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There’s been much development at the 1900 block of Chestnut Street recently, and much of that makes it better. Friends of the Boyd volunteers have been very devoted to saving Center City’s last movie palace, and have spent many hours to make this happen. WE’ve not seen financial support or an hour of your time on this effort (and we don’t see your actiona making better the theaters you champion in the Northeast- the Holmes & Mayfair especially), so I don’t know why you choose to be so unpleasant again to a group that has sacrificied so much. The new owner of the theater has also worked very hard. This preservation is a great model of SUCCESS. We anticiate major renovation to start soon.
As we stated, a modern box office will be used. The historic 1928 ticket booth (set in about the same space as the current 1953 booth) we be replicated for historic accuracy. The idea has always been to save Center City’s last movie palace, restore it, and reopen it.
The movie palace was the house of the people, all the people. Outside the theater, you opened your wallet, took out a small amount of money, and even though you may not have had much money, you put away your wallet by the time you entered the theater itself. You were now a king.
The current ticket booth sits there from 1953, having replaced the 1928 original, but having none of the architectural majesty of the original. The original was gorgeous Art Deco, and the drawings do it justice. It returns to help bring back the beauty of the Boyd at street level, and its history. A modern box office will be inside the building.
Our website gives much of the history of the Boyd at the history link, FAQ, etc.
Briefly, Alexander Boyd built it but as it was being completed he sold to Warner Bros which were also acquiring the Stanley Co. to become Stanley Warner.
I believe in 1953, consistent with what Vince says above, that due to antitrust litigation, the Hollywood studio (Stanley Warner) had to sell. New York City interests bought it, and then or later it became RKO Stanley Warner.
In 1971, the Sameric Corp. bought the movie palace. Sameric sold their entire chain about 1988 to the United Artists Circuit. UA sold the movie palace in 1998 to the Goldenberg Group but leased it back until 2002. Last year, Clear Channel purchased the Boyd, but spun their theaters off until a new corporation which is now called Live Nation.
I’m not absolutely sure between 1953 and 1971 if the ownership entity changed control but the public knew the theaters as Stanley
Now contrast to the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia, always legit, always owned since construction in 1928 by the Shuberts.
In the 1950’s America was “modernizing” so the Boyd’s original Art Deco ticket booth, marquee, and some ceiling light fixtures were replaced. The ticket and grand lobbies were simplified. And, for Cinerama, a screen was installed in front of the Proscenium Arch and 3 projection booths appeared.
The screen was taken down in 1971. The orchestra’s 3 projection booths are gone. The 1953 ticket booth and marquee will be replaced by replicas of the 1928 originals. Art Deco character will be restored to the lobbies. W. H. Lee’s modernization will be gone.
Enjoy W.H. Lee in the movie theaters he designed, some of which still survive for entertainment in Pennsylvania.
Curtains opened to reveal an empty stage? And, then screen was set further back?
I read about the Fox effort, so when I organized our group to save the Boyd, I was determined not to “rerun” that effort to Save the Fox!
Downtown Philadelphia wasn’t going to save every movie palace for entertainment purposes, but in addition to the Boyd we possibly could’ve saved one more without loss of existing theaters. It would have been great to have retained one of the neoclassics such as the Stanley, Fox, or Earle. The Mastbaum was the best ever built, but so huge….
Excellent. Loge seats will be $25.
Restoration experts who have restored movie palaces nationwide have been consulted, and are bidding for the restoration work.
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts let us use their facility rent free in 2003 for our illustrated slide show on why the Boyd Theatre needs to be saved.
W. H. Lee wasn’t involved in 1928 at the Boyd and so is not relevant to its restoration to its original Art Deco elegance.
Very little of the original decorative glass above the marquee survives. We’ve said from the start that all missing should be replicated and return. I’ve seen wonderful drawings for this to be done, if there’s sufficient funding. As I said in my interview this morning on KYW radio, Friends of the Boyd are fundraising to ensure that original but expensive Art Deco features like the 1928 ticket booth and marquee, can be recreated. The new owner can only invest so much with any hope of breaking even, but we in Philadelphia who view our last movie palace with pride, can make a difference, and can return film to the Boyd, too.
The four movie signboard above the current marquee will be removed when major renovation starts. The marquee also will be replaced with a replica of the 1928 Art Deco version, far more beautiful and consistent with the movie palace’s exterior and interior.
As Vince says, we are grateful that the Sameric Corporation rescued
and reopened the Boyd in the same year that the Randolph was being demolished, and two years before the Stanley was demolished.
Please join us at International House on May 12 for our presentation of Brian De Palma’s “Blow Out” in an archival 35 mm print on the big screen at 3701 Chestnut. Movie begins 7:30 PM for $15 including After-Party with Yards beer, food, 1980’s DJ Chatty Cathy spun music. Splurge for $50 VIP ticket including also 6:00 PM catered reception with 3 who appeared in the film: Channel 6Action news' Dave Roberts, actor Tom McCarthy, FM radio personality Michael
Tearson. Funds raised will help restore the Boyd, and help ensure a film program.
Vince, how interesting on all counts!
I knew GWTW was at both, but didn’t realize the prestige showing was at the Boyd.
Both the Trans Lux and the Arcadia have recently “reopened” as stores, after decade long closures. I’ve been meaning to link my photos to those pages, and will eventually.
Thanks William & Vince for the very informative and interesting postings as to the ticket prices. Now, I’m curious as to what were the most expensive tickets? The (3 strip) Cinerama shows because they were uniquely only ever at the Boyd in 3 strip? Or, road shows of epic films like Cleopatra? I’m wandering whether there was any one particular film (such as The Sound of Music, Lawrence of Arabia, Ben Hur, etc) that had the most expensive of the high end tickets?
Thanks Patrick for listing our event!
This is my favorite website!!
A “Mary” wrote that “My mother passed away a couple of years ago, and last week my dad gave me the trunk she used to store all her special treasures. In going through it tonight, I found a ticket stub for seat U 101, Good Only Wed. 8:40 P.M. June 16, 1954 at the Boyd Theater, Orchestra, National Ticket Company. The seat cost $2.60 and is torn so I can’t tell what the show was. Is there anyplace I can get this information?”
I answered “This is Cinerama” which ran for one or two years at the Boyd? Her ticket price works out in inflation adjusted dollars to $17 or $18 today. Were road show features in the 1950’s & 1960’s also just as expensive?
At the Loews Jersey on Friday eve, volunteer usher Myron told me that in early 1968 he saw GWTW in a “pan and scan” 70 mm version on the Cinerama screen at the Boyd. It is possible his recollection is confused with the Randolph?
It is SAD that we can’t preserve even the notable exterior features such as a marquee! It would’ve been even better to also have preserved for public enjoyment notable interior features such as the Mayfair’s murals.
The current draft of my pending Weekly Update email for Friends of the Boyd includes as its concluding paragraph:
Other theater news: The former MAYFAIR movie theater in the Northeast is losing its marquee as it changes from a drugstore to a bank. The Mayfair, featured in John Gallery’s book on Philadelphia architecture, is important for being our first Streamlined Moderne theater. We in Philadelphia have not done a good job of protecting and landmarking our cinemas. That’s all the more reason why we need ensure the Boyd is restored, reopened, and once again enjoyed!
I don’t know. GWTW was often reissued, so if you are positive, you are probably correct. In 1971 the Boyd’s Cinerama screen was taken down, but 70 mm projection was used.
Many of the movie theaters on this site in NYC, DC, and elsewhere, have a list of movies that played, from newspapers. The list seems to be from one gentleman. I’d love such a list to be posted on this site, of all movies that played at the Boyd, and the dates they played!
Also, the email address HowardB isn’t me, that’s another correspondent.
The Boyd didn’t have live shows because it opened with Paramount’s 1st talkie. Talkies being ten times more popular than silents, so they didn’t need stage shows to help draw in patrons. The Boyd also didn’t have a huge stage. Most of downtown Philly’s stage presentation movie palaces were on Market Street, and they had much larger stages.
The Friends of the Boyd do plan 70 mm classics. We can’t do 3 strip Cinerama do to the need for a wider screen, and 3 projector booths on the orchestra level. We have said since we organized in 2002 that film classics, film festivals, and movie premieres can, and should, be held at the Boyd. For the theater to survive, and to entertain, musicals and concerts will be presented by the theater’s new owner. Musicals and concerts will be a great reuse of the Boyd. Movies are an art form, and we will strive to present them as discussed above.
The Bridge deserves its feature in the Cinema Treasures book, and is world class for what it is.
Very funny April Fool’s joke!
When the “Sameric” as it was then named, closed in 2002, there was a sign in the Grand Lobby leading to the historic auditorium which proclaimed “Philadelphia’s largest movie screen.” Having seen numerous movies there, I can attest to the fact that the screen was large enough to truly excite any cinema lover. I say “was” with some hesitation because I understand the screen is still there, but we no longer see it since the Fire Curtain was lowered a year ago. The screen could not be reused, and its removal will happen when major work starts. In the meantime, the Fire Curtain with its triangles and original paint colors, is much more fun to look at than the screen, which became torn & written on after the theater closed.
I have seen screens in front of proscenium arches, though I think only in places still used as daily moviehouses. There needs be a place for the screen to go, whether in the floor or the ceiling. It won’t be the ornate ceiling. And, it would be expensive, complicated, and take some room, no doubt, for it to go into the floor.
Fortunately, the Arch is wide and big enough for a very large movie screen. It wasn’t wide enough for Cinerama, but for other format films, 35 mm- incuding Scope, and 70 mm, the Arch will house a screen big enough to impress film audiences. I’ve seen movies in numerous historic movie palaces from Boston to California, and Europe, too, so I do believe I can say that the screen will be appropriate.
And, I’m not saying that we have no appreciation for an even larger screen. I love the Uptown in D.C. and can only imagine that the Boyd with its Cinerama sized screens (at least two different sizes says Vince Young above) compared. However, the Boyd can have a movie screen within the Arch that people will very much enjoy. And, perhaps in the future, people can figure out an affordable way to have an even bigger screen present itself, if that’s what they want! As you say, the critical need is the survival of the last movie palace.
The Cinerama screen, the circular marquee, and Ben Hur were all products of their time, half a century ago, as movie palaces sought to survive in the TV era. We’re in a different era now. The Boyd, with its original Art Deco features restored, will once again entertain audiences.
The Cinerama screen was taken down in 1971, revealing then & ever since then, the beautiful Proscenium Arch. Fortunately, the auditorium was designed very wide, so that a large Cinemascope screen entertained audiences since 1971.
Buildings especially movie palaces, do stand proudly on their own. They don’t try to ape their neighbors. The original marquee will blend with the rest of the Boyd architecture, exterior and interior.
The Boyd was built, and viewed from the start, as a downtown showplace movie palace, not a “large-sized nickelodeon” Hollywood stars regularly arrived with the films. Alexander Boyd intended it to be the flagship of a movie circuit empire. He probably had to sell it to Warner Bros because the national studio also was purchasing the Stanley Co theaters, and he couldn’t compete against a nationwide firm- same problem many companies have today.
When the Boyd reopens with many of the magnificient Art Deco features that it originally had, people will once again enjoy its true glory!
As to W. H. Lee, he was a great theater architect who didn’t get to design a downtown Philadelphia movie palace. Much of the Boyd was simplified in 1953, a common post-WW2 trend, but that didn’t make it better. Many remember a huge curved screen in front of the Proscenium Arch, but that-like the 3 orchestra projection booths- likely was built for the specifications of the Cinerama company. I’ve always liked the circular marquee, but it seems more appropriate for a 1950’s Penn Center building. The original French Art Deco marquee will fit better at the Boyd.
Sam’s son Merton ran the Sameric Corporation after Sam died. A grandson, Eric died young & was memoralized by the naming of so many of the theaters as Eric. I don’t about others.
In 1991, I enjoyed the restored 70 MM 6 track print of Spartacus on one of the two large (40 foot wide) screens at the Worldwide Plaza, before that theater went 2nd run. It was presented fine there. I had missed it at the Ziegfeld & at the Uptown in Washington. I’d love to see it in 70 MM at the Uptown and I’m sure many people would love to see it at the Ziegfeld. I’ve not seen the Alamo. On vacation, I did see a 35 MM print of Mad World at the Castro in S.F. More 70 MM prints of classics please!
Magaziner was the architect. Shapiro was the client. The Boyd theater later knew Shapiro as he who bought it in 1971 for the Sameric Corporation. Irv Glazer’s hardback book on Philadelphia theaters makes clear that Shapiro was the client.