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The Walton was on of the theaters I went to growing up in the late 50s and early 60s. I didn’t go there often because it was the farthest of the theaters I could walk to (mile and a half). I do remember going there for the original Godzilla in the mid 50s. It was so crowded we were sitting on the floor in the aisle. I think the last movie I saw there was The Medusa Touch with Richard Burton which came out in 1978. One other thing I remember about the Walton was the price structure. In the 1960s I remember three price levels, child, adult, and teenager. Nice touch. Just because you’re over 12 doesn’t mean you can afford an adult ticker.
I think the theater you are remembering, Penway14, was the Center Theater. There were four theaters on that block of Market Street. The Fox was at the corner of 16th St. Next to that was the Stanton, later the Milgram. The Studio was in the middle of the block and specialized in Adult films. The Center was next to the Dewey’s luncheonette at the 17th St. corner. The Center, in the 60s and 70s, played double bills which usually changed three times a week (Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday), and usually included a cartoon or other short. I often went in the 60s when I played hookey in high school, and the 70s when I worked late shift on my first job. The Center was one of the Stanley-Warner chains three all-night theaters downtown. (The others were the Palace and Family, later Apollo.) The lounges were down a narrow stairway off the lobby, as you remember. Since it showed six features a week the Center had a very eclectic booking policy, showing every kind of movie except kids/family movies. They had dramas, westerns, sci-fi, horror, and often foreign/art films. I saw my first Polanski and Fellini films there. It was also the only theater I can remember that had a ‘Ladies Section’ reserved on the right side of the theater. It was eventually torn down to make room for the Liberty Place towers. Pity.
That probably is the Rialto. I’m not familiar with the theater, but the street appears to be belgian block (cobblestone) with trolley tracks in it. That’s what Germantown Avenue is at that location.
The Cheltenham Theater was a great place to see movies before it was twinned. The projection and sound were excellent, and I remember it having one of the largest screens in Philadelphia. After 2001 A Space Odyssey ended its Cinerama engagement at the Randolph I believe it moved to a 70mm six track sound showing at the Cheltenham because it was the best sound and screen in the city.
The photo above is not the same Palace Theater. The photo shows the Budco (later AMC) Palace Theater on Chestnut street. That theater originally opened as Theater 1812.
I went to the Palace often in the 1960’s. It frequently played the first run of the Japanese rubber suit giant monster movies. It was also one four theaters in downtown Philly that were open all night. The others, all on Market Street, were the Center, News, and Family (later the Apollo).
As far as the closing date for the Logan, I believe it was 1972. I lived not far away on Olney Avenue from 1972-1975 and would sometimes walk to the Logan. The last show I saw there was a double bill of Hammer thrillers, ‘Vampire Circus’ and ‘Twins of Evil’. That was on a Sunday night and the theater was closed on Monday. IMDB lists the release date for both films as 1972. After the Logan closed the only other theaters I could walk to were the Esquire and the Lane. Like the Logan those buildings are still standing, but have not been cinemas for decades.
Thanks, Howard, for the link to the Renel’s fireplace. I remember those chairs very well, although I never sat in them. When I was going to the Renel in the late 50’s and early 60’s the lounge always seemed to be very dimly lit and creepy to this young boy. I was very quick in going to the boys room (I think to the left of the fireplace, girls to the right) and did not want to linger in the lounge at all.
I went to the Clearfield only once as a boy. MGM was running a promotion with Quaker Oats for Forbidden Planet. They put a free child’s ticket in each box of oatmeal. My dad took me to see it at the Clearfield on a double bill with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What ever happened to double features? I don’t remember anything about the inside of the theater, but I seem to remember that the theater’s name was in blue neon above the marquee.
I saw many films at the Bandbox from the early 60s to its closing as a repertory house in the mid 70s. The downstairs lounge was possibly the first theater cafe in the country. The theater box office was on the left side of the entrance, under the marquee. Upon first entering the theater there was an outer lobby with a floor that sloped gently upward. The candy stand was in this outer lobby.
I remember seeing William Castle’s gimmick film ‘Mr. Sardonicus’ here. That was the film where the audience voted on the outcome of the story. The ticket taker gave you a ballot after tearing your ticket. The ballot had the image of a fist with an extended thumb printed with glow-in-the dark ink. In the outer lobby there was a large standup photo display of William Castle with a hole into a light box attached to the back. You would insert the glow-in-the dark ticket into the light box to charge it up so that at the appropriate point in the film you could vote either ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ for the villain. Of course, there was no real voting. The story had a twist ending that would fit either vote.
Anyway, the doors at the rear of the outer lobby led to the inner lobby. The auditorium was to the right of the inner lobby, so the theater was L-shaped. The auditorium had two aisles, and it was wider that it was deep, allowing for a much larger screen than you might expect in such a small theater. I remember a rather large area in the front without seats. As a repertory theater there was a piano up front that was played for silent movies. Mr. George Garabedian was often the pianist.
The stairway to the downstairs lounge ran along the left side of the inner lobby, beginning at the far end. The lounge was about the same size at the upstairs inner lobby. In an effort to increase income they installed a cafe in the lounge shortly before the theater closed. This was possibly the first cinema cafe. So that patrons did not miss the movie being shown upstairs there was a closed circuit broadcast of the film on a small black & white TV.
The Bandbox was a great place to see movies. Art Carduner programmed a wide selection of great films, new and old. Sometimes the distributors would force him to book a film he didn’t want in order to get a film he did want, and he would often say so in the program. The program guide sent to those on the mailing list was filled with short descriptions, and sometimes long essays, on the films written by Alda Cortese (I think that was her name). I wish I’d saved those old programs.
The Andalusia Drive-In was in some way related to the Lincoln Drive-In on Roosevelt Blvd., only a few miles away. In the late 60’s to early 70’s each theater gave out a discount coupon good at both theaters. As I remember, the coupon was for a $2 a carload price on Monday and Tuesday nights. Two dollars a carload for a triple feature! Those were the days!
The antitrust lawsuit that caused the Hollywood studios to sell their theaters, like the Mastbaum, was brought by independent Philadelphia exhibitor William Goldman. The studios always showed their best films in their own theaters, leaving the independents to show second-rate or second-run features. After winning the lawsuit Goldman went on to build his own chain of Philadelphia theaters. William Goldman Theaters were eventually sold to Budco Quality Theaters in the mid to late 1970s.
The Duke/Duchess and Regency Twin were not the only theaters to be demolished for the Liberty Place Towers. Two small theaters on Market St. near 17th were also demolished. They were the Studio and the Center. The Studio was an independent theater that adopted an XXX policy by the time it closed.
The Center was, at one time, a Stanley-Warner theater, and was one of four downtown theaters that was open all night. (Palace, Family, and News were the others.) I attended the Center frequently in the late sixties while on a 4 to midnight shift. They changed the double feature bill three times a week (Sun, Wed, Thur) and showed every kind of film, from Polanski’s Repulsion and Sartre’s No Exit to Night of Bloody Horror and Man From Laramie. In addition to a double feature there was always a cartoon, usually a two-reel short, and lots of previews. It was just like a Saturday matinee. All you had to do was learn to ignore the snoring drunks.