Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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dennisczimmerman
dennisczimmerman on January 26, 2008 at 10:43 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
bruceanthony on November 28, 2007 at 12:30 pm

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
TheaterBuff1 on November 21, 2007 at 3:19 am

Not during the current strike it isn’t.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on November 20, 2007 at 11:38 am

Live Nation is selling all there theatres across the U.S with the exception of the Hilton in New York City and the Opera House in Boston due to complicated tax credits with both cities. They want to concntrate on there core business which is presenting musical acts across the nation. The Boyd got caught in the companys plan to sell all theatres. The demand for suitable musical theatres in New York is huge. A Broadway bound show such as “Cry Baby” was delayed a season becuase there were no available theatres on Broadway. The number of Broadway theatres has grown in the last decade fron 30 to 40 when the new Henry Miller opens next year. Broadway is even producing more plays with the new profit formula of star driven limited runs from 10 to 20 weeks.brucec

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on November 20, 2007 at 8:34 am

Live Nation is selling their theaters that presents legit shows, because they want to be a Rock N Roll CONCERT company. That’s why they chose a name like “Live Nation” in the first place. Recently, they sold their ownership interests in the former movie palaces in Chicago’s Loop, because those are legit theaters.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on November 20, 2007 at 2:54 am

I would find it very interesting why Live Nation finally gave up on its plan, for it to come right out and state exactly why. For I, for one, was never against the Boyd being made use of in this way. But as I look at what’s currently going on up there on NYC’s Great White Way, and with it being very unclear what the end resolve is going to be with that, I look at Philadelphia, where in terms of unions being reasonable it’s the absolute worst city in the world. And when looking at that side of Philadelphia it’s not really hard to figure out, ah, that’s why Live Nation finally gave a shrug of resignation. I’m certainly not anti-union by any means. But in Philadelphia’s case we have what we can call mindless unions, ones who have long lost all sight of what they should be collectively bargaining for and what they should be against. So if Live Nation is having great difficulty explaining why it finally gave up on the Boyd, how exactly do you explain what ultimately amounts to a resistance of shear insanity? For that’s the b—— of it. You can’t. Only that it was able to make the simplest things a total impossibility.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on November 19, 2007 at 12:32 pm

Brucec is correct, but let me clarify regarding particular theaters. Nederlander isn’t in Philadelphia. Shubert owns the Forrest Theatre on Walnut Street. The former Shubert is the Merriam Theatre, now owned by University of the Arts. Each of those is too small for large scale musicals as he says. The Kimmel Center isn’t a venue at all for Touring Broadway shows. The Academy of Music is, as he says.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on November 19, 2007 at 12:09 pm

The Boyd is the percect size theatre to house Broadway musicals on the road that is why Live Nation was interested in the Boyd.Most restored movie palaces now serve as Broadway road houses or Performing Art Centers. The Boyd could be a home for Broadway ,Concerts,Dance and Classic Film. The Shubert and Nedelander theatres as stated before are to small for the large scale musicals on the road. The Academy of Music and the Performing Art Center aren’t perfect venues for Broadway shows. The Hippodrome in Baltimore was restored for Broadway shows and the Boyd would serve the same need in Philidelphia.brucec

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on November 14, 2007 at 3:57 am

Just for future reference, Brucec, it’s spelled “Pittsburgh”, with the “h” at the end carefully kept intact.

Now as for live performance venues in Philadelphia, while I as a Philadelphian certainly wouldn’t object to the Boyd serving this purpose, the city certainly has no shortage of such now. But it doesn’t have a MOVIE palace, and it needs one badly. And the only opportunity left for that right now is the Boyd. But, it’s Philadelphia, and Philadelphia’s not thinking right right now and may not make it to the other side of this. Several years back I might’ve said, “No, no, this city still has a good chance!” And I DID. But now I have many many doubts. So where the Boyd goes from here is a total toss-up. If it survives in any way as a theater I’ll be happy. But we’ve gotten so steeped in this denial thing that its greatest calling is as a movie palace, and it’s now to the stage (no pun meant) of being surreal.

bruceanthony
bruceanthony on November 13, 2007 at 1:45 pm

The City of Pittsburg has restored three of there Downtown movie palaces the Stanley,Penn and Fulton all under other names now. Live Nation meant well but they decided to get out of owning theatres and concentrate on them music business which was bad timing for the Boyd. The city of Philidelphia should realize the potential of the Boyd since Live Nation wanted to present Broadway shows like they did with the Opera House in Boston. The Boyd is the perfect size theatre for Broadway road productions, not to small and not to big. The City should take it from Live Nation if they can’t find a suitable buyer at this time and hold it in trust until a suitable buyer can be found. The Nederlanders and the Shuberts both own theatres that are a little to small for touring shows that are presented for a few weeks. Theatres on the road need to seat at least 2000 to mazimize the gross on the large touring musicals such as “The Lion King”,“Wicked”, “Phantom Of the Opera” snd many others. The Nederlanders just bought out Live Nation’s intersts in Broadway in Chicago and maybe could be interested in the Boyd as there primary house for touring Brodway shows. In San Francisco the Curran for decades was the primary house for Broadway shows until economics forced them to make the larger Orpheum and the ugly Golden Gate the primary Broadway Theatres. The smaller Curran is now used for plays and long run of musicals such as “Jersey Boys”. Philadelphia is not a market for long runs like Chicago,Los Angeles,Boston and San Francisco. Maybe the Shuberts and the Nederlaners should get together and form a Broadway in Philadelphia and use both there theatres along with the larger Boyd.brucec

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on October 23, 2007 at 2:18 am

And the number one way to do that is to bring it to the attention of the best possible buyer with its continuing to be up for sale. In the right hands, the potential of this movie palace is tremendous and easily worth whatever the asking price happens to be. It is at a choice location to serve as a prominent east coast destination theater with its convenient closeness to Philadelphia’s Amtrak Station, not to mention its being near to the University of Pennsylvania. And there’s no question it is totally ripe for partaking in Center City Philadelphia’s invigorating renaissance which is now fast oversweeping that part of downtown Philadelphia where the Boyd Theatre stands. A beautifully restored Boyd Theatre is the one thing glaringly missing from that renaissance right now.

LuisV
LuisV on October 22, 2007 at 4:15 pm

Virtually every American City has managed to keep and restore at least one of their movie palaces. It would be an utter disaster if Philadelphia, one of our greatest cities and whose downtown is enjoying a renaissance, was unable to restore and reopen the Boyd. Theaters like these will NEVER be built again. 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 live in New York where we are always lamenting the loss of theaters, the latest being the “Playpen” (not the original name, but its latest incarnation). The reality though is that New York still has Radio City, The Hollywood, The Paradise, The 175th Street, The Valenica, The St. George, The Beacon, The Ziegfeld and still others that have the potential to be restored to their former glories, chief among them the Kings and The Brooklyn Paramount. Compared to Philadelphia, this is an embarassment of riches. Nonetheless, it is still painful to lose even one theater because they will never be built like these again.

If this is Philadelphia’s last palace remaining it is important that everyone who loves Philadelphia and believes in its future work hard to save The Boyd! I wish you luck!

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on October 22, 2007 at 2:09 pm

Today’s Weekly Update of Friends of the Boyd:

the IMPORTANCE OF THE BOYD THEATRE:

Built in 1928, the Boyd Theatre is the last surviving motion picture palace of downtown Philadelphia. Acclaimed as an Art Deco masterpiece, the Boyd was an early example in the US of a movie palace in the Art Deco style. The Boyd was designed by Hoffman-Henon, architects who designed many of the other movie palaces. The theater’s exterior included a towering vertical sign that advertised the theater a mile away, a public retail arcade and a huge etched glass window with Art Deco motifs. View link

The Boyd has one of Philadelphia’s grandest Art Deco lobbies View link

plus foyers and lounges with dazzling colorful mirrors, marble fountains, and elaborate plasterwork View link

and a 2450 seat auditorium with perfect sightlines View link

The theme of the Boyd is the triumph of the modern woman, seen in the Proscenium Mural by acclaimed artist Alfred Tulk and by artistic figures of women from around the world including the modern American.

Movie palaces including the Boyd were places where the ordinary man could enjoy entertainment in a regal environment. On opening in 1928, for a mere 35 cents, an ordinary Joe could enjoy Walt Disney’s debut of Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie and Interference, Paramount’s 1st talking picture.

Equipped for the change in movies from silents to talkies, the Boyd drew patrons from throughout the Philadelphia area for films such as “Gone with The Wind,”epic 70mm films such as “Ben Hur” and “Doctor Zhivago,”and blockbuster movies like “Star Wars.” Customers traveled from a hundred miles away as the Boyd was the only local theater equipped mid-century to show Cinerama films. Hollywood style premieres were public spectacles, including the 1993 World Premiere of “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington appearing.

Too many movie palaces nationwide have been demolished, but almost every US city has restored and reopened at least one movie palace to serve as a showplace of entertainment and so future generations will know how movies were experienced in the 20th Century.

Help us find more people who can join our cause at www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org

Howard B. Haas

www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on October 2, 2007 at 2:48 am

The Boyd Theatre in its ongoing closed-down state, along with many other once-great things that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania once showcased, is reflective of Philadelphia’s current extremely screwed up reward structure. It’s a reward system that elevates the city’s most worthless, unimaginative, uncreative, and untalented elements to the highest level of social stratification, while treating anyone who’s the total opposite — what few if any are still left — as if they are “worthless pieces of trash.” It’s why we no longer see great people coming out of Philadelphia anymore the way we used to, and why we haven’t for many many many years now. As for the reward structure itself, why it functions the way it does is very understandable. For not a single penny used in it is legitimate. A great deal of it is simply laundered money — the proceeds of illegal arms dealing (Philadelphia still ranks number one in this), illegal drug trafficking, fraudulently bilking the taxpayers in the rest of the state and the U.S. for constant bailouts of Septa (our public transit system), etc., medical malpractice and fraud, human trafficking, routine auto theft and, indeed, just about every other vice you can think of. And it is doesn’t help that Pennsylvania’s current governor, formerly the mayor of Philadelphia, can far more be likened to a dictator than a legitimate political leader. There’s absolutely no such thing as democracy when it comes to Pennsylvania’s current Governor Ed Rendell.

And right now with his leading the charge, Philadelphia is about to explode into a gambling mecca with its citizens — whether they be good or bad — having absolutely no say over it.

So against all that backdrop it would indeed require a miracle to bring the Boyd Theatre up to what it’s supposed to be. Short of an all-out revolution, war or purely an act of God there’s no way that I could see it. But with those things taking place I could see the Boyd Theatre being very instrumental in helping turn this city around for the better. Right now, however, it’s “Welcome to Myanmar”…

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on October 1, 2007 at 4:46 pm

Dreams are great. Reality is that nowhere in the USA is there a movie palace that was built to seat more than two thousand people and still open for daily movies ! There are many movie palaces hosting live performances and some have a film series. Clear Channel believed, and Friends of the Boyd agree, that the Boyd is a viable theater. New owner Live Nation is changing its focus on Rock N'Roll rather than Touring Broadway Musicals, so the Boyd project is stalled.

Advocacy as a daily movie palace, with one screen, would be useless. Bloggers kept suggesting such for New York City’s DeMille, /theaters/501/ and that space is being gutted! There just aren’t enough fans who would keep any theater built this big in the black, not in New York City, and not in Philadelphia.

Friends of the Boyd follow the path that has saved countless former movie palaces nationwide, which is mixed use. Live events will pay the bills and bring many people to the Boyd to enjoy first class entertainment there. A film series of classics, festivals, and premieres, will enable people to also experience the Boyd for film. Restored to its original Art Deco glamour, the Boyd will once again be a showplace and entertain future generations.

dennisczimmerman
dennisczimmerman on September 29, 2007 at 4:54 pm

To add to “My Dream” by Fever Dog on Sept. 9th – I would reopen the Boyd Theatre with the Cinerama screen used in the 60’s,70’s. The ushers and usherettes would wear the style of uniforms back then – red blazers, white shirts, and gray slacks/skirts. I would show only the Cinerama and 70mm epics of days past – “HTWWW”, “2001”, “Lawrence”, “Indy Series”, “Ben Hur”, “MFL”, “SOM”, etc, etc. There was something lacking when the Boyd became the Sameric and that large curved screen was replaced with a still large flat screen. And movie presentations of today are totally lacking the magic and charm of the movie palaces of yesterday. You were transported even before the movie started. As I have mentioned on this thread many times, growing up we drove regulary the 60 miles to see the big screen epics at the Boyd. And I think people would do it again. Give the true movie lover/goer a reason to skip the shoe box megaplexes of today, and they will in a heartbeat.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 29, 2007 at 3:47 pm

That beautiful photo is from Opening Day 1928 and belongs to the Irvin R. Glazer Collection of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. It shows the original Art Deco vertical sign, marquee, and ticket booth.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 29, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Here is an undated photo of the Boyd:
http://tinyurl.com/2qdbgt

JohnMLauter
JohnMLauter on September 29, 2007 at 10:27 am

re: the list above in Howard B. Haas' post—I would add the Masonic auditorium to the Detroit list, it seats nearly 5,000 (although not well, it was designed for Masonic assembly, not theater) and has recently been restored. Masonic has been in constant use since it opened in 1926.
I would not count the Indiana theatre in Indianapolis as a large venue, as the amateur theater group that owns it decimated the interior to make two small black-box venues, not so much a big place now.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 24, 2007 at 11:14 am

Here’s today’s Weekly Update:(1) After last week’s update, we were asked why the Boyd owner ceased renovation. The Boyd and other theaters nationwide are for sale because the new company Live Nation chose to focus on Rock n'Roll rather than the mix of entertainment uses that Clear Channel intended for the Boyd when they purchased it. Friends of the Boyd have asked Live Nation to sell the Boyd to another company that wishes to program it broadly. We will help obtain sufficient funding for the renovation.

(2) Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer discusses the $1.3 billion dollar impact, and 40,000 jobs that arts and culture has on the Philadelphia area. View link
Arts and culture will have an even bigger impact on Philadelphia when the BOYD reopens as a major showplace theater! We have told you that the Econsult report summarized here http://www.econsult.com/files/boyd.pdf shows that a reopened Boyd Theatre would generate $120 million a year including related expenditures, and when including those related expenses, a total of 520 jobs.

As the Inquirer states, the arts do not receive enough public funding in Philadelphia. The Boyd will not need annual support as the shows will run in the black, but may need onetime public support to assist with the physical rehabilitation so it can reopen. Most movie palaces nationwide received funding from cities and states, for restoration and updating, so they could again serve their communities.

(3) This Weekly Update has frequently mentioned the Philadelphia region’s historic cinemas, most of which now show arthouse films. Since the Boyd then named the Sameric closed in 2002, Philadelphia residents see mainstream movies in multiplexes. http://cinematreasures.org/ encourages moviegoers to comment on those theaters, and record the history of those theaters. Philadelphia multiplexes showing mainstream movies include the BRIDGE /theaters/10911/ the PEARL /theaters/17993/ and the RIVERVIEW /theaters/20973/

http://cinematreasures.org/ also profiles historic movie palaces. All the movie palaces featured in downtown Philadelphia are history, except one -the Boyd. We must not allow the Boyd to be enjoyed only on cyberspace! The Boyd must be restored and reopened. Thanks to Patrick Crawley and Ross Melnick for inventing cinematreasures in 2000, as volunteers, and thanks to them and to YOU for your continued support of the Boyd.

Howard B. Haas
www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on September 19, 2007 at 11:40 pm

Not intentionally seeking to drop yet another bombshell here, but if I understand the Boyd story correctly — and please correct me if I’m wrong Howard or anyone else — but when Live Nation first took charge of the Boyd Theatre building with plans to restore and reopen it as a theater, it was still an operational theater at that point. That is, it still was equipped with functional projectors and so forth that could’ve been reactivated once more. But with new plans that Live Nation had in mind regarding its restoration, so much of what made it operational when it first took it over was removed, with implied promises that all new equipment and whatever else necessary would be introduced. But then Live Nation (or Clear Channel or whoever) decided not to follow through with what they originally planned, and its original intentions were fully scrapped. Meaning that it is now seeking to sell off this theater building in its incapacited state in relation to what it was when it first acquired it.

Now my take on this is, had Live Nation followed through with its original plan, no one could fairly complain that the original operational facilities had been removed, given how such facilities would be replaced anew. But Live Nation DIDN’T do that, meaning that in many ways the theater building — so far as its theatrical potential — is now greatly devalued from what it had been when they first acquired it. If what I’ve said is true, it seems only fair that Live Nation should in some way compensate the city of Philadelphia for having greatly devalued one of this city’s very historic properties. At the very least, before selling it, they should bring it back up to the operational level it was when they first acquired it. Otherwise, something is terribly, terribly amiss here.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on September 19, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Here’s today Weekly Update sent out to our supporters. We urge all interested parties to directly visit our website and enter yourselves to receive updates, and look at the other ways to help.

The most frequent recent question asked of us, of people who are quite upset “Is the Boyd being turned into a store?” NO, the former three small auditoriums next door are being turned into a retail store, a Gap Outlet. People then followup with “Wasn’t that space part of the theater?” Yes, but that space was a modern addition. The historic Boyd Theatre is not being turned into a retail store.

Recently, the national head of an organization concerned with theaters commented that given the current situation- of the Boyd being for sale-it is too bad that there’s still a demolition permit issued. Fortunately, that’s wrong, too. Years ago, the City refused to renew the demolition permit, explaining that demolition permits are not tools for developers or mechanisms to increase property values. Just as we would with an application to turn the historic theater into a store, Friends of the Boyd would vigorously fight the issuance of a demolition permit. Even if it was issued, we would litigate and publicly protest and make a huge fuss, as we did previously.

Downtown Philadelphia’s last surviving movie palace is important, as you appreciate, and needs to be restored, and reopened. We continue to ask Live Nation to ensure that when the company sells the Boyd, they sell it to a new owner who wants to reopen it, and we will help. Thank you for your support.

Howard B. Haas
www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on September 10, 2007 at 12:19 am

So long as a good person doesn’t actually try to do anything meaningful and worthwhile here, I find Philadelphia to be a great incubator of dreams, to at least give some credit where it’s due. I have learned so many good things that can be done — elsewhere — as an observer of Philadelphia’s mistakes, my compiling a long list of the in-between “what ifs?” if not for Philadelphia’s highly corrupt political machine. One noteworthy thing, how Philadelphia could’ve swiftly become an outfront leader in the digital cinema revolution now starting to take hold in other parts of the world and which rapidly could’ve taken hold here if not for that political machine. But doing exciting things, and keeping those who don’t deserve to be on top, don’t mix. Simply put, you can’t have it both ways. Either one or the other has to be relegated to the world of dreams. And right now in Philadelphia’s case all the good that can be said of this city is relegated to the world of dreams — as is to realistically be expected.

FeverDog
FeverDog on September 9, 2007 at 3:42 am

My dream is to reopen this theater with no concern about turning a profit. I’d install a 70mm projector for special screenings of Lawrence of Arabia and 2001, while also showing funky midnight shows of whatever I pleased (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls would be awesome!). I would make the three extra smaller theatres into two, with top-of-the-line sound systems.

Ushers would keep a constant eye on patron’s behavior. Cell phone reception would be blocked. There’d be no commercials before screenings. Projection and sound would be flawless for every showing. And, I’d allow smoking in the balcony if it wasn’t banned in Philly.

All I do is dream…dream dream dream…