Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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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:

View link

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:

View link

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.

dennisczimmerman on May 19, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Theatre Buff1 – Don’t think Philadelphia is the only area subject to all these changes. The farmlands of Lancaster County are disappearing faster with each “blooming” shopping center or housing development built. I drive 7 miles to work and it takes me usually 30 to 35 minutes each way!!! Downtown Lancaster was destroyed years ago in the name of urban redevelopment. Four movie palaces, innumberable businesses, a hotel, and other things were demolished. Now they want to demolish what was built in its place and bring back a part of what was there. Developers from Montgomery, Delaware and Chester Counties seem to have set their sights on Lancaster County as the next area to bastardize. It will soon be to the point one area will look the same as another. Wal-Marts, K-Marts, Lowe’s, Target etal will abound and you will not think you left home. I still say, if you could find out how the box office of a movie in Imax compares to a “regular” shoebox theatre box office. To me I look at Imax as the new version of 70mm6 Track Stereo sound from the 60’s-80’s. However, it will still never replace the movie palaces and those traveler curtains opening on that large 70mm screen. At least it offers you more than the “postage stamp” size screens in most of the megaplexes. They advertise wall to wall screens, but a theatre with 150-250 seats, the walls are not exactly that far apart!
If I had a vast amount of money, I would restore the Boyd or any theatre I could purchase. Even if I was the only one patronizing it. However, I keep thinking about the movie “Field of Dreams.” “Build It and They will come.” Restore it and they will come as well.

TheaterBuff1 on May 18, 2008 at 10:18 pm

DennisZ, the glory days of the Boyd that you’re fondly remembering, and that I got a fleeting taste of in my earliest childhood years before everything was quickly changed, can only be superficially replicated in today’s economy at best because of the following reason. When the Boyd was at its height, and by that I mean very much on solid ground when it was, Philadelphia was where everything of a non-rural nature was concentrated. Though by the late 1950s there were the first phases of suburbia surrounding the city, there were not things as of yet such as super malls, megaplexes and suburban sprawl in general. There were small town movie theaters, and where I lived, Northeast Philadelphia, small neighborhood movie theaters, which served their purpose well if you just wanted to see a regular movie. But if you really wanted to see an epic in the right way, there was really only one place to go at that time, Center City Philadelphia. And when I say that I’m talking about the whole Delaware Valley region stretching from the Jersey Shore to small Pennsylvania towns as faraway as Lancaster. Downtown Philadelphia (in those days we called it “Downtown,” never “Center City”) was where ALL the big, most dynamic stuff was, whether it was Downtown Philadelphia’s movie palaces, or its department store palaces such as Wanamaker’s, Gimbel’s and Lit Brothers. But after the introduction of the interstate highway system by Dwight Eisenhower (and what a huuuuge blunder that was), and the demise of the railroads (another huuuuge mistake), and the wholesale displacement of the Delaware Valley’s abundance of farmland — said to have been some of the best in the world — with runaway development, everything just leveled off as a result of that, and this leveling off process is continuing to this day. If this economic pattern could be reversed there’s no question the Boyd could come roaring back to what it once was and then some. And maybe with the continuing to skyrocket gas prices who knows? But until that happens, other than superficially, there’s no way you could revive the Boyd to what it once was.

Now to me, over the past several years (since my joining CT in fact), I viewed the revival of Philadelphia’s movie theaters and palaces as a way of luring people back to the city once more, reversing the trend of everything going the other way. But it is very much a which should come first, which can come first, the chicken or the egg, equation. But if we’re living in a world where all homage and political reverence is shown to those in suburbia — which, by the way, is the case with Philadelphia’s current mayor, Michael Nutter — with the accompanying outlook that we here in the city “don’t know anything,” good luck trying to do anything good in the city of Philadelphia right now. As I’m sure you know, we have a very high rate of crime in Philadelphia right now. Our prisons are filling up way beyond anything they were ever designed to handle. But of course we do, given the current type of economy we have. And this high rate of crime we have spurs those who fled this city to suburbia to look back to Philadelphia in terms of moving back and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

And come on, who wants to live in a city, or come to a city, where the Philadelphia politicians don’t hear you, they only hear those out in suburbia?

To me, I miss both when Philadelphia was the greatest thing around when it came to cinema, shopping, employment and so on, and when you traveled outside the city there was glorious countryside that went on forever, and the Jersey Shore really was the shore at its wide open and free finest. Of course the Boyd did very well when it was like that. Of course it did.

But now if money’s going to come from somewhere to bring it back, it will have to come from the people who profitted immensely from transforming the Delaware Valley from the glorious way it once was laid out economically to the bland way it is now. But if that happens, be advised it will be a very superficial way of bringing the Boyd back. Interesting to note, if we locked those people up in prison — starting with Mayor Nutter — instead of the people we’re locking up now, we could greatly reduce Philadelphia’s current prison population dramatically. Hey, one can dream, can’t he?

dennisczimmerman on May 18, 2008 at 10:09 am

Theatre Buff1 – I would love to attend both functions. However, when I write that I would be making plans to travel into Center City, that travel originates in Lancaster, PA. And when you are still working full time, taking time off means a vacation day. And as much as I would like to attend, vacation days to me need to be saved for a vacation. I cannot believe that in a city the size of Philadelphia, there is not enough support to get this theatre restored and reopened. If only they could come up with a way for the flyers, Sixers, Eagles, or Phillies to play there, the support I would think would be overwhelming. They, the city and its citizens, could comee up with a humongous amount of money to build two new stadiums, but the money to restore its last movie palace – a much smaller amount of money – cannot be found. I guess it is all where your priorities lie. There is just as many people who would spend their money in Center City dining and attending an event at the Boyd, just like some people shell out their hard earned money to see a sport team in Philly. When there were many movie palaces in Center City, my wife and I – and on occasion friends – would make a weekend of it. Arriving Saturday and spend the day shopping. Then dinner out and a movie at the Boyd – Stanley – Fox – Midtown, etc. Then stay over night and have breakfast out in the morning before heading back to Lancaster. It was a nice break “mini vacation.”

TheaterBuff1 on May 17, 2008 at 11:03 pm

DennisZ, this upcoming Thursday — May 22, 2008, starting at 11:30 A.M. — they’re planning to have a huge save the Boyd rally in front of the Boyd Theatre. Speakers will include John Gallery of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania State Representative Babette Josephs, Adrian Fine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and, of course, Howard B. Haas, Esq., president of Friends of the Boyd.

Also this coming Thursday, from 5:30 PM to 7 PM, at the AIA Center for Architecture at 1218 Arch Street, Adrian Fine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Shawn Evans, AIA of Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, will present an illustrated lecture on the significance and the plight of the Boyd Theatre and place it in the context of a national preservation struggle. The lecture is free. No reservations are needed.

So if you could find a way to attend this rally and/or lecture afterwards and assert your views — which I fully agree with — I think that would be really cool!

dennisczimmerman on May 17, 2008 at 10:34 pm

I see the TV ads, newspaper ads, and publicity for the new “Indiana Jones” movie opening in a few days. It makes me think back to the first three “Indy” films. I would make plans to travel to Center City to see the film in “70MM Six Track Stereo Sound” at the Boyd/Sameric Theatre. Now we no longer have that choice. Worse yet, even if there were still some “70mm” theatres around, films are not being released with 70mm prints anylonger. It is sort of a catch 22. If there were still theatres, would they make 70mm prints? If there were 70mm prints, would there still be theatres to show them. Anyone who has not seen a film presented in 70mm six track stereo sound has not seen a great presentation. And those of us who have, will miss those days and times. Even now, just hearing the music from “HTWWW”, “Lawrence”,“My Fair Lady”, “Camelot” and all the others brings back so many pleasant movie going memories. I can still picture those red curtains opening on the curved Cinerama screen at the BOYD and would love to see that again. Oh well, at least some of us had that experience to remember.

ericalynn on March 5, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Thanks! I have more that I’ll post shortly.

TheaterBuff1 on March 4, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Very good photos, ericalynn g.! In an eerie sort of way they remind me a bit of that scene in the 1946 David Lean movie, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, when Pip returns to Miss Havisham’s house long after she’s gone but discovers Estella to still be there. Yet how things do change from what they once were. To think of the huge crowds that flocked to there with the premiere of BEN HUR in the late 1950s. How very different the place called Philadelphia was then. I look to those memories and then I look to these photos and I think, no, they can’t be the same place, the same building, can they? For the one image I hold is so full of life, the other so void of such. Gone now are the searchlights of opening night and the long limousines, the souvinir booklets, the stars in their tuxedos signing their autographs in them, the grand exhibiting of the film itself. THAT Boyd will never be again. It came and went and now it’s behind us all forever.

Yet as I look at this old girl I think, there’s still some life in it yet. And to reveal it, all it would take is a young brash Pip to pull the old long-musty curtains down to let that new light in.

ericalynn on March 4, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Here are some pictures I took of the Boyd/Sam Eric 4:

View link

bruceanthony on January 30, 2008 at 9:32 am

Live Nation held on to the following theatres not included in the sale, Opera House (BF Keith) Boston,Hilton NYC which is currently hosting the long run musical “Young Frankenstein,Warner Washington DC and the Boyd in Philidelphia. The Broadway community is very happy that Live Nation sold these theatres to a private investor who will take more interest in the theatres and also produce there own shows beside hosting Broadway tours. Clear Channel did a much better job with the theatres until they spun it off as LIve Nation.The Nederlanders purchased Live Nations 50% interest in Broadway in Chicago for 60 Million prior to this sale.brucec

HowardBHaas on January 26, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Oh, goodness, I meant to write that “the Boyd was NOT included in that sale.”

HowardBHaas on January 26, 2008 at 7:45 pm

The Boyd was included in the sale.

dennisczimmerman on January 26, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I just saw in the Friday paper that Live Nation has sold their theatres. I was wondering whether the Boyd was included in that sale. The article was in the New York Times and they did not mention the Boyd.

bruceanthony on November 28, 2007 at 9:30 am

Howard, the Nederlanders ran the Merriam the former Shubert for a number of years after the Shuberts moved to the Forrest. The Shuberts were forced to divest many theatres becuase of a court Decree of being a monopoly. The only new theatres that the Shuberts built after the decree was the Shubert in LA which was demolished a few years ago. The Shuberts run 17 Broadway theatres in New York and now only have two theatres left outside of New York, the Forrest in Philidelphia and the National in Washington DC. The Nederlanders run 9 Broadway theatres and run many Broadway theatres accross the U.S. The Forrest and the Merriam as stated before are to small to present large scale Broadway musicals such as “Wicked”, they both seat less than 2000 seats. The Boyd with 2400 seats is the perfect size capacity for the road. I think people who are interested in saving the Boyd should stress this point to City leaders. Live Nation saw that the market in Philidelphia needed a theatre the size of the Boyd for Broadway road productions. Live Nation looked at the Boston market and realized that the Wang with 3600 seats was to large for Broadway shows and the Colonial was to small for many of the large scale Broadway musicals and decided to restore the long closed Opera House (BF Keith), which is now the primary theatre in Boston for large scale Broadway Musicals such as “Wicked”.brucec

TheaterBuff1 on November 21, 2007 at 12:19 am

Not during the current strike it isn’t.