Duke and Duchess Theatres
1605-07 Chestnut Street,
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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.
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