Anthony Wayne Theatre

109 West Lancaster Avenue,
Wayne, PA 19087

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Anthony Wayne

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The Anthony Wayne Theatre opened June 20, 1928 with the movie “Old San Francisco”, in the Philadelphia suburb of Wayne in Delaware County. Anthony Wayne was a general during the American Revolution. The theatre was built and operated by local theatre owner Harry Fried who had previously operated a theatre on North Wayne Avenue in a converted 1880’s house. Because the theatre was on the edge of the suburbs, the opening of such a grand movie palace was then locally referred to as ‘Fried’s Folly’. Architect William Harold Lee chose colorful terra cotta details manufactured by the Conkling-Armstrong Terra Cotta Company, Philadelphia. A sketch of what the facade the the theatre was planned to look like was signed by Louis Kahn, then working for Lee, but later became an internationally renown architect.

Upon the theatre’s opening, a mirrored entrance led to a spacious foyer. On each side of the foyer was an artificial fountain, in green tile. There was a goldfish pond in a lobby alcove, which was decorated by a tile mosaic. The auditorium opened with 1,600 seats, all on one main floor and had fake windows on the side-walls and a pipe organ. If you have or know of a photo of the original interior, especially the auditorium, please make a comment below.

The Anthony Wayne Theatre is listed in the 1941 edition of Film Daily Yearbook with a seating capacity of 1,318. Kimberly: my mom used to go there when she was a kid in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

From 1940 until 1972, the Anthony Wayne was operated by the Philadelphia movie operator William Goldman. In 1965, the original marquee was removed and several original exterior terra cotta ornamentations were also taken off. The theatre since has had a beautiful wrap-around, curved marquee.

In 1972, Budco, another Philadelphia movie theatre operator, took over, as Goldman sold all his theatres. In 1982 or 1983, the auditorium was divided in two. Original decor in the auditorium was no longer visible. By the mid-1990’s, each auditorium had about 370 seats configured by 23 or 24 rows of 15 or 16 seats. The movie screens were decently sized, about 25 to 30 feet wide.

In 1987, Budco sold its theatres to AMC, which then operated the theatre until September 1997. By the end of the 1990’s, false walls and lowered ceilings characterized the lobbies. In 1995, Friends of the Anthony Wayne Theatre organized to save the theatre when local residents learned the building was for sale.

In 1997, local entrepreneur Stephen W. Bajus purchased the building with intent to keep it operating as a first run movie theatre. When AMC vacated shortly thereafter, Bajus actively recruited several operators, and considered himself fortunate to find interest by Clearview Cinemas. Bajus' company began much needed renovations and extensive restoration to the facade, roof and all external portions of the building. Once Clearview had signed to a long term lease, extensive interior renovations were performed jointly by Bajus & Clearview. Much of the plaster ornamentation adorning the entryway and lobby walls was uncovered and restored. Two new auditoriums were created from the rear section of the previously twinned auditorium. Another screen was placed in the former stagehouse, for a total of five auditoriums. One auditorium had 200 seats, and the others had 100 to 200 seats, for a total of 750 seats overall. Clearview Cinemas began a 30 year lease on July 2, 1998. The theatre was reopened in December, 1998.

In April, 2007, the theatre was briefly closed for new auditorium seating, new carpets, and other spiffying up. Mainstream films have long been the primary fare of the Anthony Wane Theatre. In June 2013, Bow-Tie Cinemas tookover, but on August 9, 2013, Bow-Tie Cinema relinquished this theatre and the only other Pennsylvania theatre that it and Clearview had operated, the Bala Theatre, to Reel Cinemas, the company run by Greg Wax that operates the Narbeth Theatre.

Contributed by kimberly smith, Howard B. Haas, Kenyon Bajus

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

atb
atb on January 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm

This is a truly wretched theater and a disgrace for the Clearview Cinemas chain.

There are five theaters: two are carved out of the former main audiotorium; the other three are in the basement.

We attened a matinee screening of “Tooth Fairy” in one of of the two upstairs boxes. Here’s a summary of the horror show:

  1. The seats, while new, are too narrow and the rows are too close together.

  2. Sound? What sound? An array of Klipsch surrounds were silent. From behind the screen, the 20th Century Fox logo sounded like it was coming from a pair of computer speakers. There was an audible buzz throughout the presentation and you could hear every pop, scratch and reel change. This must be the only house in the Philadelphia area that does not have Dolby.

  3. Projection? Shameful. A bulb that probably has not been changed since this was a single-screen house. The picture itself was actually slightly sideways, an effect which was most noticeable during the matted widescreen trailers. The print was already badly scratched, three days into the run.

If Craig O'Connor is still an exec with Clearview, I would strongly recommended you make a visit to this theater (there is an amtrak stop one block away) and ask yourself one simple question: How would you feel if you spent $24 for three tickets and were treated to one of the most technically inept movie presentations I have seen in years? The truly sad thing: This theater, in the heart of a wealthy neighborhood on the main line, could be a charming, retro alternative to the sterile AMC/Regal boxes. Please, someone, step up and make this theater a destination once again.

mitchaia
mitchaia on June 19, 2011 at 9:18 am

William Lee was the architect for the original Anthony Wayne Theatre as well as many other movie palaces of the early days of cinema. I was the architect for Budco Theatres when this theatre was twinned. This was not a glory project. When Clearview took over the operation, I was offered the opportunity to create multiple screens in this facility in order to make it a viable commercial enterprise. The solution resulted in a five screen facility, none of which are in the basement. With full approval from Clearview, the finest craftsmen available were hired to restore the original detail in the entrance and lobby although much of the detail from the original auditorium was lost. Mitchel Abramowitz, FARA

pelli48
pelli48 on July 23, 2011 at 6:10 am

does anyone know who the actual builders were that installed the terra cotta facade?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 21, 2011 at 3:50 am

My Introduction states who manufactured the terra cotta. Don’t know if manufacturer installed it. Here’s a clip from YouTube that shows some an ornate plaster detail in entry or lobby:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9p445v91Nk

Mr. Abramowitz: welcome to the site! I had heard about your work on many of our area’s theaters. Was the auditorium’s original decor gutted when creating the 5 auditoriums? Was it all lost or some hidden? I’ve not seen a photo of the auditorium before it was twinned. Did you do the twinning, too? Do you have photos or can describe the original auditorium?

atb
atb on August 17, 2013 at 1:07 pm

This theater — and the Bala in Bala Cynwyd — are NOT part of the Bow Tie Cinemas chain. They are now part of “Reel Cinemas.” Anyone know when or why this happened? Does anyone know anything about Reel Cinemas?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I already amended my Intro above.

atb
atb on August 23, 2013 at 2:49 am

who deleted my comment on this theater?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Actually, he posted a new comment this week but it seemed to me that it could cause potential problms for this website….and likewise his comment on the Bala page….I am going to respectfully ask atb not to pick a fight with me about the deletion. I do all I can to assist historic theaters, and that includes assisting (a a volunteer) this website & others.

Payrollmary
Payrollmary on January 17, 2014 at 3:07 pm

My father, Willette Mixon, was the manager there with Goldman, Budco, and all us kids worked there at the time or another. I will have to dig up some old pictures and share them.

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