of “The Wizard of Oz.”

But alas, leave it to me, and I guess many others as well, to never have heard of her until seeing that photo you posted! But of that time when that picture was taken, I assume it was a moment in time which anyone still living today, if they do remember, would just assume forget — while I, not having been around back then, find it to be very fascinating. Particularly right now as Philadelphia ponders where it goes next from here…

TheaterBuff1 on March 13, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Great historic photo, Lost Memory, while I don’t think I ever saw a “RENT” sign right nextdoor to the Karlton looking more desparate! Alas, the Great Depression, and, going by the film title on the Karlton’s marquee — “Cocktail Hour” — I assume the end of Prohibition, too. And while the film’s Randolph Scott went onto greater stardom, Bebe Daniels…as in, er, Bebe who? Well, as legend has it, when making a personal appearance in Chicago she had thousands of dollars worth of jewelry stolen from her hotel room. When longtime Daniels' fan Al Capone heard about it he circulated the message around town that whoever stole it had 24 hours to return it “or else.” The jewelry was returned the next day. Such was the way of things in that long ago era, Chicago with its Al Capone, Philadelphia with its Dutch Schultz and so on.

TheaterBuff1 on December 19, 2006 at 7:33 pm

On Monday, December 18, 2006, the Prince Theatre had the proud honor of hosting Philadelphia’s premiere of “Rocky Balboa,” the latest in the Rocky series. Sylvester Stallone and other stars of the movie were on hand to great the huge throng of fans who attended. More about it can be read in the following Philadelphia Inquirer article:

kencmcintyre on September 2, 2005 at 4:16 pm

I saw many films at the Midtown, including 10 with Bo Derek, Endless Love with Brooke Shields and Saturn 5 with Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett. I didn’t say they were good films, did I?

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on July 2, 2005 at 7:50 pm

On the back of the Prince Music Theatre, you can still see, just barely, a painting with the “Midtown” name, in the style the William Goldman Theatre Co. used in the newspaper for the Goldman, the Midtown, and The Randolph, and in the mid 1960’s, The Regency

Oliver on November 4, 2004 at 8:45 am

I worked there from January 1969 to December 1970. Saw the movie “OLIVER!‘ for ten months, about seven shows a week. Othe movies to play there: "Catch-22”, “The Sterile Cukoo” with Liza Minelli, “The Boys in the Band” The managers there were Norman Gordon and Bob Beck, Anybody out there who also worked there in '69 and '70???

Andy P.

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on August 12, 2002 at 8:22 pm

The Prince Music Theatre originally opened in 1921 as the Karlton Theatre. It originally had 1,066 seats. The William Goldman Theatre Co. acquired it in 1949 and renamed it to “Midtown” in 1954. The Budco chain twinned it in the mid 1970’s, and AMC Theatres closed it in 1999. The Midtown has played some great movies, including “ROCKY II”, “South Pacific”, “Lawrence Of Arabia” and “Glory”