Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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TheaterBuff1 on May 30, 2008 at 7:42 pm

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

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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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HowardBHaas on May 23, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Friends of the Boyd, which I lead, are working to ensure the survival of the historic Boyd Theatre. The homepage has news articles linked.

henryhirsch on May 23, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Few private music or theater company’s will ever have the funds to bring back this theater.With everyone on this website crying out to somehow change whats happening within our mindless american cultural bleakness,i was simply saddened that such a beautiful history is soon to be lost.The city should buy it, sell it cheap then split the cost of the rehab.I know theaterbuff1,this is not about money,but if you can save one…

TheaterBuff1 on May 22, 2008 at 8:37 pm

4Hope, when we’re talking about a movie palace like the Boyd, cost is not really relevant. For instance, if we were talking about Philadelphia’s Independence Hall being in danger of facing the wrecking ball due to bad politics, bad economic decision-making, etc., and you thought in terms of how much does Independence Hall cost in efforts to save it, people would look at you funny — or at least I hope they would — as that’s really not a moot point in a case such as this. What is now coming under attack in Philadelphia are things that are way over the line in terms of humanity’s continued existence. In this regard, though I consider it highly important, the Boyd Theatre is not the biggest story; the biggest story is Philadelphia’s Burholme Park, currently in the process of getting slaughtered, but not getting reported on ay all due to Philadelphia’s really bad politics. Burholme Park is an international story, but is not getting reported on at all right now, not even at the most local level. That doesn’t mean what’s happening with the Boyd isn’t important, for it is. It’s all part of the same war, so to speak.

Meantime, this is very unusual; I’ve never seen her do this before. Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic Inga Saffron wrote a second article for the Philadelphia Inquirer that appeared in it today (May 22, 2008) regarding the Boyd, that is, her writing two articles on the same topic in a period of less than three days. Because of its much longer length I won’t print it here, but here’s the link for it:

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henryhirsch on May 22, 2008 at 8:53 am

TheaterBuff1without the support of the city,this building is in desperate danger.Any private company will most likely re- use this movie palace for condos or retail.How much does the building cost,does anyone know?

TheaterBuff1 on May 21, 2008 at 8:57 pm

4Hope, the city’s usual policy when it comes to endangered historic properties is to rush in and tear them down as quickly as possible before any possible alternative solutions can be found. You wouldn’t think would be the case in the most historic city in the nation, but, welcome to Philadelphia. I will say, though, that on that front the city is very innovative, and will not allow itself to be a no-can-do type of place when it comes to doing the wrong thing. Last year, for instance, up in the northeast part of the city where I live, we had an historic chapel that had been designed by 19th century world renowned British architect Frank Wils and had been built in 1859. Called Eden Hall, it had been the centerpiece of Northeast Philadelphia’s Fluehr Park. You can see excellent photos of it at this link:

Its one saving grace as residents and historians scrambled to try to find ways to save it following a suspicious arson was that Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park officials, who have jurisdiction over that park, said they didn’t have the funds needed to demolish it. Interesting to note, and as the photos at that link should attest to, even following the arson it still remained a building of tremendous beauty, and its brownstone walls held very solid. But when word got back to Philadelphia’s politicians that there wasn’t the money needed to tear it down, and that such delay could — horrors! — result in residents and historians coming up with a way to save and restore it, they would not stand for it, and made sure to come forth with the money needed to tear it down as quickly as possible. For Philadelphia government is a master at delivering when it comes to doing the wrong thing, and let it not be said otherwise. When it comes to that, those stooges are the absolute best. And it’s very proud of this outstanding record it holds. Soooo, maybe that answers your question?

henryhirsch on May 21, 2008 at 9:31 am

This sounds like unless there are funds available from the city,that even though the building may get some form of protection,there needs to be a high million dollar investment(Reinforcing the entire building,including mold or asbestos removal,remake the theater back to its original standing,and then money designated to start up the new business venture and put to operating costs with heavy hvac and heating costs).The buildings new assesment would make property taxes go nuts.This can only be saved thru financial contributions from the city,tax incentives for a group of new investors and a very well organized business model.By being an endangered property,does that carry any financial commitments from the city?

TheaterBuff1 on May 20, 2008 at 10:19 pm

And here’s a link to the small photo that went hand-in-hand with her article, showing the Boyd’s grand Art Deco interior from balcony level:

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TheaterBuff1 on May 20, 2008 at 10:04 pm

The rally hasn’t happened yet but will be on Thursday, May 22, 2008, starting at 11:30 A.M. Meantime, here is the article by Pulitzer prize winning architectural critic Inga Saffron that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer for Tuesday, May 20, 2008:

Boyd Theater makes endangered list

By Inga Saffron

Inquirer Architecture Critic
With the celebrated Boyd Theater once again for sale, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the art deco movie palace on its annual list of the 11 most endangered historic sites in America.

The sad, yet coveted, designation comes at a low moment for the shuttered 2,350-seat Chestnut Street theater, also known as the Sameric before closing in 2002. Only three years ago, Live Nation, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, bought the run-down Boyd with the intention of turning it into a sumptuous venue for music shows. But the company, which has been consolidating operations, decided to get out of that business and put the property back on the market.

Live Nation has invited interested parties to submit bids by Friday. But there is no guarantee that a buyer would be committed to restoring the ornate interior for live theater performances or film. The building at 1908 Chestnut St., which was constructed in 1928 and is the last intact movie palace left in Center City, does not have historic protection in Philadelphia because of its entanglement in a legal battle dating from the 1980s.

That’s why the National Trust decided to single out the Boyd this year, trust president Richard Moe said, along with such other threatened locales as New Orleans' Charity Hospital and Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood.

“The nomination helps bring real attention to these sites, both locally and nationally,” Moe explained. “We hope it will bring the theater to the attention of a potential developer.”

When Live Nation acquired the Boyd from Goldenberg Group in 2003 for roughly $13 million, the company was seen as the theater’s savior.

It promised to invest about $17 million to expand the small stage for live shows and to buff up its elaborate art deco detailing, which includes a series of etched mirrors and murals depicting the history of women, and an intact marquee and ticket kiosk, all designed by the noted theater architects Hoffman & Henon.

But costs escalated, and public support from the city and state never materialized.

Live Nation did manage to stabilize the building, sealing it from water infiltration, and obtained rights to an adjacent parking lot before giving up on the project, said Adrian Scott Fine, the trust’s Philadelphia-based program officer and a member of Friends of the Boyd, a nonprofit devoted to finding a sympathetic reuse for the theater.

Fine said the group wasn’t “sure what to expect” from potential buyers. Although Friends of the Boyd have been contacted for information by several preservation-minded investors, it’s not clear that they will be able to put together a winning bid.

“It’s a highly challenging building,” Fine acknowledged. “It’s why we lobbied to have it listed. More than ever, the Boyd is at a crossroads.”

One factor that might help the Boyd is a no-competition clause in Live Nation’s sale invitation. It precludes the future owner from converting the theater into a venue for rock concerts, a business Live Nation still pursues.

At the same time, the clause could encourage some buyers to eye the site for a high-rise and retail development. Last year, the Irish firm Castleway Developments paid $36.7 million to acquire the parcel immediately to the south, on the 1900 block of Walnut Street, for a proposed luxury condo and hotel development on Rittenhouse Square.

In the hope of drumming up support for preservation, Friends of the Boyd plan a rally in front of the theater from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, said Howard Haas, the group’s president.

The Boyd’s expansive auditorium, with its curving balcony, is considered too large for today’s movie industry, which prefers to market films to niche audiences. Three small screening rooms that were once part of the Boyd have already been turned into shops.

As a live theater, the Boyd would have to compete with the state-supported powerhouses along Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts, including the Academy of Music and the Kimmel Center.

Still, cities around the country have found creative strategies to preserve their historic movie palaces. In New York, AMC Entertainment Inc. moved the historic Empire Theater 168 feet down 42d Street, then built a 25-screen multiplex onto the top of the façade.

The National Trust’s Moe said he remained optimistic about the Boyd, noting that of the roughly 200 places listed by the trust in the last 20 years, only seven have been lost.

The Boyd was chosen for this year’s list from among 100 nominees. Among the other endangered properties listed are: California’s state parks; the Great Falls Portage on the Lewis and Clark trail in Montana; Hangar One at Moffett Field in Santa Clara County, Calif.; Chicago’s Michigan Avenue streetwall; Buffalo’s Peace Bridge neighborhood; Dallas' Statler Hilton Hotel; Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, Kan.; and the Vizcaya and the Bonnet House in Florida.

Contact architecture critic Inga Saffron at 215-854-2213 or

henryhirsch on May 20, 2008 at 7:49 pm

What is the hard cost.First purchase price.second,full restoration back to 1928 third,running costs,upkeep,hvac,heat,etc.Anyone have a present day picture of the theater,exterior and interior.Did the rally make any headway?4hope

TheaterBuff1 on May 19, 2008 at 11:24 pm

DennisZ, if the laws on the books were upheld as they’re meant to be upheld, not only could the Boyd be brought back to life in no time, but it would’ve never shut down in the first place. And that’s the big problem in much of Philadelphia right now. A long list of laws are not being enforced as they’re meant to be.

While admittedly some laws are very tricky to understand (you should see how the city worded two Charter change questions on the recent Primary ballot, for example), others are in plain English, they could not possibly be clearer. They do not require any special Supreme Court interpretation or what have you. But if you’re living in a city where all local elections now appear to be fully rigged, where the total basis for Philadelphia’s entire economy is totally questionable, where facts gets reduced to “mere opinions” when any fact contradicts what the powers-that-be want to believe and impose, laws that are perfectly clear do not seem to mean very much, if anything at all.

To run the Boyd the right way, it should not have to call for any special political connections and illegal payoffs to this or that shady entity so long as there’s an assured market for it and it plans to operate in accordance with actual laws. But if anybody tries to go in that direction in Philadelphia at the present time they can expect to be told — or ordered, I should say — “That’s not the way we do things around here.” We have something here in Philadelphia at the present time called “councilmanic prerogative,” which states that no city councilperson can go against another when matters are voted on collectively by Philadelphia’s City Council. This “rule” is not in the city’s Charter anywhere, it has no U.S. Constitutional or State Constitutional support, it’s not even a law at all. But as such, it’s being allowed to override all existing laws, from the U.S. Constitution on down to Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter. And it’s not a “rule” that the people of Philadelphia have a right to vote to abolish. Besides, even if they did, with the way that the Philadelphia elections are clearly rigged, it wouldn’t do any good anyhow. In case you don’t know, we’re using the Diebold electronic voting machines here. Banned in many states because they’ve not been developed to the point of being tamper free, in Philadelphia they are just par for the course. Add to this that if anyone sidesteps them by voting by absentee or provisional ballot, paper ballots such as that get “handled” by the incumbent politicians who are running in the elections. And if these paper ballots are “filled out incorrectly” they tend to “mysteriously disappear” right before it’s time for them to be handed over.

Is this to say that under present conditions there’s no way the Boyd can be brought back up to what it’s meant to be? No. It can be. But the present conditions are such that it cannot be done just in the framework of existing laws. It shouldn’t have to be that way. There’s absolutely no good reason why it’s that way. But it does speak to the way Philadelphia is right now.

The Boyd was at its best back when this was a legitimate city, that is, one with a legitimate economy, rather than a money laundering front, or whatever it is now. We have huge highrises in Center City at the present time and more going up with condo units starting at $1.5 million. And of those who can afford this, it’s one of those situations where nobody knows — and nobody’s telling — where the kind of money that can afford those types of prices is coming from. Rather, the outlook is one of, “There’s no need for us to know.” That said, I still hope the best for this coming Thursday’s Save the Boyd rally. But beyond that, and even if it does result in the Boyd getting saved, this city has a lot of work that needs to be done beyond just that. And I see absolutely no signs right now that that work is getting done.