Mastbaum Theatre

2001 Market Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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Showing 1 - 25 of 50 comments

JAlex
JAlex on August 31, 2012 at 8:39 am

By chance are you speaking of Stuart Barrie?

bdzmusicprod
bdzmusicprod on August 31, 2012 at 5:03 am

I knew a guy who played the organ at the Mastbaum and other movie palaces of the time. He was a classically trained pianist and also played for President Truman. He has been gone for many years. He sounded like W.C. Fields when he talked.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith on May 5, 2012 at 10:19 am

Click here for an exterior view of the Mastbaum Theatre in 1932.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on April 5, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Most likely it was a souvenir. “Ten Cents a Dance” is about a woman who was what was known as a taxi dancer (played by Barbara Stanwyck in the 1931 film; there was another film by the same title made in 1945). At taxi dance halls, men would buy tickets or tokens to buy a dance with one of a group of women hired by the hall; usually one token or ticket bought a dance lasting the length of a song. Such establishments were mostly gone from U.S. cities by the end of WWII, though a rather sleazy one plays a role in the musical “Sweet Charity.”

Stevesut
Stevesut on April 5, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I have a coin/token from my Grandfather’s collection that reads, “Now Playing” “Mastbaum Theater” “10 cents a dance”. He grew up in Kensington. I see that a film with this title was released in 1931. Does anyone know the origin of this token? Was it used as a ticket to get in? Was it simply souvenier? I’ve been researching the theater and think it’s a shame that it didn’t survive!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 22, 2010 at 6:55 pm

A true movie palace.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 2, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Here is a June 1958 photo from Temple U:
http://tinyurl.com/yzdvjwv

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on May 6, 2009 at 6:54 am

From when it reopened in WW2, the Mastbaum had a steady showing of films. This isn’t a complete list, but a selection from Box Office for the 1st half of the 1950s:

1951 “Captain Horatio Hornblower”

1952 “The Quiet Man”

19 April 1952 Box Office: “Quo Vadis” ended 10 week run at Mastbaum

3 May 1952 Box Office “The African Queen”

10 Jan 1953 Box Office “April in Paris”

1953 Box Office “I Confess”

21 Nov 1953 Box Office: “How to Marry a Millionaire”

1954 “The High and the Mighty”

24 April 1954 Box Office:p 24 photo of Carnival Story star Steve Cochran in Mastbaum lobby to promote film

31 July 1954 Box Office: “Apache” broke one day house record at Mastbaum for box office

30 Oct 1954 Box Office “A Star is Born”

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on May 3, 2009 at 11:19 am

Here’s a selective history of a few of the films shown at the Mastbaum during the 1940s

First half of the 1940s. 29 Aug 1942 Box Office reported that the Mastbaum to reopen next Friday with “Tales of Manhattan” after being closed since 1934-35. 12 Sept 1942 Box Office reported that the Mastbaum did reopen with that film. In 1942 “Pride of the Yankees” was shown as was “Now Voyager” Noel Coward’s “In Which We Serve” had a grand opening in 1943. “Arsenic and Old Lace” was shown in 1944.

To continue with the 2nd half of the 1940’s, 8 Dec 1946 Box Office reported that the “Stork Club” premiere broke records with the sale of more than $15 mil of war bonds. 1947 movies included “Humoresque" “Till the Clouds Roll By” and “The Treasure of San Madre” 1948 films shown included “Easter Parade” “Rope” and “Johnny Belinda” 1949 films included “White Heat”

pantanoandsons
pantanoandsons on March 19, 2009 at 10:07 am

Ok. I went to the ‘Add Theater News’ link and there was a blurb there about not posting articles for copyright reasons, etc. I’m not sure anyone would have a problem with a scanned image of a newspaper clipping from the 1950’s, but who knows. The article was written by Sidney Hantman in the ‘Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine’; I do not have the exact date unfortunately. However, judging by the content and my grandfather Pat’s quotations, the article was written sometime after the April 16th, 1958 decision to demolish the building and before the end of that year (it was torn down in ‘58).

I have emailed the host about posting here, but in the meantime if anyone would like me to send them the faded images directly, feel free to email me at As previously mentioned, there are photos on our site of the [sad] destruction (go to ‘www.pantanoandsons.com/who_we_are’ and click on or scroll down to ‘History’). I did see somewhere in my father’s files another photo of his Dad standing at the great organ before work began, and I will look for that as well. -Jason

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 18, 2009 at 1:43 pm

If there’s a date on your newspaper copy, please tell us the date and name of newspaper so researchers can look it up themselves if so inclined.

The Mastbaum indeed might have been too huge to put to economic purpose, though less excuse exists for the demolitions of the Earle, Fox, and Stanley, three of the other flagship movie palaces of downtown Philadelphia, and NO excuse exists for the Boyd. (I lead the citizen activists advocating on its behalf).

Ziggy
Ziggy on March 18, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Hello jcpantano. I’d be interested in seeing the article, and I’m sure dozens of others would be too. I don’t know how to post things on this site either, but you could contact the hosts and ask them, or click on “add theatres, news, or links” from the menu at the top, and see if that helps you.

pantanoandsons
pantanoandsons on March 18, 2009 at 10:35 am

I’m the grandson of the man hired to demolish the Mastbaum theater and current owner of Pantano & Sons Inc, known at the time as Pantano Wrecking Co. I was fascinated to discover this conversation regarding the Mastbaum after I noticed this page linked to our company website, which mentions the demolition of the theater along with a few b&w photos. I was particularly struck by Life’s Too Short’s post (from almost two years ago now) and his/her ability to keep perspective from both sides of the coin.

Admittedly, it does seem like a waste of an awful lot of craftsmanship and fine material, but alas it was a high profile project for my grandfather and certainly worth including in our company’s history write-up. As I understand it, the theater was unfortunately too grandiose for its own good, and the operation was unable to sustain itself financially. I’m not sure how I’d post it here, but I have an old newspaper clipping from the period titled, “Too Big, Too Much. End of the era of the movie palace.” if anyone is interested.

LuisV
LuisV on February 1, 2009 at 10:36 am

Scott, there are so many. I look through the theaters and I can’t believe how beuatiful and ornate they once were. Loews Triboro in Astoria (Queens) is one that springs to mind. It’s truly astounding that they were allowed to be destroyed without much protest. In the beginning, I think it had to do with the fact that there were just so many around to begin with.

Luckily, we didn’t lose them all and some of the best examples are still with us today specifically, Radio City, The Hollywood, all five Loews Wonder Theaters, The New Amsterdam and now, the fully restored Beacon.

LuisV
LuisV on February 1, 2009 at 8:10 am

Hi Scott, It’s amazing that you mention the 72nd Street Theatre as I only came across it fairly recently and was amazed at how beautiful it was and how little people know about it.

Another theater that is underappreciated is Proctors 58th St Theatre. Maybe, part of that has to do with the unfortunate name but this too was a huge and beautiful theater that people have virtually totally forgotten about.

Finally, The Center Theatre, which was a sister theater of sorts to Radio City and built just a block away. It was stunning in its “modern” way and I find it amazing that virtually no one remembers that this theater ever existed.

I think it stems from the fact that New York City just had so many incredible palaces that it was very easy for some of them to be almost invisible; especially if they were a little off the beaten path. That’s one of the reasons that I am so greatful for this web site. I would never have otherwise found out about these showplaces if it weren’t for Cinema Treasures.

LuisV
LuisV on February 1, 2009 at 7:40 am

Indeed, the did fall like dominoes.

Thanks for the mention of The Paradise. Yes, I would consider the Paradise. From what I read it too was a spectacular palace. For me, I would consider a mega palace any theater that seated at least 3,500 people, but others could go as low as 3,000 I suppose or as high as 4K.

MPol
MPol on February 1, 2009 at 5:38 am

The Mastbaum sounds like it was a beautiful theatre, both inside and out. What a shame that it lasted for such a short time.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on January 30, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Luis, I’m glad you appreciate the Intro. As to your question, the Mastbaum was sort of the first lost, if 4000+ seaters are the “mega” definition, since NYC’s Hippodrome was built for other purposes.

veyoung52
veyoung52 on January 30, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Best I can think of is to run through microfilmed copies of the Phiadelphia “Inquirer” and “Evening Bulletin,” of that area which had full amusement sections, and also the weekly “Variety,” particularly in the “Picture Grosses” pages as well as the “Music” and “Concert” areas located towards the rear of this magazine.

GJZander
GJZander on January 30, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Second request- I was unable to locate your answer.
I am still trying to find any information about a live rock ‘n roll performance held at the Mastbaum in the winter of 1953 or 1954. It was an amazing performance of continuous rock 'n roll music by the popular performers of the day. I was young but was mezmerized by the performance. The stage would lower with one group playing and raise with another group already playing their music. I would be interested to know anything about the program or which performers were involved. Any information would be appreciated or if you could tell me where I can search to get more information. Thanks
Please respond again as I was unable to locate your answer
Envoy

LuisV
LuisV on January 30, 2009 at 8:02 am

Howard Haas…Thank you for such a wonderful intro to this theater. It’s even more heartbreaking that this theater never even made it to 1960. Unfortunately, this theater was just too big and too lavish for the market to support.

As an aside, was the Mastbaum the first of the mega movie palaces to be demolished in the country?

GJZander
GJZander on January 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Can anyone help? I am trying to find any information about a live rock ‘n roll performance held at the Mastbaum in the winter of 1953 or 1954. It was an amazing performance of continuous rock 'n roll music by the popular performers of the day. I was young but was mezmerized by the performance. The stage would lower with one group playing and raise with another group already playing their music. I would be interested to know anything about the program or which performers were involved. Any information would be appreciated or if you could tell me where I can search to get more information. Thanks
Envoy

finkysteet
finkysteet on July 18, 2008 at 4:25 pm

There was a rumor that the fire was intentionally set in order to collect insurance money. The first fire burned a small hole in the roof, visible from the Market-Frankford El. The next fire wiped the place out completely. Sad because though it wasn’t a movie theater, it still held great memories for those of us who frequented it (Phila. Warriors Roller Derby)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on June 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm

That’s about when I left. I was curious as to what happened to it.