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I grew up at the Jersey Shore and never had the opportunity to see a film at the Midtown before it was twinned, just as a “twin” and in its latest incarnation as the “Prince”. I would imagine being set up for Todd-AO 70mm that it had a very large wall to wall curved screen and multi-channel sound. If anyone recalls details about the screen size and presentation I’d love to hear about it. Apparently many older theaters made some major changes in the 50’s to accomodate the wide screens for Cinemascope and 70mm. Some ripped out or widened the original prosceniums while some just erected screens, speakers, curtains, etc in front of the old prosceniums.
It was pretty bad as a twin, but not quite as bad as some other “twinnings” from that era. It was a typical wall down the middle job and while the theaters were still large they were very long and narrow, at least the one I was in. It would be great if the Prince under the ownership of the PFS still features some film revivals in between the more commercial films, live shows and Philadelphia Film Festival.
We just have to celebrate the memory of the Boyd and Center City movie palaces of the past. The Boyd is now gone despite the heroic efforts of the dedicated folks who did everything they could to save her. Apparently the City of Philadelphia might have the fewest screens of any major city, especially Center City. It would be no movie palace, but maybe in the not too distant future a nice state of the art movie complex will find its way to Center City….
The fate of the Boyd is a disgrace and an afront to the good citizens of Philadelphia. As much as I wanted to see the Boyd restored and repurposed as a multi-use venue at least I had finally come to peace with the idea of it being remade as a state of the art upscale multiplex with the exterior remaining intact. Center City does not need more condos. Center City needs movie screens. This is not just the ranting of a crazed film fan. I know quite a few people who live in the vicinity of the Boyd and they were really excited at the prospect of having a decent place to go to the movies. To them, it’s a quality of life issue. The only people who will profit from this abomination are the developers and the polititions and power brokers they have in their pockets.
The screen size is a bit compromised due to it being of the non-fixed “flying” variety to accomodate live stage shows. The screen is still not what I would describe as “small”, just a bit undersized for the size of the auditorium. If the Prince was just to be used for film, and a fixed screen erected, the width of the stage could
probably accomodate a 50' to 60' wide screen. I attended screenings of “The Great Escape” and “Once Upon a Time In China” some years back at the Prince and the 35mm film projection and sound were exceptional. I do not know for sure, but I would assume that Digital Projection has been installed. It’s great news that the Prince will continue thanks to the Philadelphia Film Society. As much as I would love to see a bigger screen installed, I realize that for the venue to continue to survive it will probably need to continue as a multi-purpose venue…but it would be great if it would be possible to have a “flying” screen that was better suited to the size of the auditorium.
Hate to burst “film” fans bubbles, but the Woodhaven is now all Digital projection.
Have never experienced a problem at this theater with audience behavior (but I do tend to go at off peak hrs).
The big rooms on the second level are wide and have very large screens (guessing over 50 ft wide), excellent sound and good site lines.
Went to see “American Hustle” on New Years Day and while I was excited that I would be seeing the film in one of the “big” rooms (aud #24) I was a bit disappointed by the presentation. While the digital projection was razor sharp, the screen masking was incorrect. I don’t know why, but the masking was set at approx 2.0 to 1 as opposed to the proper 2.40 to 1 (it was very obvious as you could see the projected image through the masking). I have seen many 2.40 to 1 scope films in aud 24 and the masking was always correct. I let the staff know…but of course nothing was done (I don’t think they would know the difference)…hopefully just a bad day.
Even though it’s a little farther trip I’ve been pretty much going to this theater exclusively the last few months. The projection has been excellent and while none of the auditoriums are of the 500 seat plus variety,6 out of the 14 are wide bodies with between 275 and 300 seats, big screens with proper aspect ratios and side masking.
I used to go to the Roxy back in the 90’s when it showed foreign and indy films. It was the only place outside of NYC you could see these types of films….at the time I could live with the super narrow alley-like auditoriums and tiny screens (in fairness the projection was always good, the staff very nice and they had a great snackbar). These days, I’m not gonna go downtown to see the same movie I can see on a big screen with good sound near home. If they brought back the unique indies and foreign films I might go back. It’s too bad there is such a shortage of screens in downtown Philly.
Only was at the Crest once…saw Scarface on a second run. Don’t remember much about the theater, except it had a much larger screen than the GCC Northeast 4 abomination that I saw the film at during it’s first run. I regret having not taken more advantage of attending the old Northeast Philly neighborhood theaters back when I moved to Philly in 1979.
The Castor had an interesting interior, kind of a forerunner to stadium seating. As I remember, while not being nearly as steep as todays stadium auditoriums, the Castors floor was very steep to the point of having steps. While the Castor apparently had the same number of seats as the Benner, I recall it feeling much smaller and cramped than the Benner.
I attended the Tyson when I moved to Philly in 1979. I remember it as being one of the nicer neighborhood theaters still operating in Northeast Philly at the time. The murals on the walls of Atlantis were quite beautiful and it had a more than decent sized screen along with a nicely lit marquee. I actually presently live within a few blocks of the old Tyson, which is now a discount furnture store so I pass it every day.
I saw “Oliver” at the Merben when I was a kid visiting my cousins in NE Philly. I recall it being a decent sized theater in relativly good shape at the time. I do remember it being on the narrow side which limited the size of the screen, especially for ‘scope presentations.
I’ve seen two “IMAX” films at Neshaminy, Transformers II and Avatar in IMAX 3D. I know that the Digital IMAX format has come under fire as a rip-off. However, after seeing it twice I look at it a little differently. First of all, it’s not real IMAX and the screen is only about 15% larger than before the IMAX conversion. What is impressive is the superb sound and clarity and sharp focus of the digital projection. The reality is, true IMAX wasn’t meant for regular theatrical films. If anybody has seen IMAX at both the Neshaminy and the UA King of Prussia (which has real 70mm IMAX) I’d love to know how they compared. I have heard horror stories of 2.35 films cropped to 1.85 for 70mm IMAX showings.
The two large auditoriums (approx 450 seats each) have decent size screens and very good digital sound and were as nice or better than anything else in the area when they first opened. The rest of the auditoriums feel crampted and are nothing to write home about. The worst two rooms are at each end of the complex, facing the parking lot…narrow, two sections of seats split down the center, screens with verticle masking, reminds you of something from the 80’s. Beware, the boxes of candy they sell are a complete rip-off (big boxes with a much smaller cellophane bag inside holding a paltry amount of candy)…it’s bait and switch as far as I’m concerned.
This may clear up the mystery. Look up the Stanley Theater in Atlantic City. There is a link to a picture. Looking at the picture and the other buildings surrounding the “Stanley” I’m almost certain that the Stanley became the “Roxy” we are discussing here. The “Stanley” is listed as having over 1900 seats, which seems about right from my memories of the “Roxy” in the 60’s.
With regards to the old Premier Twin at Neshaminy – I only saw films there after it had been twinned and it was nothing special. It sounds like it was a much better theatre pre-twinning.
The two largest rooms at the Neshaminy 24 (#1 & #24)are IMO the best
theatres in the Phila area, especially for event or big action films.
The screens are very large and have horizontal masking with (most of the time) very good projection and sound. A question for Steve Marcus:
How big are the screens in auditoriums 1 & 24 and do they have the capacity for 70mm projection ?
The Leo, Colonial, and Premiere were all single screen theaters originally and were all twinned by the time I moved to Philly in 1979. I am guessing they were all pretty nice theaters before being
twinned. The Leo wasn’t too bad as a twin, but I don’t recall movable
masking, etc. The Premiere was actually located inside the Neshaminy
Mall and closed to make way for the AMC Neshaminy 24. The Colonial
was also located inside a mall and I remember always having to sit
fairly close to the screens as they were relatively small. All these theaters, if my memory is correct, were twinned by dividing down the
center, creating relatively narrow auditoriums. Would love to hear
about how they were pre twinning.
The Beach was operated by Charles Tannenbaum who also had the Charles
and the Tilton Theater (in Northfield). The Beach was a great theater
with a good sized balcony. I probably saw more movies at the Beach than any other theater. During the 60’s and 70’s the Beach mainly booked films from United Artists and Columbia. I recall the screen being pretty large and flat but do not recall details such as movable masking, curtains, 70mm capacity, etc.
The “Town Cinema” was originally “The Astor”. It was renamed “The Town Cinema” after it was taken over by Frank Theaters in the 70’s. I recall the Franks ruined the marquee by covering it with what appeared to be cardboard with name “Town Cinema” on it. I lived in the neighborhood where the Astor was located until I was 12 but never attended the theater so I have no idea what the inside of the theater was like. My parents wouldn’t let me go there because it attracted “a rough crowd”. Ironically my grandparents used to go there. The Astor was considered a neighborhood theater and generally played 2nd run and double bills of B movies.It was located one block below the Capital Burlesque on the north side of Atlantic Ave, in what was known as the “uptown” area of AC.
I recall the Strand Theater, which was located between the Virginia
and the Apollo, remaining open through the winter in its' last year of operation as a second run house. I saw an odd double feature of
“The Last Detail” and “Lightening Swords of Death” there during what I am sure was not the summer season. I believe the Strand may have been the last of the boardwalk houses to close in AC. The Apollo may have lasted a little longer as a burlesque/porn house. Man I miss those AC theaters. Grew up in AC during the 60’s and 70’s and attended those theaters on a regular basis. AC was a small town with
nine large theaters (plus two on Steel Pier) five of which would qualify as palaces. They were not always the most well maintained places, but they all had “charactor”.
Regarding the size of the screen at the Boyd after restoration-
As long as the new screen fills the arch, it will be at minimum, more than adequite; with state of the art sound and projection it has the potential to be breathtaking. As far as I can see based upon the many knowledgable posts on this site, the screen in front of the arch was installed for Cinerama. A screen that size, unless being used for large format projection (Cinerama, 70mm, etc)would have to be masked down for other formats (including 35mm scope) or the projection might appear grainy blown up to that extreme size and ratio. I have seen 70mm blow-ups presented at the Boyd on the flat
screen (Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, Empire Strike Back)and the screen size was fine, however the projection and sound were not
always up to high standards. I hope the restored Boyd can bring back those high standards of presentation we saw in days gone by.
I am looking at the photo on the link to the Stanley Theatre and although it is not clear, I am wondering (based upon its' proximity
to the Apollo Theatre in the photo if the Stanley eventually became the Roxy? If anyone knows please comment.