Theatre of the Living Arts

334 South Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19147

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EdD5 on November 28, 2014 at 10:21 am

During the 1980s, I took the el into town many, many times to go here. They had broadsheets with pictures showing their film schedule for the next three months and I had several on my bedroom walls. My first viewing of Casablanca was on a big screen because of the TLA. Also, my first midnight show with Rocky Horror, Fellini, Stop Making Sense, dozens of others and many were double bills if I remember rightly. That dinky little snack bar where you could get hot tea or coffee. And no sneaking food in, even though there was a popcorn store next door! Great place. Great memories.

chinatownkid on September 19, 2012 at 2:11 am

I remember going to see Das Boot here when I was a kid. The TLA video store was one of my favorite video stores ever too…

HowardBHaas on May 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer article states that Ray Murray and Claire Brown converted this theater intoa a repertory movie house a few months after offering a repertory film program at Upper Darby’s Tower Theatre in the summe of 1981.

LeifJonker on July 3, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I saw BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET and ALLIGATOR on a double-feature during their John Sayles retrospective at the TLA. Fun little theater.

randytheicon on May 1, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Circa 1987, TLA switched from movies to yet another theatrical company. The first production was “Little Shop of Horrors,” for which Audrey II, the killer plant, was painted all over the facade! The stage version of “Rocky Horror” also ran there a few times, and in the late 1980s there were a few rock-themed film festivals.

Andrew Dice Clay’s first HBO special was recorded at TLA.

Finally, TLA was where I first say Godfrey Reggio’s amazing film, “Koyaanisqatsi” – on their Eprad Starscope sound system!

trackmac77 on September 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm

My first trip to the TLA was a memorable one- a dark-to-dawn New Years Eve film festival, sometime in the mid-1980’s. A dreamlike experience, half awake at times, as one film blurred into another- “The Trip”; “Reefer Madness”(?); some Elvis film substituted as a last minute replacement (why haven’t his films gotten the ‘Rocky Horror’ or MST3K treatement is beyond me); and my favorite of the lot- “Zardoz”. Dozing and waking at odd times througout the night; staggering to either the restroom or concession between shows; an audience member who felt compelled to announce it was midnight during the middle of the movie running at the time, then responses of ‘So what?’, ‘Who cares?’ and ‘Shut up!’ coming in rapid succession afterwards. Then finally taking SEPTA out of town and walking back to Elkins Park in the grey wet dawn of the New Year. I only went one other time- I only got to go while visiting a cousin who lived in the area, but I’d often inquire what was showing and what he’d seen there lately, vicariously enjoying and appreciating the enriching diversity of the TLA’s bill of fare. Too bad it no longer exists in that incarnation; every town needs a place like the TLA was back then.

HowardBHaas on June 12, 2008 at 10:49 pm

New York Times:
Compiled by BEN SISARIO
Published: June 11, 2008
Last year Live Nation, the giant concert promoter, renamed a handful of clubs and small theaters around the country to give them a unified brand: Fillmore, after Bill Graham’s famous clubs in San Francisco and New York. In Philadelphia the Theater of the Living Arts became the Fillmore at the TLA, and in New York, Irving Plaza became the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza. The Philadelphia club has now reverted to its old name, but Live Nation said it had no plans to change the name of the New York club. “Although Fillmore is a valuable and powerful brand, which we remain committed to,” the company said in a statement, “the fans in Philadelphia made it known to us that the Theater of the Living Arts was a more relevant name in their local community.”

kencmcintyre on September 14, 2007 at 9:03 pm

No more TLA? What’s next, Zipperhead? Jim’s Steaks? Grendel’s Lair? What’s happening to my favorite street?

Coasterbear on May 1, 2007 at 9:12 pm

My fondest memories of this theater was my first attendance at it to see John Water’s “Pink Flamingos”. I also remember seeing “The Boys in the Band” for the first time at this establishment. I also took my Mom to see “Rocky Horror Picture Show” there. She got the biggest kick out of all the audience participation there. At the time it was “The” place to see the film. I’m glad to see that it’s still standing.

RickB on March 30, 2007 at 3:37 pm

This theater is being renamed the Fillmore Philadelphia by operator Live Nation. The new name becomes effective as of April 27, with a show by Todd Rundgren. Press release here.

benning on January 25, 2007 at 3:50 am

I remember seeing the Beatles' “Let It Be” at the TLA a long time ago. Ahhh, the memories, eh?

kencmcintyre on September 20, 2006 at 7:09 pm

This photo shows the Standard Theater at 1130 South Street. The damage is from Hurricane Hazel in 1954. I believe the only theaters listed for South Street are the TLA and the Royal. If I’m wrong, let me know:

kencmcintyre on January 21, 2006 at 6:21 pm

I have almost too many memories of this theater to post here. I probably saw a film here at least once a week when I was in college in the early 1980s. I met John Waters at a screening of Pink Flamingos and saw Casablanca for the first time as well. My most prominent memory was attending what I thought was a sci fi film, but was actually a lesbian romance. I had mixed up the show dates. The lesbian film wasn’t half bad, though.

RickB on October 8, 2005 at 7:55 pm

Not much seems to be recorded as to what this theater was used for in the ‘40s and '50s. The Ramseys founded the Theater of the Living Arts around 1959; a bit of a surprise that they didn’t lose their shirts, as the neighborhood was rough at the time (the city had plans to replace South Street with the Crosstown Expressway, and property owners became reluctant to spend money on buildings that might soon be condemned and demolished). Andre Gregory of My Dinner with Andre fame was another prominent figure involved with the TLA as a live theater venue.

After the theater company folded in the early ‘70s, the building became an art/repertory film venue as the Bandbox Living Arts, a branch of the Bandbox in Germantown. The next operator called it the TLA Cinema because of legal problems regarding the rights to the Theater of the Living Arts name.

teecee on September 15, 2005 at 5:43 am

Also known as: The Crystal Palace (1908-1927); New Palace Theatre (1927-c. 1940); Palace Theatre (1981-1982); TLA

Small photo at this link (don’t expand w/o paid subscription):

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