1524 South Street,
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The Royal Theatre opened in 1920 seating 1,200. It was located on South Street between 15th and 16th Streets. The architect for the theatre was Frank E. Hahn whose Neo-Georgian style exterior contrasted with the 1925 Art Deco interior designed by William H. Lee. When it opened it was touted as “America’s Finest Colored Photoplay House”. The staff of the Royal Theatre went on to become the nucleus of the Negro Motion Picture Operators Union. The theatre closed in 1970.
The Royal Theatre was added in 1978 to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places and in 1980 to the National Register of Historic Places. To save the Royal Theatre from demolition, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia purchased the theatre, but sold it in 2000 to a company headed by songwriter and record producer Kenny Gamble. The theatre’s interior continued to deteriorate. In July 2015, the Philadelphia Historical Commission approved plans to keep only the Royal Theatre’s façade and the very front portion, which may be used for retail, and construct behind it a residential building. The auditorium will be demolished. The South Street façade will be restored to look similar to its original design.
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