Duke and Duchess Theatres

1605-07 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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The Duke and Duchess Theatres was a twin, side by side, sharing a wide marquee and a 66 foot frontage on the north side of Chestnut Street between South 16th and South 17th Street’s. With the Regency Theatre on the same block, and many other movie theatres nearby on Chestnut Street West, the theatre marquees lit up at night to give a cinematic Broadway style appearance to Chestnut Street. The Duke and Duchess were designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm Thalheimer and Weitz and cost two million dollars to build. On the second floor were the executive offices of the movie operator, the Sameric Corporation.

The Duke and Duchess opened December 19, 1969. Early plans were for the theatre to open that day with the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, to be named the Sameric, and to be the flagship of the movie chain of the same name. Instead, the theatre opened as a twin named after the two dogs belonging to Samuel Shapiro, President of the Sameric Corp. Many of the popular James Bond films were shown here. In 1971, after the chain purchased the historic Boyd Theatre, the Boyd was renamed the Sam Eric. Eric was Samuel Shapiro’s grandson.

The Duke and Duchess each had 460 rocking chair seats. Each auditorium was long and narrow with drapes lining the walls. The screens were not very large. Sound leaked between the houses. First run movies were shown.

The theatre closed in 1987 and with the neighboring Regency Theatre was demolished for the construction of the glamorous Liberty Place office skyscrapers, hotel, and shopping mall complex. The Liberty Place announcement specified that movie theatres would be included. They were not.

Contributed by Chuck, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

Harvey
Harvey on June 30, 2008 at 2:14 am

In this 1984 review of exploitation film KILLPOINT, Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Rick Lyman makes special mention of the D&D’s “ambience”.

Philadelphia Inquirer KILLPOINT review (1984)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 21, 2010 at 7:17 am

Here is a June 1979 photo from Temple U:
http://tinyurl.com/yhq45va

LeifJonker
LeifJonker on July 2, 2010 at 9:10 pm

WOW! My heart just lept! Thank you for posting that link CHUCK1231! I’ve been looking for photos of the DUKE AND DUCHESS for quite a while as well as THE BUDCO REGENCY which was next door right on the corner of 16th & CHESTNUT — you can see a tiny edge of it in that photo. Anyone have any links to an image of the entire Regency?

Also, Ken mc, I had found the thumbnail of the Duke from that first site you listed. I actually considered paying the $40 for the larger but just couldn’t bring myself to it. Was the link you posted the larger image or a blowup of the thumbnail?

LeifJonker
LeifJonker on July 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Never mind about the Budco, I found its listing. Thanks to all!

Ken, I don’t see a way to contact you directly so hopefully you’ll see this post.

I am still curious if that was the fullsized image of the D&D. The blow up of the thumbnail I have is here:
View link

Also, there was a more mainstream theater down the street on the corner, probably 17th and Chestnut, calleds SAM’S PLACE or something along those line, and then in the opposite direction, the other way down Chestnut, in the middle of a block, was another grindhouse like dive. I can’t remember the name of it to save my life though. Any thoughts?

LeifJonker
LeifJonker on July 3, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Thanks hdtv. I’m pretty sure that in the opposite direction of Sam’s, probably in the 1300 or 1400 block of Chestnut, was another small grindhouse theater right in the middle of the block. Any ideas?

RickB
RickB on July 4, 2010 at 2:20 am

Leif, you may be thinking of Eric’s Place, originally the Trans-Lux, which was at 1519 Chestnut.

LeifJonker
LeifJonker on July 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm

RickB — Eric’s Place is absolutely it. Thank you!

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 5, 2010 at 4:14 am

Complaining about Polish jokes in “THE END”,give me a break.ARCHIE BUNKER let out more polish jokes than Burt Reynolds ever did,I can tell you one thing 100 % true they sold tickets with that protest.

grscott
grscott on June 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I worked at most of the SamEric movies from 1974 – 1986, thru high school, Temple and part time after college. Eric’s Place, D&D, Mark 1 (under the Holiday Inn on Market Street), Rittenhouse 1&2 and the SamEric. From what I was told the Duke was named after John Wayne (friend of Sam Shipiro) and Duchess after the dog. Eric’s Place was named after Mert’s son who committed suicide. There was a big mural at Eric’s Place and the center piece was John Wayne in cowboyoutfit showing a young boy (Eric) his sidearm.

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