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In the Lancaster Newspapers this week in their Lancaster history log column it is listed that on March 22, 1911 final plans were being laid for a new first-class vaudeville house on North Queen Street. The theatre was to be known as the Colonial Theatre and was to be equipped in the most modern manner. And until the 1960’s went it was remodeled and renamed the Boyd, it was called the Colonial.
It is hard to believe that 46 years ago today, “TSOM” had its world premiere at the Rivoli Theatre. Those were the days. If we knew then what the future would be (or lack thereof) of these palaces, would or could anything have been done to begin preservation activities? Of course, it’s all water under the dam now.
Penway – The concrete monstrosities lasted for many years after they were finally built. You are right that the business on the right side of the street did not last too long. The Eric Theatre was located on that side as well. It was a nice theatre until they twinned it. Then Sameric Corporation left it slide into disrepair. I remember for years seeing what looked like someone drew lines on the screen. The problem was they were so quick to tear everything down, but had no plans for what they were going to do. So Lancaster had a giant mud hole for at least a year or longer. Then they got Hess department store to sign a lease for a building being built and they built a “new” Brunswick hotel and then had the shop and office promenade connecting the two buildings. It was only afer the former Hamilton Bank and Armstrong World Industries decided to build their Lancaster headquarters downtown that the left side of the street finally got built. Within the last few years, they tore down the promenade area in the hopes to attract a developer to do something new and make it look like what they tore down in the 1960’s. Lancaster had a mayor back then that sold the city to some New York developer that promised him the world with a fence around it. As far as the Hamilton goes, I do not remember it being open at all. I was born in 1947 so I would probably remember back to the early 1950’s. I just remember being downtown in the late 1950’s and walking past the Hamilton and seeing the signs for the Hamilton Bar which was in the lobby. Well, I have ranted on long enough for now.
When I wrote the back of the auditorium I meant the area in back of the seating. To my logic, the front of the theatre is where the screen is located. When you are facing the screen, you are seeing the back of the seats. I am sorry if I confused you. If you think the back of the auditorium is behind the screen, how come the front row seats are directly in front of the screen?
While the Capitol and Boyd Theatres were still operating the Grand Theatre was showing mostly double feature attractions. The Grand had a long lobby with a small outside box office. The lobby inclined up from the entrance doors from the street until the entrance doors to the auditorium. The rest room entrances were actually at the back of the auditorium and you had to go down a flight of steps as they were located on the “basement” level. I never remember the Grand Theatre having a stage. It was, if I remember correctly, the first theatre that I ever went to that did not have a curtain in front of the screen. Maybe it did at one time, but that was eliminated for a larger screen. I know on either side of the screen were exit doors that got you to what was called Christian Street, which was no more than an alley. The Grand became first one when it became the last movie theatre downtown. However, before that happened, the local first run engagement of “Mary Poppins” was at this theatre it played for a recording breaking 20 week engagement. There was nothing striking about the Grand. The concession stand was in the back of the auditorium as well, which I could not figure out as the long wide outter lobby would have been a better location. Because the inner lobby was not much wider across the width of the auditorium as an aisle. More later when I do some researching.
The Hamilton Theatre was already closed by the time I was old enough to go to movies. I remember going through that block of North Queen Street riding one of the old Conestoga Transporation Co. buses on my way to high school from 1961 to 1964. During some of that time the lobby was used for a bar. However, as was mentioned earlier on this thread, the long outdoor entrance seemed like a dark and dreary place. I know the theatre only had one floor and from the black and white pictures I have saved from the newspaper articles when they demolished the entire block, the auditorium was nicer than what you would have imagined, based on the street side appearance. I
know there was not a marquee from the time I remember. There was an
overhang over the front sidewalk entrance and a small sign hanging above the overhang with the name Hamilton in neon with white lights around the sign. However, it was a rectangular shaped sign rather than one that was lengthwise on the front of the building. My parents and grandparents would tell me that the Hamilton was the place for youngsters to go to on Saturday afternoon for the weekly western serials and those type of attractions. When you look at what has happened to the 2nd block of North Queen street, it was far worse after the urban renewal project that what it was. I just remember the local government officials were in such a hurry to demolish what was a thriving entertainment and shopping street and then when everything was gone, it sat as one giant mud hole because they had no plans as to what they were going to do after the demolishing was done. Oh to have at least one of those theatres back in operation. Sorry I cannot be of more help. If I find the pictures I have saved from the newspaper articles when the block was being demolished I might be able to add more then.
Penway14 – The Colonial/Boyd Theatre was the one closest to the corner of Queen and Chestnut Streets. The Hippodrome/Capitol Theatre was closer to the middle of the block and almost across the street from the Grand Theatre. Although the demolition of this entire block was a total waste as you look at what is located there now. They are attempting to get funding to tear down what was built and build it back up to the main street it used to be! Do you call that our tax money at work?? I think the Capitol Theatre was the most palatial of all four theatres. The Colonial/Boyd was very nice, but did not have the large lobby and public areas that the Capitol had. Even the staircases were elegant. The Boyd just had a winding “hallway” with steps on each end to get you up and down to the balcony. I cannot imagine a fire marshall allowing such construction today. Granted there was exit doors from the balcony onto fire escapes. I remember when they started demolishing the Capitol the contractor said there was enough steel in the building and balcony to build a battle ship. They also discovered there was a well under the theatre which they used for the water for the central air conditioning. They saved on their water bill and the sewer bill was less as that was/is based on how much water you use. Well, I could go on, but enough for now. I know they sold the seats from the Capitol Theatre – at least. I wanted to buy a pair – they were sold in two’s, but my parents would not allow me to bring them into the house. They said they could not imagine how many bugs would have been in the upholstery!!! I did manage to obtain a “pull” sign from a front door of the Capitol and a “Coming Soon” placard from a poster display case from the Boyd.
The Krupa family opened the first Hippodrome Theatre in Lancaster which was destroyed by a fire some years later. Then they built the 2nd Hippodrome which later became the Capitol Theatre. This was probably “the motion picture palace” in Lancaster. When I first started going to movies here with my parents in the late 1950’s there was an “overhang” over the street entrance. However, there was no marquee as such. Above the front doors was a “framed” velvet wrapped message sign. What appeared to be glitterly wooden letters were tacked onto this board to proclaim the current attraction. Once inside those front doors, the same type of message board was
above inside of these doors and would announce the next attraction at the theatre. I do not remember where the box office was located. However, during the late 1950’s early 1960’s remodel of the Capitol Theatre, the front was totally redone with a lot of plexiglass and neon. As with the Colonial/Boyd theatre also listed on this website, the “message board marquee” was replaced by a half round white plexiglass and neon marquee that was huge. I remember when “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” was showing the marquee was large enough to list the stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and the entire title of the movie on each “side” of the marquee. It’s not that I have a good memory, but I have a framed picture of that block of N. Queen street which was taken before the brilliant idea came along to tear it down and that was the film showing at the time. After the remodel the box office was outside almost at the edge of the inside of the sidewalk. It was attached to the left side of the entrance, but stood alone. The box office attendant was all alone out there and at the rear of the small box office, probably as big as four telephone booths (remember them?) When you purchased your tickets you walked a short distance in a covered “arcade” where there were framed poster stands with posters of the current and coming films. Then you went through the first set of doors and you were in this extremely long lobby. There was wood paneling on the walls, thick carpet on the floor, and majestic lights on the walls. Above this part of the theatre was what I believe the Pennsylvania Hotel, whose entrance was next door to the theatre. About half through the lobby was the candy counter. At the other end of this lobby was another set of doors. Then a smaller lobby. At this point there was a marble staircase that you would take to the balcony seats. In the balcony lobby was a marble fireplace and a lot of “living room” style chairs. You entered the balcony from either end and when you actually got to the balcony seating, there was a “middle aisle” going across the width of the balcony with “loge” seating below the aisle and “balcony” seating above the aisle. The main floor had two aisles with sections of seating along the outer walls and a center section of seats. I still remember being amazed at the traveler curtain in front of the screen. It could open from the middle as two separate panels and be “taken” to behind the proscenium. However it could also be opened “straight up” as if it was just one solid curtain. However it was not opened as in Austrian curtains. The entire two panels just “went up.” The projection room was above the balcony. The last movie I saw here was on July 3rd, 1965 – “The Yellow Rolls Royce” – and the admission was $1.25. The theatre closed on July 4th and the demolition of the entire block began not too long after that. Three theatres, a hotel, a YMCA building and numerous retail establishments were lost on this venture. The ironic thing was they had no plans what they were going to do and for years there was a vacant mudhole occupying this former business district. Then they demolished the other side of the street! Sometime over the years the theatre became part of the Stanley Warner theatre chain. Both the Capitol, Hamilton, and the Grand theatre across the street were all operated by Stanley Warner.
Well, I guess it is time for me to add some of my recollections from the Lancaster theatres. I have been wanting to look up information in my scrap books, but have still not gotten around to it. I had saved all the pictures and newspaper articles when the theatres were torn down as well as the entire block of buildings on both sides of the street one block away from the center square of the city. The Boyd Theatre was originally called the Colonial. There was until the day it was demolished a small stained glass window about the one exit door from the main floor with a C in the middle of the window. Although there was at least one building on the corner of N. Queen and Chestnut Streets next to where the Boyd was located, the theatre actually widen beyond that building and the side of the theatre was next to W. Chestnut Street. The theatre had two balconies and there was fire escapes from exit doors on that side of the theatre which brought you down from either of the balconies to street level. I remember my Grandmother telling me that when they went to see the vaudeville shows at the Colonial, it was usually so crowded that after the show was over they would leave by the exit doors and walk down the first escapes. The Boyd had a very small lobby. I do not remember what it was like prior to the remodeling that was done in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. At that point the marquee was changed to the “half round” plastic and neon style popular during that time. A large verticle marquee was added at that time with the name BOYD in neon in very big letters visible for blocks. The box office was outside but was connected to the inner lobby of the theatre. The box office attendents got to their “station” by going back of the snack bar. The only lobby was a small short and narrow one right inside the front doors. For as big as the theatre was, you could not fit too many waiting patrons in the lobby. There was also no large staircase to take you upstairs to the balconies. I remember it was like a twisting and turning hallway with steps at either end and a slopping floor. Once you got to the balcony, you were in the balcony at the back of the seating area. So there was not even a lobby on the balcony level. I do not remember the second balcony ever being open in my days of movie going there. I cannot remember even how you could get up to that level. The lobby was not as wide as the theatre was. The best way to describe the building is it was like the letter “p.” The bottom of the “P' was the entrance and the lobby and the top of the "p” was the actual auditorium/theatre. It was always my understanding that the Boyd was owned by the company that eventually became the Sameric Theatre chain. When they remodeled the front and lobby of the theatre they also did some “remodeling” of the theatre itself. The biggest thing that I can remember is they covered up the front of the theatre boxes on either side of the proscenium with these “wavy” sheets of metal and these metal plants growing up those walls with lights shining on them from the bases. At the same timee they installed what they called stereo sound in the auditorium. There were these small brown boxes with round fabric covered holes placed on the walls in various locations throughout the auditorium, including the
balcony. I have pictures of the theatres when they were closed and standing there waiting to be demolished and also pictures of their demolishing. They were taken with a Kodak “brownie hawkeye” camera and also part of my scrap book. I hope this helps bring back more memories for people who attended this theatre. As was mentioned earlier, none of the megaplexes of today will ever replace the palaces of yesterday. P.S. = The Fulton Opera house is still in operation but used exclusively for stage shows, concerts, etc. When it was remodeled a number of years ago, it is my understanding that the projection room above its 2nd balcony was removed.
I went to York “Jr” College from 1964 to 1966. I attended films at both theatres during that time. However, the Southern Theatre being closer to the college I frequented more than the Holiday. The Southern, although a first run theatre, reminded me in size and design of the Strand Theatre on Manor Street in Lancaster which was a second run theatre. If my memory serves me, which is questionable, the Holiday theatre was a much more elaborate theatre than the Southern. I think the last time I traveled on South George street and went past Jackson Street I saw the Southern Theatre is now used as a church. Did the Holiday Theatre have a parking lot either beside or behind the theatre? Being a poor college kid in the 1960’s we walked everywhere and did not need to know about the parking situation. One of the movies I remember seeing at the Holiday was a “special engagement” of George Steven’s film “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” I also remember seeing Don Knotts “classic film” “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” at the Southern.
Those were the days!!!!
When this “theatre” opened it was called the RKO Twin and Pacific East Cinema. The twins were the two theatres that faced each other on the right side of the building. The Pacific East Cinema was on the left side of the building by itself. It was a typical RKO constructed theatre. As the manager told me, they used the cheapest theatre seats available. The lobby as mentioned above had the red flocked wallpaper mixed with large panes of smoked glass. The lobby lights were flourescent with colored plexiglass panels. It certainly was no replacement for the large original movie palaces located in the 200 block of North Queen Street. I was an assistant
manager here from Sept. 1970 until May 1971. As much as I liked movies, I could see there was no future in theatre management. The manager that I worked for had worked for Stanley Warner and then RKO Stanley Warner for a long time. He was the manager of the Capitol Theatre that was torn down in the next block. I knew what he was getting paid and it would not have been a livable wage for someone just starting out in the working world. Granted this was 40 years ago, but my starting pay as an assistant was $75.00 a week. In addition to the fact that I worked five nights a week. I was off on Sunday nights after working the Sunday matinees, Monday was my day off, and I went back to work Tuesday evening. Then for the rest of the week worked during the day, had two hours off around supper time, and then went back to work for the rest of the evening. Stanley Warner operated three of the four theatres that were torn down – The Capital, The Hamilton, and the Grand. I do not remember the Hamilton being opened as a theatre. When I was growing up the lobby was used as a bar and then that closed. One of these days, I am going to add some comments on the other theatres threads. I have been telling myself that since they were listed. However, I want to go through my local history books and newspaper articles from when the theatres were demolished to get my facts straight before doing that. Someday……
The following information has been taken from “Let’s Go To The Movies” published by the Mount Joy Area Historicl Society. The Mount Joy Hall Theatre closed in 1933. However, in 1937, Harry Chertcoff, purchased properties at 61-67 E. Main Street to start his 6th theatre venture in Central Pa. He already operated theatres in Lancaster, Lemoyne, Lititz, Steelton, and Elizabethtown. He spent $12,000.00 to acquire two large tobacco warehouses and a framed property which housed the American Store company. 500,00 bricks were used to complete the walls of the auditorium and lobby which was 65 x 120 feet. The complex was completed in March 1938. The lobby had a 7 foot mirror on each side wall and the auditorium walls had two ornamental designs on each side. The color scheme for the theatre was coral and maroon. The theatre’s opening day was March 24th, 1938. The movie on opening night was “Everybody Sing” starring Allan Jones, Judy Garland, and Fanny Brice. Admission was 10cents for children and 25 cents for adults. 15 installments of “The Lone Ranger” was shown starting the following Saturday matinee. There was approximately seating for 1,000 in the theatre. During WWII a scrap drive was held at the theatre. 1,300 pounds of rags and 11,040 pounds of scrap were collected. The Joy Theatre closed April 27, 1963. Asher Hallbleib, manager of both the Joy and Moose (in Elizabethtown) said lack of business made closing necessary. The theatre had been losing money for the previous years. The Strand in Lancaster City was the first of the Chertcoff Theatres to closed. The two theatres owned by the Chertcoff estate were the Comet and Sky Vue Drive Ins. I think by this time the King Theatre on East King Theatre in Lancaster had been built and was open for about 10 years. I think that opened around 1953. The Joy Theatre reopened Nov. 14, 1964 under new ownership by C and C Theatres, Inc. (Robert C. Corbin and David Cavallo.) They also purchased the closed Lititz Theatre and leased the closed Moose Theatre was well. However, by Feb. 24, 1965 the theatre was closed.
The Comet Drive In Theatre was located exactly where the Crystal Springs bottled water plant is right off of 283. Back when the Comet Theatre opened, Route 283 was known as Route 230 and was not a limited access road. You could enter and exit the drive in right onto the four lane highway. At the end of the showings, they had police there to direct traffic out of the drive in and to stop traffic on Route 230. Back then route 230 ended at what is now the first exit for Mt. Joy. It was only after the rest of Route 230 was constructed to the Dauphin county line that they changed it to Rte 283 and made in a limited access road. The Comet lasted for a few years after they had to construct the new entrance drive which is used now for the bottled water plant. When the drive in was first dismantled, the building built was for a large tracter trailer and tanker truck showroom and repair facility. I think that was short lived and eventually replaced with what is there now. Both the Comet Drive In and Sky Vue Drive in (Route 30 East where The Tanger Outlet center is now located.) were owned and operated by the Chertcoff Theatre chain, which built and operated the King Theatre in Lancaster City along with other theatres all over the Central Pa area. I know when the Comet was first proposed, most people thought it was a stupid location right across the road from the main line of the Penna. Railroad where passenger trains would speed passed either heading East or West about every 30 minutes or so. I remember watching a movie at the drive in and hearing the train horn in the background. The Comet Drive in was a much more elaborate theatre than the Sky Vue as it was built later. Both had playgrounds in front of the screen. If you go to the rear parking lot of the Tanger Outlet Center you can still see light poles standing that were used at the Sky Vue Drive in. You entered the drive at about where the outlet entrance is now. It was a long drive and the screen was to your right with the back of the screen facing West towards Lancaster City. Those were the days. Both drive ins at times played first run movies. I remember seeing “The Carpetbaggers” at the Sky Vue Drive in. I cannot remember whether it was also showing at one of the movie palaces downtown or just the drive in. Back then in Lancaster anyway, a movie generally only played in one location and an engagement could last for 6 or 8 weeks. Well, I rattled on long enough. John S and John Messick, we still need to get together to have a rehash old times and awaken old memories gab fest session. Are you two still interest??
The Joy Theatre closed in February of 1965 and has never been used since other than for storage by the owner of the building. However, as I said in my previous comment, the building has been maintained. Even the portals are there for the projection room, but the projectors are long since gone.
Here I go again. I am a resident of Lancaster, PA. It is about 60 miles West of Philadelphia. There is a small town in Lancaster County called Mt. Joy. It is located about midway between Lancaster City and Harrisburg, PA – which is the state capital. There is a theatre in Mt. Joy which used to be called the Joy Theatre. It has not been used since the early 1960’s. However, the building that houses the theatre has been maintained. The building has a “pizza/sandwich” shop and apartments included as well. The owner of the pizza place owns the entire building which he has put on the market. The lobby of the theatre now houses a real estate office. The theatre itself is only missing the seats. I have pictures I took when I toured the theatre for another interested party about two years ago. Stacy Rutherford is the manager of the Main Street Mount Joy organization that is helping to get the theatre reopened. Her phone number is 717-6534227 and email is
Penway 14 – It is still being restored by the Marietta Historic Preservation Association. I know they had removed all the seats and were doing some upgrading of the building – including a new roof. I know the last time my wife and I saw a movie there – many many years ago I swear they were the original seats!!!! I do not think they exactly know what they are going to do with the theatre when the work is done. Perhaps you can contact them??
The Eric rose out of the ashes, but could never replace the Capital (formerly called the Hippodrome), the Hamilton, the Boyd (formerly called the Colonial), and the Grand located on the other side of the street. The Boyd had two balcony’s and the Capital had one balcony. The Hamilton and Grand were both one floor theatres. When the King Theatre opened it had one of those curtains only on a smaller scale that was like the Radio City Music Hall curtain. However, when the screen was made larger for Cinemascope presentations that curtain was replaced with the standed center opening traverse curtain. The King was still a palatial theatre for being built in the 1950’s. The slope of the floor to the screen was very steep. If they put snow in the aisles, it would have been a good sledding hill!
Penway 14 – If my memory serves me correctly, there was a Sam Goody store on Chestnut Street directly across from the Randolph Theatre. I remember shopping in that Sam Goody while waiting to be able to go in the Randolph to see a presentation of their first Cinerama engagement “Grand Prix.” That would have been back in the late 1960’s, probably 1967. That was the first time I was ever in the Randolph Theatre. However, since their remodeling for Cinerama I saw a number of Cinerama and non Cinerama roadshow presentation films at the Randolph. Hope this helps.
Depends on what you call the Philadelphia area?? There are two theatres in Lancaster County, about 60 miles West of Philadelphia, that are ripe for a touch up and reopen. The one theatre is in Marietta, PA and is being restored by the Marietta Historical Society. I know from what I have read, they are looking for someone to operate the theatre when it is finished. The other is the Joy Theatre in Mount Joy, PA. Both theatres are listed on this website. The Joy Theatre, even though it has been closed since the 1960’s has been maintained. The seats have been removed, but the building itself is in good condition. The Marietta Theatre is listed under that name and the Joy Theatre is listed under that name. Both have pictures on their threads.
Does anyone remember when the King Theatre was retrofitted to show the movie “Windjammer” in Cinemiracle?? It opened on Oct. 26, 1960 and played until Dec. 21, 1960, which – at the time – was probably one of the longest film engagements in Lancaster’s history. I have been trying to get more information on this showing. Anyone of the Cinema Treasure members remember this? Thanks
Isn’t “Star Trek” being shown in Imax as well.
Those front doors still exist on the new office building and theatre combo. Even the box office is now inside at the theatre entrance.
That interior photo is from about 10-12 years ago when they remodeled the interior. They reduced the seating by installing more comfortable seats in a different arrangement.
The Goldman was better with “Funny Girl” and 70mm on the marquee.
For a while now, this has become – again – a reduced admission subrun theatre. For $2.00 in the afternoon and $4.00 in the evening you can see a movie.