Capital Theatre

1237-45 N. 52nd Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19131

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Showing 1 - 25 of 26 comments

eball
eball on February 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I am looking for the trailer prevues they use to play just before the martial arts trailer in the 80s…..

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on February 6, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Here is a good view of the theater building:
http://tinyurl.com/y878n7j

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 12, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Here is a circa 1960s photo from the Irvin Glazer collection:
http://tinyurl.com/pkq5hq

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 5, 2009 at 11:36 am

If it did not survive past this June 23, 1992, “Class Act” would have been the last feature.

DEMISE OF CAPITAL MARKS END OF AN ERA

The Capital Theater in West Philadelphia – the last surviving soldier in a battle between city neighborhood theaters and the big chains – has closed. Unless beleaguered owner Paul Klieman can arrange new business terms with the major movie distributors, the landmark theater at 1237 N. 52nd will have shown its last feature, “Class Act.” If the Capital remains closed – and Klieman said he is not hopeful of recovery – Philadelphia will have said goodbye to an era of…

Kaliymah
Kaliymah on September 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

Can someone please tell me what was the last movie that played at the Capital? My family and i have been disputing this for years now!

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on May 8, 2009 at 4:36 pm

The Apollo can be seen on the left in this 1956 photo:
http://tinyurl.com/oxwdn4

finkysteet
finkysteet on July 14, 2008 at 12:57 am

That was the beauty of growing up in West Philly during the late ‘60s thru mid '70s — The Capital. It was “the place to be” for good movies especially if you didn’t want to travel to Center City. I lived one block away on 53rd & Thompson. The big neon “CAPITAL,” the unusual zigzag auditorium, the wondrous curtains, the popcorn, the cheesy Kung Fu flicks (Enter The Dragon!) Yeah, sweet memories!

My mom and I were there one day in the early ‘70s and my neighbor had to buy a ticket just to come get us because our washer overflowed and water seeped over into their house. The last movie I saw there was “Scarface” in '84.

dsrgrs
dsrgrs on February 25, 2007 at 5:07 pm

some of my memories include going to the Capital on the weekend during the summer. My brother and i used to take the 15 trolley to 52nd and Girard Ave. I remember one easter me and my friends all went to see Friday 13th Jason Lives when it first came out. We came in late..unlike now a days when u had to wait until the theater was cleaned. Anyway, we watched the end of the movie then watched the second movie Rush i think. Then we watched the main film again until the part that we saw. As a teen it didn’t matter much to me about the cleanliness and the fact it was one screen. All i cared about was the movie on the big screen. We would then proceed to spend all of our money on video games at the corner store.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on January 22, 2007 at 8:57 pm

Although I’ve never been to the Capital Theatre and the only thing I know about Mr. Klieman was what appeared in his obituary, I was aware that the area around where it was located was impoverished as I used to pass through it en route to Overbrook by way of the Market Street El and then some local bus at 52nd Street I used to take, my traveling originally from Northeast Philadelphia — which, of course, had its own abundance of local theaters at the time. And let me just say there’s no shame at all to poverty, only shame to those who impose it — most particularly those who amass wealth as a result of doing this. And Mr. Klieman’s obituary just didn’t strike me like he was that kind of guy, which is why I presumed you were putting us all on when you posted what you did. For seriously, how is a series of exploitational Kung Fu movies supposed to turn life around for the better in the ghetto? With Mr. Klieman’s association with Coretta Scott King — the widow of a man most noteworthy for his non-violence stance — he had to know firsthand that the exhibition of violent movies in ghetto theaters was in no way helpful to the ghettos' dwellers. So if he did exhibit a long rash of violent Kung Fu movies at his Capital Theatre as you say, he knew exactly what he was doing in terms of something to be greatly ashamed of. And here you are singing praises of the guy and the movies he subjected you to while growing up. That’s why I had to assume you were putting us all on. Either that, or the obituary got it all wrong. For this is America, and there’s no excuse why anyone should have to be poor. And by that I’m not condemning those who are poor, only those who derive their wealth by making them so. And we’ve had way too much of that now. The time has come for those who make their wealth in that way to pack it in and to give back every last thing they’ve wrongfully acquired. If Dr. King were here today he would announce that that way over-extended run has expired and the bill has just come due. And the longer that bill isn’t paid the worse it’s going to be. So it’s best to pay up now.

As for Kung Fu itself, it was an ancient art of self-defense developed by Bhuddist monks for when traveling through hostile territory, and it was far from anything they were proud of. And they would’ve been horrified that anyone would’ve seen it as a source of “entertainment.” You, growing up in the ghetto, might not have known that, but given Mr. Klieman’s background he had to. So what you’re ultimately telling us all here is that the obituary got it all wrong. And if what your telling us is true I sure wouldn’t want to be where Mr. Klieman is now.

JohnMessick
JohnMessick on January 22, 2007 at 2:33 am

Carnitaw32….I live in Camp Hill Pennsylvania and in the Camp Hill shopping center when I was growing up there was a Jack and Jill’s clothing store. I wonder if it was one of Mr. Kliemans stores. Mom use to buy my sisters school clothes there.

carnitaw32
carnitaw32 on January 21, 2007 at 5:58 pm

SORRY YOU’D BELIEVE THAT SOMEONE HAS TO PUT ANYONE UP TO GIVING A THEATER SUCH A RAVE REVIEW, HOWEVER THAT’S YOUR CROSS TO BEAR. I GREW UP IN THE CAPITAL THEATER…. I GUESS SOME OF US WERE LUCKIER THAN OTHERS AS CHILDREN. BY THE WAY YOUR INFORMATION HAS BEEN INFORMATIVE(THE OBITUARY)HOWEVER YOU FORGOT TO MENTION HE ALSO OPENED A LINE OF CLOTHING STORES FOR LOW INCOMED FAMILIES ONE WHICH WAS LOCATED ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE P.A.L. ON 41ST AND LANCASTER AVENUE IN PHILADELPHIA.
IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED KLIEMANS(THE NAME ACTUALLY STILL SITS OUTSIDE THE BUILDING WITH IT’S BEAUTIFUL VINTAGE SCRIPT WRITING WORN FROM THE ELEMENTS)HE LATER CHANGED THE NAME TO “JACK AND JILL’S” MY MOTHER SHOPPED THERE FOR NEW SCHOOL CLOTHES AND EVERY EASTER OUTFIT FOR MYSELF AN MY THREE SIBLINGS…. NO THEATER BUFF I WASN’T PUT UP TO ANYTHING….I GUESS THESE ARE THE PERKS OF GROWING UP POOR AND IN THE GHETTO!!!

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on January 20, 2007 at 8:36 pm

Ah, April Fools Day came quite early this year I see! A good one, carnitaw32! But tell me, did Howard Haas put you up to this by any chance?

carnitaw32
carnitaw32 on January 19, 2007 at 8:36 pm

As a child I remember the Capital Movie Theater being the best babysitter in the world!! My mom would send my brother , my sister and myself there EVERY Saturday, with $5.00 ,it was $3.00’s to get in and we’d buy penny candy with the rest. We’d be there from the opening matinee until the 8pm show (12pm -8pm) The Capital movie theater always made kids feel like kung fu stars. They always showed the newest and hottest “Chinese Movies” Stars such as Sonny Chiba, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Li. Movies such as The 5 deadly venoms, Enter the Dragon, Black Cat of Kung-fu, Drunkin Master, and the Shaolin Monks!!! We’d leave the theater and practice our newly learned skills on each other along the way home! I have nothing but love for this theater, it was when kids could be kids!! I even remember on several occasions the managers would give out free popcorn and hot dogs to children that arrived early for matinees and stayed all day! Anyone with any rememberance of the Capital as I’ve expressed please… lets share some stories.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on April 13, 2006 at 5:58 pm

Paul Klieman, who owned and operated the Capital Theatre up to the time of its closing in 1992, passed away on Friday, April 7, 2006 at age 90. Here’s the obituary that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer Saturday, April 8, 2006:

Paul Klieman, 90, movie theater operator
By Sally A. Downey
Inquirer Staff Writer

Paul Klieman, 90, of Wynnewood, who operated the last independent movie theater in Philadelphia and helped found the Philadelphia Police Athletic League, died yesterday at home.

At 17, Mr. Klieman started working as a bookkeeper at Pearl Theater in North Philadelphia and eventually became theater manager. He then managed a chain of theaters, mostly in North Philadelphia, and in 1955 he became part owner of the Cambria in North Philadelphia.

He purchased the Leader and Capital theaters in West Philadelphia in 1960. He later donated the Leader building to the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia, which opened a recreation center there in 1971 dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Klieman continued to operate the Capital until it closed in 1992. He was there seven days a week, his daughter Susan Klieman said. The 800-seat single-screen theater opened at noon and closed at midnight. Operating a theater, he told a reporter in 1990, means fighting with film distributors about price, availability of first-run films, and paying attention to myriad details like scraping chewing gum off seats.

He lamented the loss of neighborhood theaters. “You see all this narcotics,” he said, “it’s a result of boredom… . Even with cable and VCRs and all that stuff, you get claustrophobic in the same room in the same apartment. The movies are a means of getting away. It’s recreation.”

While working in the film business, he met Howard Hughes, his daughter said, and became friends with Ossie Davis. Because of his involvement with the Police Athletic League, she said, he met Coretta Scott King, and was on a first-name basis with many local politicians.

In the 1940s, Mr. Klieman helped found the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia to help curb juvenile delinquency by offering youth recreation programs. He served as a PAL officer for many years and was former chairman of the board.

PAL now has 23 centers in Philadelphia providing programs for 27,000 boys and girls. Mr. Klieman was also active with the Variety Club.

His community commitment earned him invitations to the White House from Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, his daughter said.

Mr. Klieman grew up in North Philadelphia and was a graduate of Northeast High School.

His wife of 55 years, Harriet Lean Klieman, died in 1991. He married Miriam Toretch in 1992.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Klieman is survived by daughters Judith Stein and Carol Lowe; a son, Charles; a brother and sister; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on March 10, 2006 at 5:38 pm

Howard, exactly. And now the question is, where do movie theaters evolve from there? Or do we want the evolution of theaters to end with the multiplex? That might make good sense from a strictly business point of view. But my interest in theaters, in case you haven’t picked up on by now, is on the artistry end of things. And when I say a well-crafted movie exhibited in a well-run theater is the highest art form there is, I am most certainly not referring to a multiplex, or worse still, megaplex, theater. From a business point of view a megaplex might look like a high point in the movie theater’s evolution. But from an artistic viewpoint it’s just the opposite, a low point that needs to be evolved from. Which, of course, includes looking toward old movie theater concepts with a fresh new outlook, but certainly not limited to just that. For new things are coming along, too, that will certainly lend to the artistry as well, and to be sure, will go a long way in breathing new life into what had been abandoned.

As for the Capital Theatre which you’ve enlightened us more about, Zeldaah, it sounds like it has great promise if anyone wants to acquire it and take it in an artistic direction. For we need things in our community to remind us that not everything is strictly business. And if I’m not mistaken, the Capital Theatre is in Philadelphia’s Overbrook section which, at least as I remember from the last time I was there, is a very beautiful community. And this theater building if restored properly could certainly add to that beautifulness all the more, serving as a vital reinforcer of sorts.

Though the city of Philadelphia might not be sympathetic to this direction at the present time, it is starting to get more and more questionable why Philadelphia’s more outlying communities are still even a part of it. There might have been good reasons for this connectivity to the city at one time, but such reasons today seem to be totally missing. The detriment of it far outweighs the benefit. It’s time for Philadelphia’s nicer communities, or communities that have the potential to become nicer when they have such beautiful structures as the Capital Theatre building in their midst, to begin coming into their own again. All the signs are there.

zeldaah
zeldaah on March 10, 2006 at 4:40 am

Yes, I can confirm that Thalheimer and Weitz had their hand in practically every building downtown… only few or none as original designer. They did remodels/renovations/additions on lots of buildings between 1924 and the 1980s, so the Capital was probably built in 1913, renovated in 1933 by T/H and had the marquis and box office redone. Someone redid it again before that photo on the PAB was taken in 1970… the storefront is all furred-out and tiled in that photo, and now that has been removed back to the original facade. You can still see where architectural detailing is still missing at the ground level because of the previous applied facade.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 9, 2006 at 7:19 pm

Movie theaters did indeed change with the times, and they have indeed evolved- into multiplex theaters.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on March 9, 2006 at 6:45 pm

I can think of no other type building moreso than a movie theater that should evolve with the times so as to always be in the vanguard. Just as movies evolve, so, too, should the venues that present them. For it should be understood that what seems fresh and modern today will not seem so come tomorrow.

In 1913, when the Capital Theatre was built, and which, incidentally, was the same year of the Titanic’s maiden voyage and consequent disaster, stainless steel wasn’t even in existence yet. And some of the Titanic’s wealthier passengers — such as the Wideners — were very influentual with regard to how that part of the city was run. And how different, really, was that which influenced the Titanic’s design from that which influenced the Capital Theatre’s? To be sure, news of the Titanic disaster, along with news of the loss of the Widener family’s influence when prominent members of the Widener family went down that night, must have come as quite a jolt to it, a disillusionment with how it had been designed originally. As if to say stainless steel which came along in the following years came along just in time.

To be sure, every great theater architect aims to present the latest and the best, but which was not available just yet at the time of the Capital Theatre’s construction. So when the newer and more resilient building materials came along by which it could evolve, given how it was a living, breathing movie theater, and with memories of the Titanic disaster in tow, naturally it did evolve. But evolution is a very circular thing, but only when moving in a clockwise direction. By moving in this direction, ideas of the past are picked up on and incorporated time and time again, but always as if something totally fresh and new, while ideas that once seemed fresh and new look old time-ish. Right now, for instance, the use of stainless steel in buildings is seeming a bit dated, it being lightyears away from being the latest new thing. Which, in turn, forces us to have a second fresh new look at what came before it if there’s nothing fresh and new to take its place. But in reincorporating that, is that the same as stripping away the stainless steel to whatever is underlying it? For there doesn’t seem to be anything evolutionary about that, while I feel it’s upon movie theaters, moreso than any other type building, to evolve. And to evolve is to go forward, not back.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 8, 2006 at 5:23 pm

That’s a big difference.
It is possible that the Capital Theatre’s box office was redone by that firm. Many theaters had exterior remodels in whole or part.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on March 8, 2006 at 5:13 pm

To get more specific, Mr. Messick stated that the Capital Theatre’s box office looks very similar to that of the Devon. And given how the Devon’s box office is glass and stainless steel, and stainless steel was not in commercial use yet in 1913, if the Capital Theatre’s box office strongly resembles that of the Devon, the firm of Thalheimer/Weitz likely designed it — in 1933 or so.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on March 7, 2006 at 5:43 pm

Despite what the PAB site says, this theater opened in 1913, not 1933. Despite what Glazer lists, Thalheimer and Weitz weren’t the architects- except maybe for a remodel. And, from the PAB photo, it looks nothing like the Devon.

TheaterBuff1
TheaterBuff1 on March 7, 2006 at 5:20 pm

The firm of Thalheimer/Weitz also designed the Devon Theatre at Frankford Avenue and Barnett Street in Northeast Philadelphia’s Mayfair section and which is currently being restored to be a live performing arts theater. And though I’ve not seen the Capital Theatre, according to theater afficianado John Messick, who posts regularly at this Cinema Treasures website, the architecture of the two theaters is strikingly similar. So good eye, John Messick!

zeldaah
zeldaah on January 23, 2006 at 7:59 am

Theater opened in 1933, not 1913. Thalheimer/Weitz wasn’t a firm until 1924.

zeldaah
zeldaah on December 5, 2005 at 5:50 am

Hi-
Does anyone have photos of this block? Or know the history of the sign on the theater? When it was put up, how old it is, or anything else…) The sign is large and would have blocked the view of the stained glass above, so I’m curious what it might have looked like.

Also, there was supposedly a “Franklin” theater on the same block. Anyone have info on that?

Thanks!
Elisabeth

tpembleton
tpembleton on September 25, 2005 at 10:33 pm

For many young people growing up in West Philadelphia, the Capital, Nixon, and the Locust St. theater – were parts of our daily lives. The Capital still stands, and is currenlty used as retail.