Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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TheaterBuff1 on June 14, 2008 at 11:25 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 on June 14, 2008 at 9:34 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 on June 14, 2008 at 9:26 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 on June 12, 2008 at 9:27 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 on June 12, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Another story today online & on the radio:
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HowardBHaas on June 12, 2008 at 3:59 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
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Philadelphia Daily News
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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 on June 7, 2008 at 11:44 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!

TheaterBuff1 on June 5, 2008 at 10:50 pm

In studying out this matter very carefully, the foregone conclusion at this late stage is that the only thing that can save this theater with any sort of certainty is that every effort be made for its immediate reactivation as a theater. Just to get historic designation protection status for it alone in terms of saving it really means nothing at all — as recently was demonstrated with Burholme Park in Philadelphia’s northeast section. That very historic park had every legal protection on it imaginable, whether historic or otherwise, yet it made not one iota of a difference. In that case, the many legal protections it held were not only local, but were statewide, national and international legal protections as well. Yet when push came to shove, all the failsafes that were supposed to protect it didn’t kick in. And in the case of the Boyd, the pressures to drive it under and replace it with something else are much greater.

Meantime, the trouble with the Boyd — and this what’s really hurting it now — is that for the past six years every effort had been made to block it from reactivation, with money being made by keeping it in a shuttered up, run down state instead, that is, money being made by the issuing of hollow promises that it will eventually be restored and reopened. But, with absolutely no truth behind any of those promises — as evidenced by the fact that while the Boyd has stood all boarded up these past six years, many other theaters in the Philadelphia area (plus neighboring New Jersey) have been fully restored and reopened, no problem. Add to this that several new theaters have opened up as well.

During the past six years there were many many ways the Boyd could’ve been reactivated every bit as easily as other theaters in the Philadelphia area were, if not more so, there’s no question about that. However, running active theaters takes work. And the outlook has been, why make money that way, when money can much more easily be made by making false promises about it alone? Of course for the stage hands' union anxious for new job opportunities, making money in that fraudulent manner that doesn’t do them much good, nor the countless others who otherwise would be able to profit from the Boyd’s reactivation.

But just to clarify this matter, simply getting historic designation status for the Boyd is absolutely no guarantee of its continued existence, as was just demonstrated with Burholme Park.

dennisczimmerman on June 5, 2008 at 6:02 pm

I read the article in the Inquirer Sunday entertainment section about the “troubles” at the Kimmel Center. Both with design flaws and debt financing. I wondered at the time when the Center opened for one heck of a lot less money they could have taken over the Boyd and made a marvelous performing arts center and used it for films during “off times.” Because if the Kimmel Center is six years old that, if my memory serves, opened the end of 2002 which was after the Boyd closed. Granted the Boyd was still an operating movie theatre when the design, construction, etc was arranged for the Kimmel Center. Granted the size of the Kimmel Center is much different that the Boyd, however is the seating any higher than the Boyd could have offered?? Even in two “theatres” at the Kimmel. Oh well, it’s too late now. I guess with the close proximity of the Great White Way, Broadway touring versions do not need to have such extended engagements, but it would be nice. I see the “road grosses” of touring shows and see all the cities that have saved at least one of their theatres. They can spend 300 million on the Kimmel Center, but 50 million to restore a movie palace is out of reach!!!!!!!???????

TheaterBuff1 on June 1, 2008 at 8:53 am

Though I’m normally opposed to councilmanic prerogative given the illegal role it played regarding the fate of historic Burholme Park, this is one instance where I hope Councilman Green can get the full support of Council he needs. And it’s a case where the bill he’s pushing for would not run counter to the U.S. Constitution or Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter. So yes, given that, I certainly hope this bill gets passed!

TheaterBuff1 on May 31, 2008 at 10:57 pm

That is certainly the Friends of the Boyd’s prerogative. But the man — Michael Nutter — has shown early on in his mayoral administration that he has no respect for Philadelphia laws, facts or history. Because of its remoteness, many people don’t know just how major an historic thing Northeast Philadelphia’s Burholme Park is, or WAS, we can now start to say. Originally it was the country estate of leading Philadelphia Quaker businessman Joseph Waln Ryerss, a direct descendant of Quakers who arrived to Philadelphia from England along with with William Penn on the ship Welcome. Ryerss was a founder of the Pennsylvania SPCA as well as an active abolitionist. And he made his fortune in all ways honest and upstanding, among them, the creation of the Tioga Railroad Line. As mentioned earlier, he allowed his estate — the highest point in Philadelphia — to be used by the Union Army as a critical lookout point when the Confederates under Gen. Lee were planning an attack on Pennsylvania but it was unknown where. Thanks to the role that Burholme Park had played, Philadelphia was kept safe all through the Civil War. When Joseph Waln Ryerss passed away, he left his country estate to his son Robert Waln Ryerss, who in turned willed it to the people of Philadelphia to be preserved as green open space for their enjoyment forever. And the city accepted it on those terms unconditionally. There were no provisions or clauses then — or NOW — for that will ever to be broken. And at the time the Fox Chase Cancer Center announced it would like to acquire and expand onto Burholme Park it was not like it was a dead and meaningless thing at that point. Quite the contrary, I visited this park just a few short months before this announcement was made, and I cannot recall ever visiting a park more alive, more cared for, more loved by the everyday people as was the case with that park. It was like a patch of heaven in area of the city that in other ways had become very run down. As Pulitzer Prize winning architectural critic Inga Saffron said of it in her 2005 visit to it, “Picking your way through the clutter that is Cottman Avenue, past all the diners and dollar stores, nothing prepares you for the vision of an Italian palazzo perched nobly on a hill in Burholme Park.” What Burholme Park serves as a magnificent example of is noblesse oblige at its finest. And in terms of what the infrastructure around Burholme Park can support in all directions, the Fox Chase Cancer Center could not possibly have picked a worse place to seek to expand. It had so many far better options in the city it could look to. But it wanted to take down that historic well-loved that park. And do we really have to guess why? Add to this that in its taking over Burholme Park — in all ways illegally — it will be getting a major lookout point over the rest of the city. Add to this, and I’m not making this up, you can check this out for yourselves, on the brink of its “victory,” the Fox Chase Cancer Center official who spearheaded the expansion is calling himself “chancellor,” on the 75th anniversary of when another man in history took on that title — in a place called Germany.

To anybody in Philadelphia who genuinely cares about protecting its historic landmarks, Mayor Nutter, who the moment he took office quickly approved the cancer center’s expansion without even so much as blinking an eye, is no friend, whether of the Boyd, or anything else of Philadelphia historic significance.

If in the course of the Boyd’s current sale it gets sold to someone whose only interest is tearing it down to put up a paarking garage or whatever else in its place, based on his mishandling of Burholme Park, we can all rest assured that Mayor Nutter will change his colors in a heartbeat and show all loyalties to that nefarious interest, whatever it is, and the Boyd Theatre, too, like Burholme Park, will become history. For keep in mind that just within walking steps from the Boyd is another historic Philadelphia park that many would like to see eliminated, historic Rittenhouse Square. In brief, anybody who trusts Mayor Nutter when it comes to historic preservation, whether it be of parks or theaters, is as naive as it gets. As I say, the only reason why Nutter is taking the position he is now when it comes to the Boyd is because no adverse interests have expressed an interest in demolishing it. But the moment such emerges, he will switch to their side just like that. Mark my words and watch and see.

TheaterBuff1 on May 30, 2008 at 7:42 pm

The Following article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer for May 30, 2008:

View link

It appears that Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter will take a stand on a matter of historic preservation so long as he’s not in confrontation with some adverse entity wanting to take things in the opposite direction. If this were a case where Jefferson University nearby to the Boyd wanted to take the Boyd down to slam up a highrise parking garage, Nutter would give his full consent in a heartbeat — the same way he totally incompetantly handled the Fox Chase Cancer Center v. historic Burholme Park controversy.

But in the Boyd’s case, since he’s not being asked to take a stand against a nefarious entity such as that, it’s, “Oh sure, I’ll side with the effort to save the historic Boyd, why not?” But if some formidable nefarious force decides to go after and take down the Boyd, watch him change his tune in a New York minute. Hopefully no such entity will emerge, but just to let you know how he’ll quickly change his stance if it does.

veyoung52 on May 29, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Just noticed an error in the introduction here. The world premiere of RKO’s “Kitty Foyle” was not in 1945, but December 27, 1940. Warner Brothers (operator of the theatre) was seriously annoyed that RKO didn’t send out a press “junket” of the film’s stars to Philadelphia for the premiere inasmuch as a great deal of “KF” took place in Philadelphia. Just three weeks later, “The Philadelphia Story” opened at the Boyd. Interesting fact about this is that at the same time the film opened, the stage play starring Katherine Hepburn, who of course was in this classic film, was playing to delighted audiences just a few blocks away at the Forrest.

veyoung52 on May 29, 2008 at 5:29 pm

You won’t probably EVER see any pictures of the Fox or Stanley interiors during their “presentation” days of the 1950s and 1960s. At least, none taken by those people who supposedly loved movies and the buildings in which they were exhibited. Many of these so-called theatre historians HATED any changes made to the interiors of these structures in their misunderstanding of the simple fact that these buildings were erected for the sole purpose of presenting motion pictures…and as motion pictures changed, either in width or in depth, theatres had to evolve with them, and if that necessitated structural changes to these halls, then so be it. If they didn’t change with the times, they either fell dark and unused or had a meeting with the wrecking ball. I actually met one Theatre Hysterical Society “guru” who threw up his Don’t-Change-Anything hands and nearly went apoplectic when discussing the Stanley after its 1959 remodeling. Aww, they covered up the proscenium. Aww, they covered up the walls. Aww, they drilled holes in the Boyd’s proscenium. Tough! If it weren’t for renovations like these to accomodate evolving technologies in the 1950’s and 1960’s, most of these houses wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did.

A photograph of the Stanley auditorium as originally erected is in “The Best Remaining Seats” (Ben Hall) which should be at your larger libraries. I’ve seen the Fox' pictures somewhere online. When I dig up the url, I’ll post it on the Fox pages.

And, btw, “The Sound of Music” opened March 17, 1965 at the Midtown and ran for over a year to an audience that clearly didn’t give a hoot that the theatre didn’t look a thing like its original incarnation as the Karlton.

roxy1927 on May 29, 2008 at 12:58 pm

After reading about the Boyd decided to check out the other Phil theater like the Fox, Stanley and Mastbaum.
Big mistake.
It was wrenching reading about these great Phil monuments.
Couldn’t really see interiors of the Fox or Stanley but the exteriors sure were wonderful and reading about the Stanley as a roadshow house made me think that it was one of the best in the States.
Would be wonderful to see both interiors before and after 70mm came in. Can somebody who has them put them on their repective pages?Anybody know where Sound of Music had its' original run?

TheaterBuff1 on May 27, 2008 at 10:52 pm

I agree with all you’ve said as I’m sure many others do as well. But that said, I don’t think you understand how at the present time this city where the Boyd movie palace is located is at war, or that is to say, the suburban communities outside it, which have formed a formidable megalopolis, are at war with it. Study such things as the current way in which the Pennsylvania Convention Center is expanding, violating agreements left and right in the process, the way the two casinos proposed for Philadelphia have been planned out (look at how the tax relief from it has been rigged to solely favor the suburbs at Philadelphia’s expense), the sabotage of the East Coast Greenway that originally was going to come through Philadelphia to run alongside the city’s Delaware River waterfront but then mysteriously got scrapped, the 100% illegal expansion of the Fox Chase Cancer Center onto historic Burholme Park up in Philadelphia’s northeast section, destroying the historic, well-loved park in the process, and no matter the huge public outcry that was against it, and so forth and so on and so forth, and you’ll see how ALL these assaults on Philadelphia are originating from outside the city in its suburbs.

Though we began to see early signs of such assaults while Ed Rendell was still the mayor of Philadelphia, they greatly stepped up after he went from being the city’s mayor to being the state’s governor. And as for Philadelphia’s current mayor, Michael Nutter, if you study him closely you’ll see how he fully ignores anything Philadelphia has to tell him and only listens to the suburbs. The only exception so far has been with regard to his handling of the two proposed casinos. But even there it’s obvious he’s muscling for the right sell-out-Philadelphia deal, nothing more.

As for nefarious forces out in Philadelphia’s suburbs making such assaults, look very closely at who they are. They are extremely crooked people who became very wealthy and likewise politically influential through the full sacrifice and misdevelopment of all the rich farmland that once existed all throughout there. And now they’re to the point of calling all shots, even to the degree that the U.S. Constitution, which was created in this city (1787), doesn’t even mean anything anymore, other than one big “yeah, yeah, yeah, now get the hell out of the way and let us reshape the city to our liking completely.”

And the challenge is to bring the Boyd back to life against that backdrop. That is, are you starting to get the picture now? Anything more you need to be brought up to date on?

bruceanthony on May 27, 2008 at 9:56 am

I have repeated this before, almost every large City in the United States has restored not one but two movie palaces in there historic Downtown Districts. Pittsburgh has restored three of there downtown movie palaces. Cleveland has restored four of there downtown movie palaces. Boston has restored three of there movie palaces besides having many legit theatres in there central core.Chicago has restored three of there movie palaces besides having other legit theatres downtown.Detroit has restored or renovated six downtown theatres.Minneapolis has restored four downtown theatres.Seattle has restored three downtown theatres. San Francisco has three downtown theatres besides besides the Geary and Curran legit theatres. San Antonio has three restored downtown theatres.Columbus has restored three downtown theatres.Most other large or medium size cities have restored at least one former movie palace downtown. If Philadelphia loses the Boyd it would be on a very short list of cities not to save a former downtown movie palace. I think Live Nation should be taken to task with the clause stating that no other music company be allowed to restore and use the theatre. The Boyd as stated before would be the perfect size theatre for touring Broadway productions not to small and not to big. brucec

henryhirsch on May 25, 2008 at 1:59 pm

worked.Speak to you soon.

henryhirsch on May 25, 2008 at 6:50 am

TheaterBuff1,your email does not go through.

TheaterBuff1 on May 24, 2008 at 9:58 pm

4Hope, regarding your search for a theater that has a recording studio connected to it, please get in touch with me via private e-mail — — as I have a pending project that might be of great interest to you.

Meantime, regarding the Boyd, if a convincing case can be made that the city of Philadelphia is on solid ground, there are no doubt many many parties who will show a strong interest in it. It is in a great location, after all, in terms of becoming a destination operation. And to be sure, they don’t build theaters like the Boyd anymore. I myself cannot think the term “movie palace” without the Boyd instantly coming to mind. But how much will is there on the part of Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter and Pennsylvania’s Governor Rendell to do what it takes to convince potentially interested parties that Philadelphia is on solid ground? Right now it does not appear they have any will in that direction at all, while let it be said there’s an awful lot of things they would have to reverse to make that case. And right now I don’t see any willingness on their part to do that. And that to me is the number one thing making the Boyd Theatre such a tough sell.

henryhirsch on May 24, 2008 at 8:01 am

I am not from Phili,i was told that the theater was up for sale,and i have been looking for a theater to open up as an operating theater,that has a recording studio connected to it.I almost took over a theater last year,but the costs were simply to daunting(thats why i was trying to get a handle on how extensive the damage/rehab is).I was looking over one specific new york theater which has stalled, when i was informed that the boyd was up for sale.I see know that the owners will not sell to a music company.

HowardBHaas on May 24, 2008 at 7:30 am

Also, 4hope, who are you? where are you? Not Philadelphia? What is your interest? Why are you requesting breakdowns of costs such as heat & HVAC? All other former movie palaces restored & reopened have such, and deal with such.

HowardBHaas on May 24, 2008 at 7:27 am

There are bidders who wish to preserve the Boyd. So far as we know, the City is not bidding on the property. The Inquirer article copied above makes it clear that the owner Live Nation seeks to not have other “music” companies at the Boyd. Legit theater, film, and other uses would not be prohibited. On the homepage is the National Trust designation including photos.

henryhirsch on May 24, 2008 at 7:19 am

If its to be saved,next week it goes up for bid,if the city wants to kill it,is there a real coalition out there to buy it?Are there any updated photos of the interior and exterior?Has anyone reached out to big names in the music business?TheaterBuff1 the city cant stop the sale.Is the city going to go so far as to kill it by buying it and then knocking it down.

TheaterBuff1 on May 23, 2008 at 10:22 pm

4Hope, right now from what I can determine, though not a single word is currently being said about it, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts located at Broad and Cherry Streets — which at one time I suggested would make for a great entity for taking over and restoring the Boyd — is directly in the firing line of what great Philadelphia thing is to go next. The Academy of Fine Arts is directly across the street from the in-the-process-of-expanding Pennsylvania Convention Center, or directly in its sights, I should say, and I kind of sensed this was coming on when I visited the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts' beautiful gallery — designed by Frank Furness — back in February of this year, which was right at the same time those historic buildings almost directly across the street from the Academy were getting torn down, even though an “agreement” was made that that wouldn’t happen. Historic Philadelphia at the present time is dealing with an enemy that cannot be trusted, that cannot be taken at its word, and that will stop at nothing to destroy all that shows it up for what it really is. I don’t know if you’ve been to see the Pennsylvania Convention Center yet or not, but it is really one of the worst, most awfullest new buildings I have ever seen. But of course I would see it that way when I’m seeing it in contrast to some of Philadelphia’s finest architecture. As in, do you understand where this enemy coming at historic Philadelphia is coming from now? If it can, it will bring down everything that Philadelphia can rightfully claim as a thing of beauty and that shows up the opposition for what it really is. And right now in that regard it is on a super roll. With it already having claimed Burholme Park, Eden Hall and so on, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts next on the list to go from what I can determine. That’s what that whole thing about that section of north Broad Street currently being blocked off is all about from what I can surmise. Take a look for yourself. Here’s the map that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer for Friday, May 23, 2008:
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