Showing 1 - 25 of 38 comments
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.
Thanks for the info. I know I saw alot of movies at the Charles that were filmed in scope (Cromwell, The Getaway, Bridge At Remagen, etc)
but it was a long time ago and my memory is a bit hazy regarding
presentation details and at that age I really didn’t know much about
scope, masking, etc. I’m glad to hear The Charles had proper presentation as the theatre was a class act for most of it’s life.
Also, Charles Tannenbaum, the owner of the Charles, also owned or
co-owned the Beach and Tilton theatres.
I was pretty young when I went to theatres such as the Roxy, and my technical knowledge of presentation was slim at best. I really did not truly appreciate these palaces until they were all gone. I really regret not photographing these treasures for posterity. I was recently in one of the two big auditoriums at Neshaminy 24 with my 13
year old son and he was pretty awed when I explained to him that most
of the theatres I attended at his age or younger had twice the number of seats (600) that the two big rooms at the 24 have. By the
way, if you live in the area, auditoriums 2 and 24 at Neshaminy are probably the best places to see an “event” type film. Really large screens, good sound, 600 seats and not too many projection screw-ups even though it does appear that the boothes are “manned” by teenagers.
Ken, I may be wrong, but you probably saw Jungle Book and Charlie The
Lonesome Cougar at the Center Theatre on Atlantic Avenue (that’s where I saw them). Oliver to my recollection never played at the Roxy, but did play at the Shore Theatre, also on Atlantic Avenue.
I only remember this as a Burlesque theater in the 60’s and 70’s.
In the summer they had live Burlesque (we are talking baggy pants comics and strippers like Blaze Starr, Busty Russell, etc). In the fall through spring they showed the grind house porn of that era. The theatre was owned and operated by Al Baker, who also operated the Troc Burlesque in Philadelphia. The only time I recall a regular movie playing there was in 1965, when Thunderball moved over from the Beach Theatre, which was very unusual.
I am almost positive The Dirty Dozen was 1.85
There may have been some 70mm blow-ups in big markets like NYC and LA
The Dirty Dozen was directed by Robert Aldrich and I recall reading somewhere that he preferred 1.85 and never shot in scope. Flight of the Phoenix (the original), Longest Yard (the original)and Baby Jane were all 1.85 to 1 . Vera Cruz was 2.0 to 1, but was in the short lived “Superscope” format which was a process done in post production to films shot Academy Flat (1.33 to 1) as a cheap alternative to Cinemascope.
I saw the Dirty Dozen, The Odd Couple, Operation Grandslam, and Shaft, among others that I’ve forgotten when I was a kid growing up in AC. 2001 also played there, but I don’t recall if it was in 70mm (don’t recall if the theatre had 70mm capacity). It was a beautiful theatre with images of the Roman gods on the walls of the auditorium. I remember seeing Shaft there after the fire (the Franks
operated the Apollo by then) and part of the screen was burned and nothing had been done to repair or conceal it. Fortunately Shaft was 1.85 to 1 and basically what was left of the screen fit that ratio.
It was very bizarre to say the least(the first flame masked screen!!).
I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” on a second run at this theatre. It was one of the better old Oxford Circle neighborhood theatres, second only to the Orleans (before it was destroyed by twinning). A wide theatre with a real large wall to wall Cinemascope screen but no Dolby Surround or stereo capacity.
I think the Hollywood had a balcony and the best marquee and front(it looked amazing all lit up). The Beach definately had a balcony, but the Center did not. The Hollywood was big and beautiful also, but from a strictly movie viewing standpoint, the Roxy ruled (bigger
screen, better sight lines, etc.).