Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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finkysteet on July 30, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Those were some disturbing photos, and my condolences go out to those who fought so diligently to save the DuPage. I have very vivid memories of when our Fox, Milgram, Randolph, Duke, Duchess, Regency, Nixon and Goldman theaters went down, and believe it or not I was on the verge of tears each time. It’s like someone ripping down your house w/o your permission and stripping away some childhood memories along with it.

Pardon my being off-topic, but the demolition of these palaces is akin to the so-called condo boom at the Jersey Shore. The delightful and distinctive doo-wop-themed motels from yesteryear have given way to pricey, unattractive condominiums. Is that what they’re going to put in the DuPage’s vacancy? Is that what’s in store for the Boyd should — God forbid — the unthinkable happen? If we cheered a condo demolition, we’d be chastised for being insensitive (if not a little nutty), but I’d happily risk the chance!

bruceanthony on July 30, 2008 at 9:59 am

The City of Chicago put conditions on the purchase of the Uptown. Jam Productions is to give the City 5 Million within 30 days of receiving title to the Uptown. Jam also is required within 90 days have a detailed plan of repair of the Uptown to be open within three years and after the theatre is open will get back there 5 Million. The Uptown is far more difficut project than the Boyd. Chicago has many restored movie palaces where Philidelphia has none. Most large cities in the United States has restored one or two movie palaces in there downtown districts. The Boyd is the perfect size theatre for touring Broadway shows with its 2400 seats where the Forrest and Merrium theatres are to small for shows like “Wicked” and “The Lion King”. The Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center are not proper venues for Broadway shows. The Boyd could be used for concerts,dance,classic film as well as for Broadway shows. Live Nation clause that the theatre couldn’t be used for music concerts can be challenged due to the fact they never opened the theatre after they bought it. There is a need for the Boyd and its restoration would be a great asset to the City in the long term.brucec

TheaterBuff1 on July 30, 2008 at 12:53 am

The tension in the Chicago Uptown’s case is very much linked to what befell the DuPage Theater which was in a suburb of Chicago. You can read what happened to the DuPage at the following link, but please be forewarned of the very disturbing photo they show:

View link

To me what happened regarding the DuPage was a bona fide crime and I don’t know how that could’ve happened in America. But it did. And not only was it an attack on a building, but a whole culture of people for whom the realm of the theater is valued as much as anything that others place a high value on. Think how far theater goes back in our whole entire human history, how whole generations have grown up in reverence to it spanning back thousands of years, of the very vital role that theater has played throughout humanity’s advance. Like the Chicago Uptown Theatre, ranked as one of the largest in the U.S., the DuPage was also designed by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp which today stand as legendary. Though the DuPage wasn’t anywhere near as large as the Uptown, it was one of the rare few atmospheric theaters that the Rapp & Rapp firm had turned out, and most certainly right up there with John Eberson, who specialized in this. Yet there was no one there to stop when they came for it. No one. And it wasn’t like we were at war or anything. This was just an innocent theater that some well-meaning people were trying to restore, that’s all. No crime whatsoever was being committed there. But the way those who wanted it down went after it, well, read Cinema Treasure’s DuPage page if you can stomach it. It got so bad CT finally had to shut it down, of course. And while certainly people have their rights to their own opinions and tastes, this story went way over that line. Here were a people who wanted to do away with somebody else’s opinions and tastes, and they did so in the most physical manner. And with nothing to stop them, as though it was all very “right and proper.” So naturally there’s some concern with Chicago’s Uptown being next to get hit in that same fashion. But I certainly hope not. And could the same thing happen here in Philadelphia regarding the Boyd? Fortunately, the Boyd is in a good part of the city where I don’t think it could. But, given the times we’re living in, as signified by what happened to the DuPage and what could happen next to Chicago’s Uptown, well, you see the current times as well as I do.

finkysteet on July 29, 2008 at 11:29 pm

And I say bring it on, TheaterBuff1. Speaking of theaters named “Uptown,” one can only hope that our own Uptown can someday rise up from near-oblivion. I imagine that Chicago’s Uptown holds as many precious memories for its patrons as much as our venues and I’m glad they’re making some progress there. But at the risk of sounding judgmental here, “Jam Productions” sounds kinda fly-by-night to me, every bit as “Live Nation” did, and we see what happened there! Think I’d feel slightly cozier if a Trump came along and sank a few million into preserving/rehabbing/reopening these places.

BTW, I’m new to this: Who the heck is/was Live Nation anyway?

TheaterBuff1 on July 29, 2008 at 8:46 pm

While we’re focusing on what happens next with the Boyd we should also be keeping an eye on what’s going on with the Uptown in Chicago as well. Recently put up for auction, it was just bought by Jam Productions. But, that’s no guarantee that the Uptown will be restored and reopened as a theater, even though it already has historic protection designation status. As usual, this is a very difficult time for movie palaces, whether here in Philadelphia or there in Chicago, and just about everywhere else in the U.S. as well. I would hope that we’ll eventually get to the other side of this trend, but who knows what’s still going to be standing when we do? Which is why I feel your idea is a very good one, ntrmission. I remember years ago when I was visiting Hamburg, Germany being taken by what I mistook for very historic old buildings, in that case Medieval structures, only to be told that they were simply newly built from the ground level up replicas of what had stood before the bombing of Hamburg during WWII. But they looked so old and genuine they sure fooled me! But based on that, I say yeah, if they could do that, when the right time comes we could build accurate replicas of whatever gets lost in this current period we’re in — IF we ever get to the other side of it. And replicating 1920s Art Deco? No sweat.

HowardBHaas on July 29, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Movie theaters today are multiplexes. Friends of the Boyd do include in our mission to have a film series at the Boyd, but it will need to primarily rely upon live events.

finkysteet on July 29, 2008 at 3:14 pm

No argument from me there! It’s just sad that it closed at all. And we have to be the only major city without a movie theater in its downtown district, aren’t we? Forget those places down by Penns Landing — a tourist wishing to take in a film while staying in Center City would go where? Yes, please save, restore and reopen the Boyd.

HowardBHaas on July 29, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Nobody is going to replicate original 1920s Art Deco, which is one reason why it is so important to save, restore and reopen the Boyd!

finkysteet on July 29, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Does anyone know of any movement underfoot anywhere in the country to possibly create a new theater that mimics the look and feel of those like the Boyd and its predecessors? Ornate plaster designs, elaborate drawings, curtains, a stage, etc. Financially it would be quite an undertaking, and finding people talented and skilled enough to carry it out would be another task, but I’d love to see that happen versus another cineplex/multiplex.

HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm

The Boyd is structurally sound! Architects, engineers, etc have verified that repeatedly including this year. Now, I have to take a break from answering questions as it has been tremendous (volunteer) work to obtain today’s giant step towards legal protection,and all the rest we are doing.

finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 5:34 pm

But with all the hoopla surrounding the Boyd’s future, if the building has been dormant for so long — and given its age — is it still structurally sound? From the photos I’ve seen, it still looks great for the most part, but then I’m no engineer.

HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 5:01 pm

We have materials that name them and at some point, I can look for the names. Interesting is the purpose of them. That decor exists because the auditorium and proscenium arch are wonderfully wide- one reason the Boyd was selected in 1953 to host Cinerama. That decoration helps to visually make the auditorium seem not too wide.

The side chandeliers are indeed very nice. All the original light fixtures are currently off site in storage, waiting for restoration to get back on track.

finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Heck, there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the Boyd, lights and all! Even the smaller chandeliers that hung from the main ceiling on either sides of the screen added a touch of class. Another question: what were those 14 circular plaster designs called that hung directly above the stage? Always intruigued me.

HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Since you like the Boyd lights so much, I will tell you they had a model name: “Aura”, given to them by their maker, the famed Rambusch Company. Rambusch, then of NYC (now NJ)also were among the Boyd decorators in 1928 and refurbished post WW2.

HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Sadly, when the IRS takesover the Post Office building at 30th Street, that ornate Art Deco space will be totally off limits to the public, for security reasons! Another nearby post office will service the public. Looking at my own photos, I see ceiling domes at the entries of the post office, which I recall.

The Boyd’s balcony underside has plaster medallions. Well, the plaster & paint experts might have a more technical name, but that’s what they appear to be. They are quite elaborate at the Boyd.

finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 3:38 pm

We all would hate to see the demise of the Boyd (like the Spectrum!) but what I would give to own one of those fixtures if they began selling off the interiors. Before the Milgram was demolished, people were buying its wall fixtures. They weren’t ornate, but very ‘70s chic. I’m surprised nobody bought the old Goldman vertical bow-tie-looking wall fixtures (too big, I guess) but they were my faves.

And what is the proper name of the circular motif centered above your head on the balcony underside? 30th st. Post Office has one of them at each entrance, as did the Boyd, Nixon, Fox, and a few other theatres. In some places it was encased in class, others not.

HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 3:16 pm

We’ve heard Sensurround caused problems at the Boyd with “Earthquake”

The light fixtures are currently off site with a light fixture restoration company. Those you refer to are a famous 1939 model, installed in the Boyd during the 1953 remodel for Cinerama, as replacement for original 1928 lights. I saw the same exact ceiling light fixture on display in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, as an example of then cutting age 20th Century lighting.

veyoung52 on July 16, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Sorry, the above falling-of-the-plaster took place during the “Earthquake” engagement. And, btw, Sensurround was not used for “Towering Inferno.”

finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 3:09 pm

My wife thinks I’m nuts because she doesn’t quite share the same enthusiasm we do for places such as the Boyd. For her, a theatre was just a theatre. She went to see the film and not much else. But even as a child, I was fascinated by 3 things other than the actual film: the ray of light extending from the projectionist’s booth onto the screen, the lighting fixtures within the auditorium, and the credits rolling with the curtains closed (I still think that’s terribly cool!)
Speaking of lighting, the present-day hanging circular fixtures beneath the Boyd balcony — they’re “upgrades,” aren’t they? They look too modern for the Art-Deco period. Always wanted one for my dining room, with orange & white lights and a dimmer of course.

veyoung52 on July 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Sensurround = Earthquake, Midway, Rollercoaster, Battlestar Galactica, and (mostly in L.A. area) Zootsuit.
Story has it that a net was installed underneath the ceiling at the Hollywood Chinese to catch falling bits of plaster.

finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Has anyone mentioned SenSurround yet? Forgive me if it has, but I heard it was discontinued because the vibrations were causing cracks in walls and other damage to the theatres in which it was utilized. Any truth to that? The only two movies I can recall that used that SenSurround system were “Earthquake” and “Rollercoaster,” and I believe it may have been used for parts of “Towering Inferno” but not sure. Help?

HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Unanimously, the Designation Committee of the Philadelphia Historical
Commission today recommended that the Boyd Theatre be legally protected! KYW Radio’s report:
View link

Friends of the Boyd have met with various parties interested in a great restoration of the movie palace. Partly on the various historic photos we supplied, and the main floor blueprint we supplied, but also due to their excellent work, Clear Channel’s architects drew up a detailed set of restoration plans and exploratory work including a paint study that revealed original designs. Preliminary work was done, but most of the actual renovation was not done.

finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Let’s say that the Boyd is saved from the wrecking ball, and a company is hired to begin and/or finish the rehabilitation. How closely do you feel they can restore the building to its former glory? Also, how much work actually remains to be completed (percentage-wise)? Let’s just hope that there are enough blueprints and quality photos from yesteryear to aid the artists in breathing new life back into this wondrous facility.

HowardBHaas on July 6, 2008 at 8:43 pm

It is sad that anything that stands still in downtown Philadelphia, and indeed all of Philadelphia, gets tagged with graffiti. As we’ve posted as news on this site, there has been lots going on this year. That said, the future of the Boyd is not settled yet, and we appreciate the support of cinema treasures fans.
Friends of the Boyd

alps on July 6, 2008 at 7:57 pm

It was sad, this summer blockbuster season that, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the the Crystal Skull, did not play at the SamEric. I had seen the other adventures there and the screen cried out for the big Paramount logo to appear on it. I hope something is done soon, because jackasses are tagging it with more and more graffiti, it is begining to look like an eyesore.