Boyd Theatre

1908-18 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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LorinWeigard on September 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm

When I read this weekend that the interior demolition of the historic Boyd for a multiplex renovation was well underway since March, it was like being kicked in the gut. In the days when our family made the trip to the Boyd to see Cinerama or “Around the World In 80 Days”, we were escorted to our RESERVED seats in that magnificent theatre like VIPs. I particulary remember the huge curved curtain and chandlier of that art deco movie palace. I remember as much of the Boyd as I do any of the movies I saw there. With the passing of Cinerama and reserved seat road shows, the grand Boyd was still THE place to see the big shows, like “Close Enounters” in 70m.m. With the money boys having come out on top in the Boyd’s story, it seems in exchange for the demolition of an art deco architectural masterpiece, we get a cookie-cutter multiplex no different than any other, with all the ambience of being herded into a Wal-Mart. On the plus side, there will be cup holders in the new seats. Long gone— Cinerama—70m.m. and grand movie palaces with curtains in which to see them Having followed the Boyd preservation story over the years, I must thank the Friends of the Boyd in their valiant effort to preserve this landmark theatre. This desecration is all our loss.

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on June 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm

August 25 marks the 75th anniversary of the world premiere of “The Wizard Of Oz”,which played at the Boyd Theatre.

HowardBHaas on April 18, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Status hasn’t changed because the building remains for the moment. Without suggesting “blame” or “boycot” but simply listing those for the “destruction” as you characterize it, the following testified or wrote in support of the application of Live Nation & iPiC (for which developer Rodin Group will purchase & lease the property): Center City District. Rittenhouse Row. Boyd’s store. Sharon Pinkenson of the Film Office. City Councilperson Clarke, State Senator Farnese, State Rep. Sims. Leaders of William Penn House & 1920 Chestnut Street, both residential buildings nearby. Of course, nobody is more upset than I am. Friends of the Boyd will continue to document & publicize the long & wonderful history of the Boyd. Thanks to those above who expressed their support.

nobodym on April 18, 2014 at 5:51 pm

This is the last time I comment on this disgrace. First of all, the status of the theatre should be changed to “destroyed” so people know what really happened. It’s not merely closed. It’s soon to be gone completely for a suburban crap box.

I came across this when searching for info on the Benn Theatre at 63rd & Woodland Ave in SW Philly. Scroll through it if you’re looking for people to blame, email, or stores to boycott who lobbied for the demolition.

nobodym on April 4, 2014 at 10:23 am

Don’t blame the city of Philadelphia for this. Philadelphia is a great city. Blame the entitled suburbanites who hold the most influence in the city and metro, the Historical Commission who is probably in the pockets of developers, the suburbanite-run media throughout the city and metro, and the cowardly developer who can’t be honest and real about what he’s doing.

This whole process has entirely been shaped by entitled suburbanites who either moved to the city or don’t even live there yet feel they have every right to determine what happens there. A lot of them are delusional enough to think that they or the suburban nowhere they come from is somehow as important or more important than Philadelphia. This situation is sadly not unique these days as the only people who ever actually get a voice anymore are those with the most money or the most entitlement. If you don’t believe me, feel free to check out our local media or even our local messageboards and other sites.

RobertR on March 26, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Beyond pathetic

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 24, 2014 at 6:21 pm

It really is dumb. Having a showplace civic auditorium is a big plus for city image. Here in Chicago we have several beautiful auditoriums, including the Chicago Theater which is pretty much a full-fledged symbol of the city. They are seen on TV, in movies, by tourists, theater-goers, private parties, etc. If they had a bunch left in Philly I wouldn’t have much to say. But this is their last shot and apparently they blew it. Even Detroit, where God knows errors have been made, got this one right. You know it is pretty bad when you finish behind the Motor City.

dennisczimmerman on March 22, 2014 at 11:22 pm

I cannot believe the city of Philadelphia. They will do anything for a sports team – new baseball and football stadiums – but the last remaining motion picture palace gets nothing. I cannot believe there is not emough “movers and shakers” in the city of brotherly love to save this gem. Even the city government will not budge – I guess money talks!!!! What a shame. I was so hoping that some day I would be able to walk into the Boyd and go up to the balcony to view a movie, stage show, or concert. Thank God I still have my memories. To this day 2pm on a Sunday reminds me of all the times we traveled to Philadelphia to attend the 2pm Sunday matinee of such films as"Ben Hur,“ "How The West Was Won,” “Brothers Grimm,” “Doctor Zhivago”, the list can go on and on. The Boyd could have been another destination in a tour or trip to the city. Now we will walk past and see an 8 screen complex and remember what used to be there and say “oh ‘heck’. When you think how many movie palaces have disappeared in Center City, it sure would have been nice to keep one of them. How can the much smaller city of York, Pa preserve two of their palaces – the Strand and Capitolcomplex – and Philly cannot manage to keep one operating? Right now I am embarrassed for Philly.

telliott on March 20, 2014 at 10:57 am

Like we’ve said before, once it’s gone, it’s gone. What a shame.

LuisV on March 18, 2014 at 8:56 am

WoW! A new low for Philadelphia. A city that prides itself on history architecture and art has let its last remaining movie palace slip away. For shame! Most major cities have at least two palaces remaining while others, like New York and Los Angeles have scores of them which are used in many different capacities, but they are still around. Now, Philadelphia will take its shameful place as the only? major city without a historic movie palace.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on March 18, 2014 at 5:02 am

That link doesn’t work. Here’s the correct one:

Demolition appears to have begun at the Boyd

EsseXploreR on March 18, 2014 at 3:55 am

Nobody brought the bad news here yet? Demolition has begun inside the auditorium:

nobodym on March 16, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Life’s Too Short, it’s really quite easy to demolish anything you don’t like when you spread misinformation, insult and belittle those who oppose you, and deal with a “Historical” Commission that has probably never even saved a single building in its entire history.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 15, 2014 at 5:54 pm

First off I don’t understand why they are spending the money to build a new cinema complex. Every year it seems that film exhibition becomes a tougher business, with more and more direct to video, etc.

Second off I think it’s a shame the City of Philadelphia didn’t save one classic palace as a civic showplace. The Boyd is the last one. Once it is gone there is no coming back.

Here in Chicago plenty of old theaters have been torn down, make no mistake about it. But some nice ones were retained in various parts of the city and they definitely add something.

nobodym on March 15, 2014 at 5:16 am

I’d just like to congratulate the “Historical” Commission on turning Philadelphia into King of Prussia. I look forward to boycotting the suburban joke of a theater that iPic is going to replace the Boyd with, and I’d also like to congratulate Neal Rodin on being an absolute disgrace to the great city of Philadelphia and its storied history, along with the “Historical” Commission.

Now those entitled, delusional suburbanite transplants will have that “blight” removed once and for all. What a joke they are.

nobodym on February 21, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I love how pretty much every single person speaking on the matter as an “expert” who argues that the Boyd should be demolished or that iPic’s is the best idea is from the suburbs yet they want to talk about “urban” this and “urban” that. I’m FROM an urban area. You don’t know about blight or about what causes problems in an urban neighborhood. I grew up around crumbling factories and other buildings that were worse for wear. Even they aren’t a blight, let alone a shuttered movie theatre. Unlike somebody who grew up on a cul-de-sac with strip malls, I also understand just how important a venue like the Boyd could be to the city and to its immediate surrounding area under my above off-the-top-of-my-head idea and what does and doesn’t work in this situation. iPic’s idea will be an actual blight on the community and anybody who has seen what happens when rowdy teenagers and other people from a background of less discipline and less self-control cram into a movie theatre knows what I’m talking about, not to mention how god awful ugly their building will be. It will also ensure that the city continues to be looked down on as less than its peers of Boston and other major cities because people continue to be allowed to destroy what makes the city unique without so much as a single protest.

These are the people who speak on urban issues and historic preservation in this area… a bunch of people from bland, soulless places with no character, history, or architectural or cultural importance whatsoever. I also find it funny that not once has anybody actually refuted or proved wrong the idea of making the Boyd the showpiece theatre in a multiplex and building a regular multiplex around and above it, while also renting the Boyd out for all kinds of live events when not using it as the biggest screen in a multiplex. Maybe it’s because they know it would probably work.

LuisV on January 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

New York, arguably, has the world’s greatest remaining collection of Movie Palaces though few still show films. Most of the current Broadway/Times Square theaters at one time showed films and they are still there and thriving including the incredible New Amsterdam. Radio City, The Beacon and the St. George are still going strong as concert venues. The Hollywood, The Valencia, The Paradise, The Loews Gates, the Elmwood, and many others are churches. The Paramount in Brooklyn is a Gym, but still virtually intact. The Loews 175th Street has now returned to service as a classic film showcase. The Loews Kings is undergoing a $90MM restoration and expansion into a performing arts center. The Apollo in Harlem is entering its 80th year and still has their amateur talent show every Wednesday. The Ziegfeld and the Paris still show first run films. Other theaters waiting in the wings for restoration including the Loews Canal, the RKO Keith’s Richmond Hill, the Paramount in Staten Island, the Jackson Heights, the RKO Colosseum. I’m sure I’ve missed many others. There is great value in saving these structures and Philadelphia has no excuse in not being able to save this one; especially when it is located downtown.

alps on January 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

The best model for the Boyd Theater would be mix use. Unfortunately, that cannot happen because of the stranglehold that the Academy of Music has on touring Broadway shows. The Academy is the perfect venue for concerts, operas, and the ballet, but a terrible one for plays and musicals. The Boyd cannot stay in the condition it is in any longer. In the last six months it was open, I would refuse to go there, 2001 Harry Potter movie, would be the last I would see of the main auditorium, the horrible bathroom. The teal and yellow orange paint slopped on trim for the Philadelphia movie premiere, worn out carpet, and overzealous security. I don’t get this whole idea of restaurant movie theaters, love or hate Howard Haas, he’s right, once that theater is torn down, it’s gone, gone forever. In New York City, all of the Times Square movie theaters are gone or repurposed, the Boyd Theater would have a better outcome if it were on the Avenue of the Arts.

Greenpoint on January 26, 2014 at 7:55 am

SchineHistorian on December 25, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I was honored to be asked to supply this Letter to the Editor supporting the Friends of the Boyd Theater and their opposition to the demolition of the auditorium – a completely unacceptable plan for this grand and elegant theater! HOWEVER, the newspaper chose to edit my letter, and i felt left out some important points. Here then, if the entire letter that was sent to the newspaper, the Mayor’s office and all Council members:

“A great American city, steeped in layers of historical significance – yet Philadelphia seems poised to turn its back on one of the 20th century’s greatest monuments to American ingenuity. How can a city that claims to treasure the past even think of allowing the demolition of the Boyd Theater’s auditorium?

Has anyone who sits in judgement of this glorious theater walked through it? I have, and it took my breath away.

To destroy such an architectural and cultural treasure is unthinkable. The abundant gilding, the majestic arch of the ornate proscenium, the delicate Deco icons; they all speak to an era of elegance and beauty that no longer exists.

For 10 years I served as president of the national organization Theatre Historical Society of America and in that capacity traveled all over the United States visiting theaters and consulting on their preservation and reuse. In countless cities both large and small, historic theaters are being saved as cultural icons and as economic engines. But the value in these architectural wonders is in the wholeness of their design. The facade alone does not speak to the Boyd’s architectural merit. To destroy the auditorium is a completely unacceptable scenario for such an extraordinary theater.

It would be an embarrassment for the city of Philadelphia to allow any redevelopment of the Boyd to occur that does not honor and respect the entire building. The eyes of the national preservation community are upon you. Your decision will have long lasting consequences for the legend of Philadelphia’s next Historic Era.

Karen Colizzi Noonan,
Immediate Past President
Theatre Historical Society of America"

hdtv267 on December 12, 2013 at 9:44 am

Nice coverage of the rally on 12/10 by KYW Newsradio. Link here [which includes comments from our own Howard Haas]

Even though it’s really a movie theatre all that often Luis V- the former Prince Music Theatre (nee Midtown)occasionally shows movies , it is a single screen, but right now focuses on Bdway style shows and concerts.

It’s important the Boyd be saved, but also that part of Chestnut Street needs work as well.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on December 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

I don’t see why iPic can’t follow the Alamo Drafthouse’s plan for the New Mission Theatre in San Francisco
? They’re dividing the balcony up, while keeping the orchestra level as one big theater, and they’re keeping the architectural details intact. It would be the best of both worlds.

nobodym on December 12, 2013 at 7:43 am

I was unaware the Chinese theatre was actually a multiplex. So is that the only one in the country then? That wouldn’t be bad company to have given how important the Chinese theatre is.

There are no regular multiplex, first-run theatres, no. There are theatres that are mostly for indie, foreign, and other specialized films that show certain mainstream films that fit into their vision but that’s about it. There’s also the theatre and IMAX at the Franklin Institute. There are multiplexes in the city but they’re either in University City or the area by Temple or Penn’s Landing or Manayunk.

LuisV on December 12, 2013 at 6:02 am

Thanks for your comments Nobodym….The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood is exactly what you said. The main theater has been preserved while a multiplex has been built behind it or on its side. Is it true that there are NO movie theaters in Center City? Downtown multiplexes exist in many downtowns even in places like Cleveland! Why the heck not in Philadelphia? The answer is NOT to destroy this last palace in Philadelphia. This is THE LAST ONE LEFT!

nobodym on December 12, 2013 at 4:48 am

I have been following the situation with the Boyd closely, and I’m finally saying something because it looks like this is going to be a hard-fought battle by everybody who wants to see the Boyd saved. It is an absolute travesty that a city with the cultural history and cultural assets that Philadelphia has sees nothing wrong with demolishing its last movie palace after demolishing places like the 200+ foot Fox building and theatre in Center City, among others.

On one side Mr. Haas’s group is saying to restore the Boyd fully and use it for mixed events. On the other, the movie chain who owns the Boyd now is saying they need to go with a multiplex. I don’t see why they can’t do both. Assuming they have the same land that Hal Wheeler owned for his hotel idea, I would think they could build a multiplex around and connected to the Boyd and use the Boyd auditorium as their showplace theatre. I do not know of a single city in this country that has that combination. It would make Philadelphia their flagship location and would easily be majorly profitable because there are no major theatres in Center City, let alone any that can accommodate such large audiences. It would have to be a multi-story multiplex but honestly I think it’s time Philadelphia gets one of those, especially in Center City. If they include a restaurant like they should given that they have them in other cities, then I would think this idea could be profitable. Auditoriums that big usually don’t work for movies, sure, but it would be pretty much the only theatre in Center City and one of few in the city, so there is no reason they couldn’t at least get the auditorium ¾ full fairly often. It would simply be the theatre that gets the best, most in-demand movies every single time it’s used.

As for the Boyd, on top of being the showplace theatre, there are all kinds of uses for an auditorium like that. One idea off the top of my head is that the local universities or the city can give kids in the city or college students an opportunity to showcase their plays or other written pieces on a big, prestigious stage like the Boyd, a yearly contest sort of thing. Not only could it give kids in the city or in the universities an opportunity to get their stuff out there on a big stage but it could help with the costs of keeping the auditorium running and even maintained by getting the groups and sponsors using it for whatever event that evening to pay their share. There could be local concerts, meetings, lectures, really any kind of event without even getting into national musical acts. This is the perfect time for a place like the Boyd because not only are theatres bigger again (have you seen the theatres they build now, with multiple levels?) but people aren’t stuck in that backwards “newer is always better” mindset that saw so many of these places rot or be torn down to begin with.

If I were the Friends of the Boyd I’d be doing my best to help out with at least a chunk of the cost. I’d hold fundraisers, get a kickstarter page, hold concerts to help raise the money…. Just use whatever resources I could to help with the restoration, including my own sweat and volunteers to help with the work for free, maybe even school kids whether they’re from the universities or from the high schools. I’d be doing everything I could to show people I could do it.

Anyway, this is just my .02. I think it’s a crime that such short-sightedness and shoot-yourself-in-the-foot mentality is not only allowed but encouraged in this day and age.