Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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finkysteet
finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 2:34 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
HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 2:01 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
finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 1:26 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
HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 12:51 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
HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 12:49 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
finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 12:38 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
HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 12:16 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
veyoung52 on July 16, 2008 at 12:12 pm

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

finkysteet
finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 12:09 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
veyoung52 on July 16, 2008 at 12:08 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
finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 11:53 am

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
HowardBHaas on July 16, 2008 at 11:48 am

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
finkysteet on July 16, 2008 at 11:40 am

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
HowardBHaas on July 6, 2008 at 5:43 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
alps on July 6, 2008 at 4:57 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.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on June 18, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Right now it’s unclear how much weight historic landmark status carries when it comes to insuring that things of historic significance — such as the Boyd — can survive when push comes to shove. At this moment Philadelphia’s Burholme Park — which is extremely historic and likewise holds every historic protection imaginable accordingly — is very much on the line with regard to its future, while at the present time the historic Barnes Foundation, located in the suburbs just outside the city, is in the process of getting fully trashed, and with no contest to speak of whatsoever. So given all that, it would probably make the most sense to withhold all further funding towards the save the Boyd Theatre effort until, with Burholme Park, it gets established that historic landmark status carries weight after all. If Burholme Park goes down, historic landmark status will mean absolutely nothing thereafter with regard to anything. Since the Boyd’s next hearing won’t be till September, while Burholme Park’s hearings will be taking place all throughout this summer, all financing should be directed towards the Burholme Park’s legal defense fund for now so as to establish that historic landmark status does carry weight. The address for this is “Save Burholme Park, P.O. Box 245, Cheltenham, PA, 19012.” You can also see the recent video about it at YouTube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXqPOF9tAPY

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 15, 2008 at 10:41 am

Luis,
Legally protecting the interior ornate architecture does not preclude shows. Your comparision is perfect. Those major theater operators don’t have a problem with legal preservation of their beautiful theaters. I didn’t myself draft the proposed law to protect landmarked Phila. interiors, but heard that the NYC law was indeed reviewed.

LuisV
LuisV on June 15, 2008 at 7:00 am

Howard, I don’t know if you know the answer, but in New York, if the theater has an internal landmark designation, I beleive they are still allowed to make changes that are needed to present a show. Maybe it is required to be restored back to origninal condition after the run. I would think this is how it’s done because I never really hear the Schuberts, Nederlanders and Jujamcym people complaining about it. Whatever is done in New York should probably serve as the model for the Boyd.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on June 14, 2008 at 8:25 pm

LuisV, that is an excellent suggestion you made as it takes into account all the many variables that have to be weighed in in the Boyd’s case. Mayor Nutter fondly remembers seeing ROLLERBALL there, hence why his strong support toward seeing the Boyd Theatre gets saved. At the same time, the Boyd he so fondly remembers was after its screen had been reworked by master 20th century theater architect William Harold Lee to bring its functionality up to modern standards. Lee did so by going all out to protect the Boyd’s original proscenium, albeit by concealing it. He placed the new wide screen to be in front of it. Which was how it was when I saw BEN-HUR there in the late 1950s. Although the Boyd’s original Art Deco proscenium is no doubt beautiful, I question how practical it would be for 21st century presentations — whether live or on screen. Regarding film exhibitions it’s been suggested a fly down screen could be introduced, but that would compromise the integrity of the Boyd’s magnificent ceiling. It would be better if the screen could rise up from below, while, aside from the high cost of it, I don’t see why that wouldn’t be possible. But would historic status for the Boyd’s interior prohibit this? Could one exception such as that possibly be made to allow for that?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 14, 2008 at 6:34 am

Landmarking helps ensure the Boyd WILL be a theater rather than gutted.

As to New York, thanks to Joe Rosenberg of V.I.P. Tours of New York for the following:

The New York Theatres designated landmarks, exterior and interior:

Radio City Music Hall
Loew’s Valencia (now a church)
Loew’s 175th St. (now a church and performing arts center)
Beacon (now a performing arts center)
Embassy Times Square (interior only – it is now the tourist information center with all its theatre elements)

The following 42nd St. Theatres, most of their lives being movie houses, have been designated interior and exterior landmarks
New Amsterdam (now a Broadway theatre)
American Airlines (Selwyn) (now a non-profit theatre)
New Victory (now a non-profit Children’s Theatre)
Empire (Eltinger) now the lobby for AMC 42nd St.
Liberty (sitting vacant)
Times Square (long time conversion to a store which will look like a theatre)

35 Broadway Theatres (two designated exterior only – August Wilson and Henry Miller and one designated interior only – Broadway)

City Center
Town Hall

Metro (exterior only – it is now a store)

LuisV
LuisV on June 14, 2008 at 6:26 am

I could be wrong, but I believe that the majority of the Broadway houses in New York have external landmark designations which allows the theater owners to keep up with individual produvtion needs and modern technologies. The theaters, nonetheless, retain virtually all of their historic facets.

Could the law be written to designate the interior as a landmark allowing that changes can ONLY be made as they relate to the operation of the theater as a theater? Just a thought.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on June 12, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Ironically, if the Boyd were to receive historic landmark status based on its interior, it could mark the beginning of the end for the Boyd Theatre building’s continued existence. For in order for the Boyd to come back as a theater worthy of the 21st century — the ultimate way it can hope to continue to stand — its historic interior in many ways conflicts with this goal and would have to be reworked considerably. But if historic landmark status based on its interior prohibits this, well, you begin to see the problem. If practically speaking the Boyd’s interior cannot be altered so as to make it widespreadedly alluring by 21st century standards (it has 2,450 seats after all), as businesses go — all history aside — it will be a losing proposition. On the other hand, if it’s to be kept afloat as an historic artifact where very little if any money is made by its continued existence in that capacity, will that in itself be strong enough to insure its continued survival? I, for one, based on what I’ve seen in other Philadelphia cases, do not believe it will be.

It would be much better, I feel, and I don’t see why this isn’t possible, that the Boyd Theatre receive historic landmark status based on its exterior, and just that alone. For that status it should be able to receive now without waiting for Green’s bill to pass. And also with that, every move could be made here and now to get the Boyd back open for business again interior-wise, and suited to the 21st century.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 12, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Another story today online & on the radio:
View link

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on June 12, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Friends of the Boyd appreciate the hard work of Councilman Bill Green and that the Rules Committee did vote for and forward to the entire City Council his proposed legislation to protect historic interiors. I testified yesterday on behalf of the proposed law.

here’s some links to online accounts:
Philadelphia Inquirer
View link

Philadelphia Daily News
View link

PlanPhilly
http://www.planphilly.com/node/3279

Exterior designation hearing is next month, and Friends of the Boyd continue to work for overall solutions so the Boyd’s restoration and reopening can get back on track.

LuisV
LuisV on June 7, 2008 at 8:44 am

Hi Brucec….you pointed out in a prior post that most American cities have saved at least one movie palace and most have saved at least two. You left out the two cities that have the most remaining palaces and (arguably) the best quality remaining theaters overall: Los Angeles and New York.

Los Angeles has at least 6 palaces in their downtown in various states of restoration, but nonetheless an architectural treasure trove of palaces. When you add in the theaters in Hollywood like the El Capitan, The Pantages, The Chinese, The Warner, etc.. it makes for an enviable collection of America’s Movie Palace history.

New York is always decrying the loss of its theaters in the current real estate boom that is still very much underway. We have lost a great many. The reality though is that New York still has Radio City, The Hollywood, Loews Paradise, Loews 175th Street, Loews Valenica, The St. George, The Beacon, The Ziegfeld, The New Amsterdam, RKO Keiths Richmond Hill, Loews Elmwood and still others that have the potential to be restored to their former glories, chief among them the Loews Kings, The Brooklyn Paramount and The RKO Keiths Flushing. There are still many others that I haven’t mentioned that have been beautifully converted to churches in Brooklyn. I also should include Jersey City’s Loews Jersey and The Stanley.

This is an embarassment of riches. Nonetheless, it is still painful to lose even one theater because they will NEVER BE BUILT LIKE THIS AGAIN!

The Boyd is apparently Philadelphia’s last remaining palace. It is important that everyone who loves Philadelphia and believes in its future to save The Boyd! It is important to future generations that they have a place to connect to how people went to the movies in the past and how the experience was so very different to the movie going experience today.

I end with this: Jersey City has managed to keep 2 of its palaces! Jersey City! Surely Philadelphia should be able to garner the resources needed through government and corporate funding to save and fully restore this precious monument to Philadelphia’s past. Philadelphia’s biggest industry is its past! If there is any city that should be respectful and protective of its past it should by Philadelphia!