Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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alps on January 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm

The best model for the Boyd Theater would be mix use. Unfortunately, that cannot happen because of the stranglehold that the Academy of Music has on touring Broadway shows. The Academy is the perfect venue for concerts, operas, and the ballet, but a terrible one for plays and musicals. The Boyd cannot stay in the condition it is in any longer. In the last six months it was open, I would refuse to go there, 2001 Harry Potter movie, would be the last I would see of the main auditorium, the horrible bathroom. The teal and yellow orange paint slopped on trim for the Philadelphia movie premiere, worn out carpet, and overzealous security. I don’t get this whole idea of restaurant movie theaters, love or hate Howard Haas, he’s right, once that theater is torn down, it’s gone, gone forever. In New York City, all of the Times Square movie theaters are gone or repurposed, the Boyd Theater would have a better outcome if it were on the Avenue of the Arts.

Greenpoint on January 26, 2014 at 10:55 am

SchineHistorian on December 25, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I was honored to be asked to supply this Letter to the Editor supporting the Friends of the Boyd Theater and their opposition to the demolition of the auditorium – a completely unacceptable plan for this grand and elegant theater! HOWEVER, the newspaper chose to edit my letter, and i felt left out some important points. Here then, if the entire letter that was sent to the newspaper, the Mayor’s office and all Council members:

“A great American city, steeped in layers of historical significance – yet Philadelphia seems poised to turn its back on one of the 20th century’s greatest monuments to American ingenuity. How can a city that claims to treasure the past even think of allowing the demolition of the Boyd Theater’s auditorium?

Has anyone who sits in judgement of this glorious theater walked through it? I have, and it took my breath away.

To destroy such an architectural and cultural treasure is unthinkable. The abundant gilding, the majestic arch of the ornate proscenium, the delicate Deco icons; they all speak to an era of elegance and beauty that no longer exists.

For 10 years I served as president of the national organization Theatre Historical Society of America and in that capacity traveled all over the United States visiting theaters and consulting on their preservation and reuse. In countless cities both large and small, historic theaters are being saved as cultural icons and as economic engines. But the value in these architectural wonders is in the wholeness of their design. The facade alone does not speak to the Boyd’s architectural merit. To destroy the auditorium is a completely unacceptable scenario for such an extraordinary theater.

It would be an embarrassment for the city of Philadelphia to allow any redevelopment of the Boyd to occur that does not honor and respect the entire building. The eyes of the national preservation community are upon you. Your decision will have long lasting consequences for the legend of Philadelphia’s next Historic Era.

Karen Colizzi Noonan,
Immediate Past President
Theatre Historical Society of America"

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on December 12, 2013 at 10:49 am

I don’t see why iPic can’t follow the Alamo Drafthouse’s plan for the New Mission Theatre in San Francisco
? They’re dividing the balcony up, while keeping the orchestra level as one big theater, and they’re keeping the architectural details intact. It would be the best of both worlds.

nobodym on December 12, 2013 at 10:43 am

I was unaware the Chinese theatre was actually a multiplex. So is that the only one in the country then? That wouldn’t be bad company to have given how important the Chinese theatre is.

There are no regular multiplex, first-run theatres, no. There are theatres that are mostly for indie, foreign, and other specialized films that show certain mainstream films that fit into their vision but that’s about it. There’s also the theatre and IMAX at the Franklin Institute. There are multiplexes in the city but they’re either in University City or the area by Temple or Penn’s Landing or Manayunk.

LuisV on December 12, 2013 at 9:02 am

Thanks for your comments Nobodym….The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood is exactly what you said. The main theater has been preserved while a multiplex has been built behind it or on its side. Is it true that there are NO movie theaters in Center City? Downtown multiplexes exist in many downtowns even in places like Cleveland! Why the heck not in Philadelphia? The answer is NOT to destroy this last palace in Philadelphia. This is THE LAST ONE LEFT!

nobodym on December 12, 2013 at 7:48 am

I have been following the situation with the Boyd closely, and I’m finally saying something because it looks like this is going to be a hard-fought battle by everybody who wants to see the Boyd saved. It is an absolute travesty that a city with the cultural history and cultural assets that Philadelphia has sees nothing wrong with demolishing its last movie palace after demolishing places like the 200+ foot Fox building and theatre in Center City, among others.

On one side Mr. Haas’s group is saying to restore the Boyd fully and use it for mixed events. On the other, the movie chain who owns the Boyd now is saying they need to go with a multiplex. I don’t see why they can’t do both. Assuming they have the same land that Hal Wheeler owned for his hotel idea, I would think they could build a multiplex around and connected to the Boyd and use the Boyd auditorium as their showplace theatre. I do not know of a single city in this country that has that combination. It would make Philadelphia their flagship location and would easily be majorly profitable because there are no major theatres in Center City, let alone any that can accommodate such large audiences. It would have to be a multi-story multiplex but honestly I think it’s time Philadelphia gets one of those, especially in Center City. If they include a restaurant like they should given that they have them in other cities, then I would think this idea could be profitable. Auditoriums that big usually don’t work for movies, sure, but it would be pretty much the only theatre in Center City and one of few in the city, so there is no reason they couldn’t at least get the auditorium ¾ full fairly often. It would simply be the theatre that gets the best, most in-demand movies every single time it’s used.

As for the Boyd, on top of being the showplace theatre, there are all kinds of uses for an auditorium like that. One idea off the top of my head is that the local universities or the city can give kids in the city or college students an opportunity to showcase their plays or other written pieces on a big, prestigious stage like the Boyd, a yearly contest sort of thing. Not only could it give kids in the city or in the universities an opportunity to get their stuff out there on a big stage but it could help with the costs of keeping the auditorium running and even maintained by getting the groups and sponsors using it for whatever event that evening to pay their share. There could be local concerts, meetings, lectures, really any kind of event without even getting into national musical acts. This is the perfect time for a place like the Boyd because not only are theatres bigger again (have you seen the theatres they build now, with multiple levels?) but people aren’t stuck in that backwards “newer is always better” mindset that saw so many of these places rot or be torn down to begin with.

If I were the Friends of the Boyd I’d be doing my best to help out with at least a chunk of the cost. I’d hold fundraisers, get a kickstarter page, hold concerts to help raise the money…. Just use whatever resources I could to help with the restoration, including my own sweat and volunteers to help with the work for free, maybe even school kids whether they’re from the universities or from the high schools. I’d be doing everything I could to show people I could do it.

Anyway, this is just my .02. I think it’s a crime that such short-sightedness and shoot-yourself-in-the-foot mentality is not only allowed but encouraged in this day and age.

telliott on December 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Agreed LuisV. Can’t understand it either. Here in Toronto we have 4, The Royal Alex, Elgin / Winter Garden (which is on top of the downstairs Elgin) and the Ed Mirvish (formerly Canon, Pantages, Imperial). I can’t imagine this city without them, especially if there was only ONE

LuisV on December 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm

atb….I don’t envy your position and I don’t doubt your love of movie palaces. I live in New York so I am not as well versed in the local entertainment venue options but I find it incredible to believe that Philadelphia (one of the largest cities in the country) and among its most historic cannot find a way to retain and restore ONE historic movie palace. I just returned from Cleveland where I attended a performance of Wicked at the stunning State Theatre in Playhouse Square which is made up of 6 (or more) historic theaters within a two block stretch of a rapidly gentrifying area of downtown. How can Cleveland support this and not Philadelphia? One these theaters are gone they are gone forever. They will never build theaters like this again. I hope you are not offended and I don’t doubt your sincerity, but a plan to destroy the interior and retain just the facade is a non starter. The argument could be made in a city like New York which has (arguably) the greatest number of remaining movie palaces in the world, but not in Philadelphia where The Boyd is the last one standing (If I am not mistaken). I’d rather the Boyd sit there until a better plan comes along. :–(

atb on December 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm

To all on this site: in the spirit of the request to keep things civil, let me just say this: There is no one on the planet that would like to see this site saved, renovated and revitalized. That said—and as I have said over and over again—IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Where is the money going to come from? Where are the people who will buy tickets? Philadelphia CANNOT support another performing arts venue and WILL NOT support another film venue (the PFS can’t even get the Roxy up and running!).

As I mentioned in my last post, the problem I have with the discussion on this site is that it is one-sided. Where is Sharon Pinkenson’s impassioned letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer supporting the new plan for the Boyd? As someone who has successfully run the Greater Philadelphia Film Commission (and unsuccessfully tried to get a rep cinema off the ground at the significantly smaller Prince), she is someone who understands the two key words Show + Business: there cannot be a show without business.

The irony here is that, if I met with Howard and the other friends of the boyd they would find that we have more in commmon than it may appear from my posts. I love old movie theaters and have traveled the country to see watch movies in the ones that remain open. That said, I am a business person and a realist and from my vantage point, the i-Pic plan offers the best possible solution to a sad situation: the ability to show my child the facade to what was once a palace where I saw many great movies.

kingstonregalarts on December 9, 2013 at 11:58 am

atb, you will find few friends on this site. We are a community of cinema theatre enthusiasts around the world, principally North America and (as in my case) Britain. Your plans would, it seems, involve the complete demolition of the beautiful, well-preserved Art Deco auditorium, leaving only the facade. Let me make myself quite clear: this would be INTOLERABLE. I look forward to reading that your plans have been rejected. In the meantime, go and have a look at Macy’s in downtown Philadelphia and see how Macy’s sympathy for that beautiful old building and its magnificent organ have shaped their renovation of said premises. In restoring it as they have, they have reinvigorated a global icon. You have the opportunity to do something similar, if perhaps not quite so globally iconic (as beautiful as the Boyd is). I urge you to change your plans. The auditorium of the Boyd would make a wonderful multi-purpose performing arts venue with film showings filling the gaps between live events: a multiplex would lack any such flexibility (as well as destroying the heritage inherent in the building). I send my best wishes to my like-minded fellow campaigners across the Atlantic.

atb on December 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

Howard: Will you create a link to Sharon Pinkenson impassioned plea for approval of the iPic transformation of the Boyd? Or will you—and this site—continue a single-minded, closed-minded path toward denying a future for the venue and for the economic vitality of Chestnut Street and Center City Philadelphia?

HowardBHaas on November 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Friends of the Boyd hope people will visit & “like” our Facebook page as we continue to make our case that Philadelphia should join almost every US city (as LuisV knows) in restoring & reopening a historic downtown movie palace, not just keep its facade!

LuisV on November 11, 2013 at 3:49 pm

This is terrible news. I find it amazing that a city the size of Philadelphia, which (I believe) has no remaining movie palaces downtown cannot manage to save the Boyd where so many other smaller (and far less historic) cities manage to have at least one and others, many more. It is not enough to just save the exterior (though worse comes to worse, it is something). Read on:

HowardBHaas on October 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I thought you meant a missing chandelier when you worked there. The original light fixtures including auditorium’s central chandelier are in off site storage. Prior owner allowed us (Friends of the Boyd) to remove what we wanted from projection booth. We have in storage those movie projectors (for future projection) but I don’t know how well they will have held up over the years. Film premieres & festivals now use digital projectors. Our mission is to save the theater, exterior & interior, including the grand auditorium.

70mm on October 10, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Hello Howard, the large chandelier that hung from the hole in the ceiling, maybe it is at the end of cable which I cannot see in pic at top of this page, it was large, cristal, at least 5 feet across. Is there any equipment in the projection booth, they had Century 35/70mm heads, we put Xenon lamps in… The lobby should be saved, it would make a nice museum of the showpalaces everywere and money that once was, not only in the Camen islands today…..

HowardBHaas on October 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Which missing chandelier? one from the balcony? elsewhere? As to other comments, we must save the Boyd. Please “like” & follow us on Facebook & our email updates (enter contact info at

70mm on October 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm

As sound and projection tech, for Sameric Corp. recall meny things about the Boyd building, walked through the cat walks above the auditorium, the missing chandeler, so on. There are few buildings escaped the BIG BALL, the Erlanger, and even the grait FOX, building and all. Another fine Boyd theater was in Easton, Pa. still an empty parking lot…

70mm on October 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm

I am reply to Mikeoaklandpark from 08/31/13, question “did Gone With the Wind play at Sameric Sep. 1975” . Answere is YES, I was sound an projection tech. for Sameric ‘73 to 78 and had checked the booth to run the show in 70mm 6 track sound..

alps on October 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Well see, the residents will never allow it. They kept the Ritz from opening on Walnut Street. Chestnut Street at night is full of drunken young people. The Boyd in it’s current state could never be a movie theater again, on the other hand, the building is standing in the way of progress and is becoming an eyesore. How much longer can they keep painting over the “tags”, or keep Homeless people from burning it down? I would hate to see the theater go, but Philadelphia is the most corrupt city outside of Gotham City, it’s politics that all Broadway roadshows are at the Academy of Music, the worse venue. My hope for the Boyd as a better Prince Music Theater, may not ever happen.

dennisczimmerman on October 6, 2013 at 11:38 am

Okay, after all these years it’s time to think outside the box. How about something like TCL take over the Boyd and bring it up to the 21st century. From the comments made about the upgrade of the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles,it must have worked and it is drawing moviegoers again. Only time will tell, but it is worth a shot for the Boyd. What was done at the Chinese is proof with the right amount of capital, anything is possible. Keeping the Boyd as “The Boyd” does not seem to be drawing any interest. Tearing it down to create 8 “living room” theatres is a travesty. However, with all the movies being released for Imax presentation that is a golden opportunity to make the Boyd into an Imax which center city does not have. After all it was converted to a Cinerama Theatre back in the 1950’s. You’ve got a movie palace that with an upgrade would become a draw again. It is strange how in NYC and Los Angeles even reserved seats is now “the new thing.” Living proof that what was will come around again!!!! Instead of the Boyd Cinerama how about the Boyd Imax??!!

Mikeoaklandpark on October 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

This makes me very sad. It’s a shame the 3 smaller theaters were already turned into stores. I would be happy even if they Divided the balcony and orchestra to make two theaters. Howard, I thought the auditorium had landmark status. I remember talking to a rep at United Artists when they added the extra small theater because I thought they had divided it than and I was told it preserved by landmark status and that was what they wanted to do but couldn’t. Sigh

telliott on October 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

A city like Philadelphia can’t restore the Boyd? Disgusting. Howard’s right, once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on October 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Yes, according to a quote from Howard Haas on

“Friends of the Boyd, a group of preservationists, opposes iPic’s plans, said its president, Howard Haas.

Haas met Tuesday with iPic representatives. He said he was told that the only aspect of the 1928 Art Deco building that would be preserved would be the Chestnut Street façade.

“They’d demolish the auditorium, and that is the theater,” Haas said. “Trendy multiplexes last 10 years [before they’re remodeled]; iPic should build elsewhere in the city.”

Eight-screen movie theater and restaurant planned for old Boyd

Nicholas Vargelis
Nicholas Vargelis on October 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm

It appears that the auditorium will be demolished ??? !!! Here is a copy of a post from Matt Lambros/ After the Final Curtain from Facebook: “The Boyd Theatre auditorium to be demolished and a multiplex and restaurant complex built in its place.”

iPic Entertainment® Announces Visionary Movie Theater ‘Escape’ to Debut in Philadelphia — BOCA…