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The book “Philadelphia Architecture: A Guide to the City (1984) includes the Mayfair Theatre with this description:
Streamlining was a favorite mode of design in the 1930’s. It was an important aspect of the Art Deco style and reflected America’s growing preoccupation with speed and transportation machines. Streamlining had little impact on building design in Philadelphia, but even in conservative cities movie theaters were often designed in this popular style.
The Mayfair was the first movie theater in the city designed in a streamlined manner. Supowitz, the city’s outstanding theater designer of the 1930’s, transferred the building into a giant sign. The horizontal bands of the curved marquee are repeated in decorative horizontal bands on the wall below, broken by circular display windows. To achieve a sleek appearance, Supowitz used modern materials, including porcelain, structural glass and stainless steel. The Mayfair influenced the design of many subsequent theaters in the city.
Howard Haas note: “structural glass” was often Vitrolite or Carrara glass, brand names.
The late Irvin R. Glazer, in his hardback book Philadelphia Theatres A-Z wrote the following:
MAYFAIR THEATRE, 7300 Frankford Avenue; Capacity 1009, Architect David Supowitz
The entrance area of the Mayfair Theatre is on a triangular lot with the adjoining auditorium built on a rectangular lot giving the 90 by 200 feet theatre access to three streets. A very wide white plastic and neon marquee fronts the cut-off end of the triangle with a deep recess leading into the mirror and chrome decorated foyer. A very ample standing room area behind the seating section was designed so that 300 seats could be added if needed. The walls have an impressionistic mural on each side framed by panels of horizontal colorings. Birch and walnut veneer panels cover the base areas. The floor is steeply pitched towards the wide stage assuring good sight lines.
The theater opened in the fall of 1937 with subsequent run feature pictures and stage shows. By 1940, the Mayfair was showing only moving pictures and by 1950 the policy was double features. The theatre now alternates between single and double features showing the best product available.
(The Mayfair Theatre closed in November, 1985).
in the intro text of the book, Glazer wrote “Big one story art deco styled houses continued to be built, with the President in 1936 and the Frankford-area Mayfair and South Philadelphia Savoia in 1937.”
This book was published in 1986 and is out of print. The “theatre” should have been “theater” except when part of actual name, i.e. Mayfair Theatre. I’d also put in caps Art Deco. Although he says the murals were “impressionistic” I think I’ve read him do that elsewhere where the term “Art Deco” might have been best used. He wasn’t always accurate in all details that he wrote about theaters, but we owe him so much for writing on all our theaters and collecting tons of historic photos and documents, now at the Athenaeum.
The “perfect setting for French opera” is NOT hype! I’ve been twice inside, both for Los Angeles Conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats, Thief of Bagdad with orchestra, and From Here to Eternity. This restored theater is one of the most beautiful neoclassic movie palaces ever built. Its opulent design is indeed perfect for opera. If I was living in LA, I’d love to attend. The auditorium looks like it was indeed designed for opera, the Grand Lobby is unforgettable, and the lower lounge neat, too.
This should have become LA’s main venue for opera, and other neoclassic movie palaces in other cities should have been saved for opera, too, rather than building new performing arts centers, such as in Manhattan, Washington, D.C. etc.
Oh! So, I really missed the original 70 mm 6 track version that was shown moviegoers! Well, Spielberg is still at the top of his game, and it will have digital sound, so I will try to attend. I’m going to email you, Peter, at the email you provide on this site, for more particulars as to the differences. I wouldn’t want to spoil the film for anyone, and there may also be more discussion on particular films than this site would seem to set up for.
Because of limited availability, until March 6, 2006 only, Friends of the Boyd are offering you original CHAIR BACKS from 1928 from the Boyd!
These original chairs are from the Balcony since the chairs from the orchestra floor were replaced in 1953. These are the BACKS only, which are WOOD in the back with UPHOLSTERY in the front, NOT THE ORNATE ENDS or sides or armrests.
The WOOD on the back has what realtors call “character.” The top layer of UPHOLSTERY is RED, interwoven with BLACK, and we think it dates from the 1953 Cinerama remodel. View link If you strip that away, there’s a layer of ORANGE upholstery. Finally, there’s the original Opening Day 1928 ART DECO upholstery as seen in our Auditorium photo gallery.
Naturally, the original upholstery doesn’t look new, and is darker than the photo, but on some or all the chairs, there’s a little bit of original upholstery at the sides that’s brand new looking. Of course, you don’t need to strip to the original upholstery. You could leave the red upholstery in place. You might want two chairs, strip one, and then decide to display one or both.
There’s also a bit of METAL at the sides of each chair back, which is how they connected to the rest of the chairs.
Since they are only backs, they aren’t for sitting on. They are SOUVENIRS of the historic Boyd Theatre! They can be displayed, on the floor, or on a big shelf. We convey these chairs “as is” with no guarantees.
$25 DONATION to Friends of the Boyd FOR EACH chair, in advance or at the time of pickup of chairs, and you need pick them up from a Center City Philadelphia location that we will specify (not the Boyd).
The tax deductible donations will be used for our mission of a comprehensive Art Deco restoration of the Boyd, and a program of film, organ, tours, and exhibits of the Boyd’s history.
New chairs in the Boyd will again look like 1928 chairs, including new Art Deco upholstery. New chairs may be wider since people are bigger, and for many such reasons, these backs won’t be used again. The surviving ornate ends will be reused.
If you want one or more chair back, then email us SOON. Email address is at the very bottom of our website, www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org
Remember, we can only make this offer until March 6.
Thanks, Peter. Unless you know that those are the only prints available, we have to hope the Ziegfeld actually is sent those newer (digital sound) prints rather than older 35 mm prints. This sounds like a cool surround sound experience.
I miss 70 mm, 6 track.
I believe the Loews Jersey page has some other comments about digital projection, and some other people also disliking it. As I said, I’ve seen films presented from the expensive units in other cities, and looked ok to me. I mean the DLP etc, equipment, NOT DVD’s. Maybe I’m just not noticing whatever problems there are.
I saw a videotape Clint Eastwood movie at Philadelphia’s Trocadero but it didn’t look well on the big screen. It was free, but still not worthwhile for me.
For classic films, I’ve rejected any calls for anything less than 35 MM at the Boyd (at least until classics are put into digital format for the expensive digital projectors). We shouldn’t be showing DVDs with the quality they have now. It isn’t easy to return real film projection to a theater that primarily needs live shows to fill the seats, but we are volunteering hard towards that goal!
Ed, you mention Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I haven’t seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind on a movie screen. Ziegfeld is presenting it in 35 mm. Will I miss much by not seeing a 70 mm presentation?
Ah, Tim was referring to the Cascade theater in Redding, Calif,
The Friends of the Boyd are very excited about the dazzling, multicolored, and multi-patterned original Art Deco paint that has been discovered in every “public” space of the Boyd and look forward to its return! From the Exterior to the Ticket & Grand Lobbies, from the Foyer and its upstairs and lower levels, and including the Auditorium and right into each individual restroom lounge, the entire Boyd was, and should again be, a gloriously ornate showplace!
I’ve seen new movies digitally projected in other cities. The quality seems no better and no worse than 35 mm projection. Digital projectors are very expensive. I’ve not kept track as to how many cities they are in and whether only certain exhibitors (movie theater chains) have used them, so I can’t answer for sure as to why not in Philadelphia yet. Eventually, digital projectors will replace 35 mm for all new movies.
If I read correctly a comment on the Pacific (Hollywood, Los Angeles) page, then the industry is testing digital projection for a classic film, South Pacific. There are often very few, sometimes just one, print available of a classic film, so this could have advantages IF the quality is up to par. There’s been no report that technology can yet compare to a 70 mm experience.
Digital projection, of course, shouldn’t be confused with videotapes or DVDs. The digital projectors a few movie auditoriums use have more resolution/pixels/etc. than a tape or DVD.
Tim, I’m not sure you are aware that you are writing on a very public website. It is NOT a private website that belongs to Friends of the Boyd. It is a very public website. We know the Boyd owner has changed recently from Clear Channel to Live Nation, but I seriously doubt you wish to place any discussion of the financing of this project in the public realm. Thanks again for the compliments to the Boyd!
To clarify, Mr. Luzak is referring in the above post regarding films to a project in Redding, Calif (which one?), not the Boyd. Friends of the Boyd DO plan for a film series at the Boyd.
Hi, Tim. The most recent repainting was of the Grand Lobby, the Foyer adjoining the auditorium (all that green & like) and a litte bit of the auditorium, especially lower part of Proscenium Arch, in 1993, for the world premiere of the movie Philadelphia. Tom Hanks arrived and remarked “Oh, wow, a real movie palace!”
We know Rambusch did some repainting 1945-46 because it is on their index card. We know there was a considerable remodel for 1953 when Cinerama was installed. There was some touch up in 1971 when the Boyd changed hands. The non-original “arch” murals in the auditorium appear to be mid-1930’s, and correspond with much else repainting in the Auditorium. That makes sense, becaue the original “air conditioning” was “ice chilling” and in early Depression summers, even that probably wasn’t used, since the Boyd was closed. And, heat was by coal, as original paint was peeling due to lack of A/C, it was probably also getting dirty.
Visit our website (www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org) and scroll all the way to the bottom for an email address for us, or find one at How to Help link at same. Would be glad to further discuss.
And, THANKS for the compliments to this wonderful Art Deco movie palace that the prior owner obtained a permit to demolish before our citizen activists said “NO.”
A Florida musuem, the Wolfsonian, shows off the wonderful Art Deco exterior window grille from the Norris!
search under Historic Buildings.
There was also an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer a few months ago about the Norris.
RG is right, that this was a terrible missed opportunity. The Inquirer reported that they sensed that at the time, but somehow the theater was lost anyway. There are other examples, too, of theaters helping towns, including the Media theater in Media, the seat of Delaware County. The Media Theater doesn’t host movies, but live theater, and has helped to bring restaurants and life to the main
street there. And, unfortunately, there are NO theaters left in Norristown.
Theaterbuff says NO! There are no more discount or 2nd run houses in the immediate Philadelphia area. Multiplexes now have exclusives on movie, keep film as long as they want it. By time multiplexes no longer want film, it is on videotape or DVD and not enough paying customers. Devon owners kept the theater open as long as they could.
Devon is not going to be restored! It is being gutted!
Devon won’t have film like a real moviehouse, in 35 mm! Theaterbuff saw many movies over many years at the Devon! That time is past.
Devon will open again, with live performances. That’s good.
Thanks, Warren. I was in this one, I keep records, so I know where I was, but my recollection as to the news article could be inaccurate. I didn’t save the article. The suggestion of a stage may have been enough to, ah, suggest a stage to me.
I was never in the Little Carnegie or in the screens in the basement of Carnegie Hall.
How do you know who built it, who the architect was, etc? If you have news articles, I see some people typed them on the site, or scanned them & linked them from another site. I recently copied the opening movie review for Lamb designed Hollywood Theatre onto this site after finding the same movie on a historic photo of the Boyd. Regardless, thanks for your research.
Ed, I read somewhere that they had 4 months to divest the theaters. And, probably on this site, I read that Boston’s Fenway might also go to Regal. I’m equally eager to hear where Washington D.C.’s Union Station and Wisconsin Avenue will go. National Amusements is an excellent company already in those markets (in the suburbs) and it would be nice if they bought all of those theaters. However, Regal for Boston and NYC was mentioned.
I meant in the Balcony, rows of 4 seats, then 12, then 4 again.
Davebozooka, this theater had a balcony. When I saw a movie in 1997, the management intended the balcony to be closed, but I asked if I could sit in it, and they quickly said ok.
When it closed later in 1997, I recall reading a news article saying it opened in the 1920’s.
I have a 556 seat count, but that could be inaccurate. My seat totals may not add up, but in the balcony, I counted 7 rows of 4 seats, then 12, then 7. There was a wood rail there. I record that the orchestra had 2 sections, one of 24 rows of 11, and one of 13 rows of 5, and that the seats were numbered and red. There was a stage. There was no use of a curtain. There were no slides. I estimated the screen at about 25 feet wide, and believed it to be very well placed in the auditorium so there was a great view from the balcony. There was an old chandelier in the lobby. There was a metal stairway with a pattern that I drew looking like a cross going into a circle.
The news article indicated it had ALWAYS been a cinema since the 1920’s.
The Ben Hur presentation sounds wonderful! Realize, though, it might be that these movies were too long to include the commercials.
Thanks for the Gladiator attendence, but I don’t expect much during M to Thursday, and have nothing to compare. How’s Ben Hur doing during those days?
I’ve learned a lot volunteering to get a film program at Philadelphia’s Boyd when it reopens, and one thing is that it doesn’t cost much to get a new lens cut for the projector, to show the film in the correct aspect ratio. Since they showed Metropolis correctly at the Ziegfeld in 2002, they SHOULD already have the lens sitting in a box. We found many lens at the Sameric (the Boyd’s name when it closed), whole boxes full, so they likely have this at the Ziegfeld. Lens are particular to each auditorium, as Vito indicates above. Of course, “should” doesn’t always happen, so we will see soon.
Let’s be constructive! Dear CLEARVIEW: Singin in the Rain has different dimensions than new films. New films are scope, so 2.35 wide as high, or flat which is 1.85 wide as high. Movies before 1953 are 1.33, like television sets before new wide screen ones. That means a different lens for the movie projectors.
One of my greatest pleasures of moviegoing was enjoying the restored 1927 Metropolis at the Ziegfeld in 2002, so I know it has been done before. If Clearview is presenting classics at the Chelsea, presumably they are projecting them in the right dimensions there.
A few years I enjoyed a double bill of Signin in the Rain and An American in Paris at the Paris theater.
ok, now what I’d like to know is whether there has been a big turnout for Braveheart and Gladiator.
Kudos again to Clearview for the classics! Do try to accomodate intermissions, and try to get 70 MM prints in the future, but know we love the Ziegfeld and thank you for keep presenting movies, new and vintage, there!
ok, red curtain is a cliche. yes, gold, yes, my mistake.
Adreco, there’s a red curtain, and a transparent white curtain. The prior operator, Cineplex Odeon, would open the red curtain first, and then would open the white curtain while the film title came on. I liked that practice. I suppose they probably had closed them both after the trailers, but I don’t recall exactly.
Clearview opens them at the same time, with the white one seen separately, but not really separately used.
If they have time for intermissions and still have the number of showings they wish to present for intermissions, then they should do the intermissions. These epic films had them originally. That’s the right presentation, would help with restroom breaks, and increase concession stands. \