Anthony Wayne Theatre
109 West Lancaster Avenue,
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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.
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