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Excellent article! That link will break. Here-
A Tower of music and memoriesBy JONATHAN TAKIFF
The Tower Theater today (left) is a prime venue for rock concerts – a completely different
The Tower Theater today (left) is a prime venue for rock concerts – a completely different vibe from 1971 (above), when it was a movie house showing “Klute” and “Summer of ‘42.”
Â» More images A high, steel tower has loomed above the landscape at 69th and Ludlow streets since 1927. Evocative of the old RKO Pictures logo, the structure initially was topped off with a swirling, illuminated ball that could be seen for miles, and gave the Upper Darby showplace beneath it, the Tower Theater, its name.
Today, virtually all the other ornate “photoplay” (movie) and stage-show palaces of the Tower’s size (originally 2,616 seats, now 3,119) and elegance are gone. And, sadly, that attention-grabbing light fixture no longer functions.
But thanks to the power of rock ‘n’ roll – with a little pop, comedy and R&B thrown in on the side – the Tower remains a beacon of light, luring concertgoers from far and wide to commune with their favorite entertainers.
What a history this place has wrought!
Stadium and arena superstar Bruce Springsteen once vowed he would never play any place larger than the Tower with his rock-‘em-sock-'em E-Street Band. (In 1974 at the Tower, the band earned its then-biggest paycheck – $5,000.)
The British progressive-rock band Genesis – this week playing three big shows at the Wachovia Center (with tickets priced from $77 to $227) – made its Philadelphia-area debut at the Tower on Nov. 16, 1973. It was a midnight show, for which spectators paid all of $4. The band got $750.
The Tower was the area concert hall where Stevie Wonder made his landmark transition to adult-oriented, progressive soul music, introducing material from the incredible “Talking Book” disc. Legend has it that Georgie Woods, who’d promoted Wonder’s prior shows at the Uptown Theater, didn’t think his new music was any good, and so passed on doing the show at the North Broad Street hall!
Some notable live albums, a huge number of radio broadcasts and a sprinkling of videos have been made at the Upper Darby showcase – including David Bowie’s “David Live,” Hall & Oates' “Live at the Tower Theater,” Average White Band’s “Person to Person,” Paul Simon’s “Live at the Tower Theater” and parts of Steve Miller’s huge hit “The Joker.”
Also passing through its stage doors have been: Bob Marley & the Wailers, the Rolling Stones, Smokey Robinson, Al Green, Morrissey, Radiohead, a riot-inspiring Jane’s Addiction, James
Taylor, Sheryl Crow, the Black
Crowes; and comedians George Carlin, Jon Stewart and Lewis Black.
This fall, the venue will play host to: Kings of Leon (9/21), Ben Harper (9/22), Regina Spektor (9/27), funnyman Jim Gaffigan (9/29), Gov’t Mule (10/6), Tori Amos (10/15), American Idol Kelly Clarkson (10/18), Smashing Pumpkins (10/21-22), John Fogerty (11/3) and Neil Young (12/9.)
The Tower Theater was built at a cost of $1.25 million just two years before the Great Depression slowed (and then, after 1932, ended) Philadelphia’s movie-palace boom. While not quite as fancy as contemporaries like the Mastbaum, the Earle and the Uptown, the Tower had its charms – decorated with lavish marble staircases, oriental rugs, handsome lobby furniture and glamorous art deco by Erte. A tuxedo-clad pianist tinkled a grand piano’s keys in the foyer.
And the theater’s interior oozed with movie-set atmosphere.
The walls were decorated in a trellised, English garden motif, while the ceiling twinkled with 150 stars.
Typical of the times, the theater had a house orchestra, plus a huge Wurlitzer organ that magically rose into view on a motorized lift to accompany the silent films still dominating the movie industry when the theater opened.
The biggest of three theaters in Upper Darby (the others were the 69th Street and the Terminal), the Tower offered vaudeville and burlesque stars on stage, plus the latest cinema features on screen. As vaudeville waned, movies became the staple. In the late 1950s and early ‘60s some multi-act, rock and soul music revues occasionally took over the stage.
By the early 1970s, the Tower had fallen on hard times. The theater was reduced to showing second- and third-run movies at a bargain $1 admission price. “The place was a mess. There were leaks in the ceiling, the paint was peeling, the carpeting was pretty bad,” recalls Rick Green, who toured the place then with his older brother Stu. But as fans of the Fillmore East in New York – which wasn’t such great shakes either, in the decor department – the 20-something Green brothers saw similar potential at the Tower. They made a deal with the owners – the A.M. Ellis Theater Co. – to turn the Tower into Philly’s hottest rock-concert hall.
With the bucks the Greens were paying in rent – initially $800 per show night – Ellis started reinvesting in the theater, including more and nicer seats. And the Green brothers' Midnight Sun Concerts started bringing in progressive-rock acts with appeal to the coming-of-age boomer crowd (Dave Mason was their opener on June 14, 1972). They brought in: Springsteen, Electric Light Orchestra, the Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss, Renaissance, Jackson Browne, Procol Harum, Quincy Jones and Mr. Bowie – whose theatrically charged and amazingly rocking Fall of ‘72 “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” show shook up this kid but good.
Stu Green now allows that “R&B (rhythm and blues) music was really my thing.” But the brothers (originally from North Jersey) discovered that “rock and especially anything British, did really well in this town.”
They relied in part on guidance from DJs at then free-form WMMR, and also on “a 12-year-old kid who lived in an apartment adjoining the theater, Mike Hoffman,” recalls Rick Green. “He was a diehard Anglophile with a British pen pal who would send over all the hot new releases, and Mike would clue us to them.” (Hoffman is still turning people on to the good stuff, as proprietor of A.K.A. Music, 27 N. 2nd St.)
The Greens put on “about 100 shows a year – often two a night,” notes Stu – until the rug was abruptly pulled out from under them in 1975. A member of the Ellis clan bargained away the Tower for $350,000 to Midnight Sun’s larger competitor, Electric Factory Concerts. Midnight Sun still exists – as a Delaware County-based management and booking agency for bar bands.
As an element now of the Live Nation megaconcert operation, Electric Factory has kept the rock-hall vibe intact at the Tower, while gradually bringing the property back to respectability. The basement men’s room no longer floods regularly. Seats, curtains and walls have been freshened up, the dropped ceiling in the lobby was removed to reveal the original fancy plaster work hiding beneath. The air conditioning works better, and if it gets too hot, you can now cool off with a beer from the lobby bar.
Midsize halls are gaining favor with touring acts like Clarkson – who originally had planned to perform this year in one of our nicer, 20,000-seat hockey rinks. So the Tower’s future seems secure.
EFC chief Larry Magid even fought off the idea of his corporate parent to change the name of the theater to the Fillmore Philadelphia as part of a national branding stategy. (TLA took the hit instead.) Magid told a reporter in April that the Tower’s legend loomed too large, even before he got involved in the operation:
“I saw rock ‘n’ roll shows there when I was a kid.”
NYC’s AMC Loews Lincoln Square would also be perfect for this kind of event, with a flagship auditorium and about a dozen other auditoriums, with Hollywood style charm.
Here’s today Weekly Update sent out to our supporters. We urge all interested parties to directly visit our website and enter yourselves to receive updates, and look at the other ways to help.
The most frequent recent question asked of us, of people who are quite upset “Is the Boyd being turned into a store?” NO, the former three small auditoriums next door are being turned into a retail store, a Gap Outlet. People then followup with “Wasn’t that space part of the theater?” Yes, but that space was a modern addition. The historic Boyd Theatre is not being turned into a retail store.
Recently, the national head of an organization concerned with theaters commented that given the current situation- of the Boyd being for sale-it is too bad that there’s still a demolition permit issued. Fortunately, that’s wrong, too. Years ago, the City refused to renew the demolition permit, explaining that demolition permits are not tools for developers or mechanisms to increase property values. Just as we would with an application to turn the historic theater into a store, Friends of the Boyd would vigorously fight the issuance of a demolition permit. Even if it was issued, we would litigate and publicly protest and make a huge fuss, as we did previously.
Downtown Philadelphia’s last surviving movie palace is important, as you appreciate, and needs to be restored, and reopened. We continue to ask Live Nation to ensure that when the company sells the Boyd, they sell it to a new owner who wants to reopen it, and we will help. Thank you for your support.
Howard B. Haas
Muvico Theaters Debuts Luxe Theater in Chicago
New 18-screen theater with VIP amenities is world’s first to deploy Sony Premier 4K digital projection technology on all screens
ROSEMONT, Ill., Sept. 14 /PRNewswire/ — Muvico Theaters announced today the opening of their new 101,000 square-foot movie palace in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill. The new venue offers an amazing digital viewing experience and 4,227 reclining stadium-style seats. Other luxury features include a 300-seat VIP Theater and a total of 502 premier VIP seats throughout, VIP free popcorn, VIP valet parking and a full-service restaurant and bar.
“Rosemont provided the ideal spot for our first Chicago-area location,” said Michael Whalen, president and CEO of Ft. Lauderdale-based Muvico Theaters. “We’re proud to join a community focused on providing residents and visitors with so many entertainment options. Rosemont is known for its hospitality and we appreciate the opportunity to offer movie fans here a truly luxurious and special experience.”
Featuring Sony Premier 4K digital projection technology on all 18 screens, Muvico Theaters Rosemont 18 offers movie fans a breathtaking visual and audio experience.
“Muvico’s vision for the movie theater of the future is that exhibitors need to offer more complete services to enrich the theater-going experience,” said John Scarcella, president of Sony Electronics' Broadcast and Business Solutions Company. “Their goal is to redefine the idea of simply "going to the movies,” by turning it into an “experience” for customers. Our SXRD 4K projectors are a perfect fit for that vision and the right technology for reaching that goal, and we’re proud to support Muvico."
Muvico Rosemont 18 is the anchor tenant in a $500 million shopping and dining development planned by the Village of Rosemont.
“The Village of Rosemont is very pleased to host such a unique movie theater,” said Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens. “We’re sure that Muvico Rosemont 18 will quickly become a popular destination in Rosemont’s thriving entertainment district, alongside the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont Theater and the Allstate Arena.”
Muvico Rosemont 18 offers moviegoers two experiences. Downstairs, General Admission patrons get extra leg and elbow room with 26-inch, oversized plush chairs. Dining options include extended concession options such as shrimp, pizza, ice cream and slurpies, as well as the popular candy and popcorn treats moviegoers have grown to love. All this for the same amount of money you’d pay at a regular cinema ($7.50 matinees; $9.50 evenings).
Upstairs in Premier VIP, movie fans 21 and over can receive the royal treatment for a few dollars more ($12.50 Mon-Thurs. $15.00 Fri-Sun). Muvico’s six Premier VIP Theaters offer luxury amenities not found in other theaters, including free valet parking, free popcorn and 74-inch plush seats, compared to the industry standard of 24-inch seats.
In addition to showing a wide variety of first-run movies, Muvico Rosemont 18 is designed to host alternative content, such as sporting events and live music feeds. And Muvico will make its gorgeous Premier VIP Theater space available for corporate functions or private screenings.
Because so many of us enjoy combining dinner and a movie, Muvico Rosemont 18 features a full-service restaurant and bar. Bogart’s at the Premier, run by famed Levy Restaurants, will treat moviegoers to delicious cuisine in a plush atmosphere. Diners can indulge in a food fantasy that includes an array of appetizers such as homemade hummus and skewered filet mignon sliders, a variety of fresh salads, and charcoal-grilled sandwiches and burgers. Additionally, moviegoers can enjoy mouth-watering entrees like truffle-grilled flatbread sandwiches stuffed with skirt steak, Dungeness crab quesadillas, cheesecake milkshakes and mini gelato-filled chocolate-lined ice cream cones. All food and cocktails can be enjoyed in the VIP Theater, which features a large arm rest and cup holder.
To accommodate families with young children, Muvico Theaters transcends traditional theater amenities by providing the added feature of an on-site children’s playroom for children 3-10 years old. Muvico’s exclusive children’s playroom is equipped with computers, arts and crafts and table games, and is staffed by certified teachers who provide educational supervision.
Conveniently located at 9701 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., in the up-and-coming Rosemont Walk Entertainment District, the state-of-the-art theater also features a young-adult lounge offering specialty Premier drinks and state-of-the-art computerized gaming. Three party rooms can be rented for birthday parties and get-togethers.
About Muvico Theaters, Inc.
Muvico Theaters was founded in 1984 and is a growing chain of premium, megaplex motion picture theaters in the United States. The Company currently operates 259 screens in 14 locations located in Florida, Maryland, Illinois and Tennessee. The Company’s theaters have developed a reputation as true entertainment destinations — attracting patrons from as far as 25 miles away. For the fiscal year ended 2006, Muvico had revenue of $125 million. Over 11 million people attended the company’s theaters in 2006. The Company will be opening theaters in New York City, Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Philadelphia in 2008 and 2009. For more information, visit http://www.muvico.com or call 847-447-1030.
Source: Muvico Theaters, Inc.
Thanks for posting those photos! That really contributes to our understanding of the Coliseum, what it was, and what’s left.
A few days ago on one of the theater pages, somebody asked for photos of the theater. Somebody else replied that this website has always been for discussion, but for photos go look at cinematour. Hah? If you don’t know what a theater looks like, including its interior, how can you know what the theater is all about? A picture really is worth a thousand words. In the intro section, there’s no need to describe every detail if there’s a photo that will do the job even better. So, I’m really looking forward to the photo gallery.
Thanks Ross and Patrict for being such dedicated hosts and leaders of this website! And, of course, thanks to the volunteers, and to all the people who post interesting comments about the theaters, and (currently) link photos.
I meant to state that it is a different experience seeing films on a movie screen than seeing them via video in your home. I didn’t mean to imply that Center City arthouses aren’t showing the films on a real movie screen-of course they do, and many of them aren’t huge screens either.
I’m not part of the management of the Bryn Mawr, but I do know that the wall that went down somewhat in the middle of the historic auditorium in the 1980’s, likely by Budco, twinned the auditorium. It did mean that the screens aren’t huge. However, any person with 20/20 vision (or corrected with glasses with such), will not have any problem seeing the screens! The auditoriums have remained their current size, and were profitable for Budco, AMC, United Artists, and the independent movie operator who followed and who would have liked to have stayed. In other words, movie patrons have under successive operators, with films that have ranged from mainstream to arthouse (currently arthouse) have voted YES to the Bryn Mawr Theatre. Of course, if you don’t like the auditoriums, that’s your business and you need not return.
Your griping though seems a bit far fetched. If you “cut” yourself on the chairs, did you contact the theater management and tell them?
Your characterization of “toys and trinkets” is flat out insulting to the volunteers and community supporters who have made the revitaliztion of the theater a priority! Everything that has been done so far has been to better serve the community.
Most arthouse movies do first play downtown exclusives, as they have for at least 30 years. It is a different experience seeing them in 35 mm on a movie screen, and as long as the film prints are good, being shown later isn’t perceived by customers a problem at all the other suburban Philadelphia arthouses.
The above link has various maps of the theater complex and this information:
The Yuma Art Center is the only facility of its kind within a 150-mile radius. Located in the heart of historic downtown Yuma, the Center houses a 640 seat, newly renovated theatre, 3 multi-purpose classrooms, 4 fine art galleries, artist work space, a pottery studio with a kiln, a black and white photography dark room, and an outdoor courtyard for gatherings.
The link above has this history:
Located on Main Street in the City of Yuma’s central business district, the Yuma Theatre building was constructed in 1912 and originally functioned as a vaudeville and movie house. The Yuma Theatre building has performed an important role in Yuma’s commercial, cultural, and social history ever since.
In 1911, Miss Anna Desmond, a resident of Los Angeles, who had earlier lived in Yuma, and her two sisters, Catherine and Nora owned the property fronting on Main Street. The site was occupied by two small brick and frame store buildings, one housing a laundry and the other, the Parks Plumbing establishment. Deciding to improve the property, Miss Desmond engaged Brooks and Cargill, Yuma architects and on November 2, 1911 a construction contract for a theater building was let and awarded to Charles Olchester, a local contractor. Miss Desmond also arranged to lease the new building to A. J. Zeller of Yuma, one of the operators of the Airdome Theatre located at Madison and First Street.
Known as the Zeller Theater, the building was 50 feet wide and 125 feet deep with a 12 foot high ceiling. The interior was finished in “old mission style” with a seating capacity of 900 on a sloping floor. The Zeller Theater was also the first theater in Yuma to contain fixed seating and to have a raked orchestra. The Theater also had the ability to show motion pictures.
The grand opening for the Zeller Theater was February 21, 1912 with A. J. Zeller operating the theater until about the spring of 1913. At this time, he abandoned his lease and removed the fixed seating. The building was then used for the occasional boxing match with temporary seating.
On September 8, 1913, the Zeller Theater burned in a spectacular fire that destroyed the theater portion of the building. The roof was destroyed as well as the interior, the temporary seating and the “moving picture machine.” Fire damage to the roof framing the store room still exists.
Within three months of the fire, Miss Desmond made arrangements to repair, rebuild and lease the new structure to a new tenant, Riley’s Garage. Riley’s Garage officially opened the first week of January 1914 and occupied the building for eleven and a half years.
In May 1926, Miss Desmond announced she would spend $40,000 to reconstruct the building for theater purposes. Miss Desmond also entered into a 10-year lease with the Arizona movie and theater promoters Rickards and Nace to operate the theater. The Yuma Theatre had the grand opening on January 12, 1927.
Rickards and Nace operated the theatre, using it almost exclusively for films, until January 25, 1936. On that date, a fire broke out in the attic above the stage while an afternoon film was being shown, with much of the theatre portion of the building damaged beyond repair from smoke and water.
Miss Desmond announced that repair of the building would begin at once with the design contract let to local contractor Lee A. Dennis. The design included a new stage, lighting fixtures, decorations, seats, drapes, carpets and a modern cooling system. The lobby and theater were redecorated by the Tony Heinebergen Company and included Art Deco light fixtures with a “wheat shaft” theme and a bas-relief cast plaster mural installed in the lobby. Construction was reported to “run into a considerable sum.”
The Yuma Theatre re-opened on April 11, 1936. In the decades since, the exterior of the Yuma Theatre has gone thru several architectural styles but in 2004 the Theatre’s front facade was restored to its 1912 grandeur. The Yuma Theatre has been in operation almost continuously since 1936. Today, when you enter the Historic Yuma Theatre, you will see an interior decor that has remained virtually unchanged since 1936, complete with two monumental mermaid murals in the audience chamber and the only functioning carbon arc projectors west of the Mississippi.
The Historic Yuma Theatre is now managed by the City of Yuma with events occurring year-round including original film screenings, community theater productions, Saturday children’s matinees, Arizona Historical Society tours and film series, jazz festivals, art symposiums, education workshops, graduation ceremonies, choir concerts, and special events and presentations in connection with Downtown Mall events.
Forming the centerpiece of the Yuma Art Center, the newly restored Historic Yuma Theatre features seating for 640, ADA accessibility, excellent acoustics, plus state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and digital projection capability. The Historic Yuma Theatre is available for lectures, film showings, demonstrations, presentations, seminars, artist-in-residence programs, and other education gatherings.
Recent news article:
The volunteers, staff, and especially the crusading leader, Juliet Goodfriend, should be commended for the great work they’ve done so far at the Bryn Mawr!
Rob Bender’s recent exterior photo especially the wonderful towering vertical sign:
Great report. Thanks so much! You could post on your photos on a free photo website like www.flickr.com and that link that gallery to this page. I’m sure many people would love to see them.
Recent exterior photo by Rob Bender:
One of the travel books in the bookstores states auditorium seating sizes ranges from 96 to 260 seats.
In January 1997, I saw “People vs. Larry Flynt” in the smaller auditorium (former loge) after the theater reopened as a two screener. 13 rows of tall chairs in sections of 7, 14, 7, total of 364. Estimated screen for scope at 35 to 40 feet wide. Orange red curtain used. Film projected in SDDS but no surround sound appeared to have been used then.
In the same month, I saw “Evita” in the large auditorium. 21 rows of 6, 16, 6 seats, total of 588 seats. Screen size 50 feet wide, curved, by 20 feet tall. Curtain not used. Dolby Digital There were 4 speakers in the back, but they didn’t use the 10 speakers on the side walls at that time.
in case link breaks, here is above story:
BEACH THEATER MAY HAVE A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Corin Wilson – 9/7/07 04:46 pm
CAPE MAY—A loan has been approved to help save Cape May’s beach theater.
At a special meeting Friday in Cape May, a check was presented to the Beach Theater Foundation for $100,000 to help keep the 60-yearâ€"old movie house open.
Officials say this money will hopefully secure the theater’s future in the city, “This will enable them to sign their lease agreement and take possession of the theater for 12 to 18 months with the hope of permanent acquisition,” said Councilman David Kurkowski.
The theater will be open to the public and fundraising efforts to help keep the theater open will be ongoing for the next 12 to 18 months.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a chance that the Ziegfeld will be landmarked. The Beekman should’ve been landmarked!
The Ziegfeld is a wonderful moviehouse, with an interior far more interesting than its exterior. I’ve posted these before, but they are lost with so many posts above.
oops- the “Can’t wait for this one. I may have to take the day off” comment is from the Ziegfeld poster, not me. I might go there & see it, though.
Steve Guttag- you are an expert.
It seems that the NYC Ziegfeld digital projector will show a digital print (if I understand this correctly). Will it look as good as the original 70 mm print? or at least, will it look as good as 35 mm?I myself saw the version shown at the Uptown only in 35 mm in 1998 at WB 75th Anniv Film Festival. Blade Runner looked great on the Uptown screen then. I hadn’t fallen too much for the movie on TV, but on the big screen…
this from the Ziegfeld thread, which I place here as I’m not sure whether you are reading that thread, but feel feel to comment there
or here, of course-Can’t wait for this one.
I may have to take the day off.
SPECIAL ENGAGEMENT AT THE ZIEGFELD
Deckard is a Blade Runner, a police man of the future who hunts down and terminates replicants, artificially created humans. He wants to get out of the force, but is drawn back in when 4 “skin jobs”, a slang term for replicants, hijack a ship back to Earth. The city that Deckard must search for his prey is a huge, sprawling, bleak vision of the future. This film questions what it is to be human, and why life is so precious.
Friday October 5th – Thursday October 18th (New Print)
<<All of this was occurring as the fifth version â€" Scott’s final cut â€" was painstakingly assembled from original elements, including the original 65mm negative. De Lauzirika has been working on it over a seven-year period. â€œAnd this time, Ridley approved every single thing that went into it â€" every single cut, every single effect,â€ he says.â€œWe’re right back to square one,â€ Galvao says of The Final Cut elements. â€œWe scanned the cut negative, plus the negatives we dug out of vaults in England, here at Warner Bros., and [co-executive producer] Jerry Perenchio’s vault as well. We went through and viewed every frame of every roll that we could find.â€ â€œHonestly, I got to go through 977 boxes and cans of mag, IP, INs, 65mm visual effects comps, 35mm original dailies â€¦ everything ever printed,â€ de Lauzirika says. â€œI saw amazing, amazing material â€" much of which we’ve been able to pull and put on the DVD in some form, even if it didn’t make it into The Final Cut.â€œI think The Final Cut is the best version of them all. The picture and sound on it are just astounding. We really put a lot of work into the restoration, and we transferred the actual original neg at 4K, and it just looks stunning. Even more stunning are the visual effects, which were originally 65mm elements, then scanned at 8K. It looks like 3D. It’s so sharp, with all these details that I’d never seen before.â€
According to Galvao, the assembly and restoration for The Final Cut included some reworking of the original effects â€" tightening some mattes, doing some wire removal, etc.>>
posted by celboy on Sep 7, 2007 at 10:51am
Such a contrast to today’s movie going!
You probably mean Mr. William Goldman, the owner of this and other theaters?
Exterior shown last night during Fox TV Channel 29 news story about closure of AMC Orleans 8:
Exterior shown last night on Fox TV Channel 29 news as part of story on closure of AMC Orleans 8:
shown last night on Fox TV Channel 29 news in its unfortunate state as a bank (during the story of the closure of the AMC Orleans 8):
shown last night on Fox TV Channel 29 news as an office building now, part of story on closure of AMC Orleans 8:
Shown on Fox TV Channel 29 news last night as a 99 cent store, as part of story on closure of AMC Orleans: