County Theater

20 E. State Street,
Doylestown, PA 18901

Unfavorite 8 people favorited this theater


Doylestown is 40 miles north of Philadelphia’s City Hall and is the county seat of Bucks County. The County Theater opened September 3, 1938 with the movie “Little Miss Broadway” starring Shirley Temple. The original seating capacity was for 700 and the theater was equipped with air conditioning. Architects Edward Silverman and Abraham Levy designed the theater. The County Theater replaced a prior theater, the Strand Theater, which was built in 1925, but suffered a fire. Sunday movies began on November 17, 1940, ending a ban on Sunday movies in Doylestown.

In the mid-1950’s, yellow ceramic tiles and upper blue tiles were added to the facade, which with the original lower blue tiles, gave it the distinctive look. Eventually, the theatre fell on hard times. In the early-1980’s the auditorium was divided into two auditoriums and those auditoriums were shortened, so apartments could be built in the part of the original auditorium that included the stage. In the 1980’s, the neon letters on the vertical tower went dim. In the early-1990’s, different theatre operators tried, but the theatre was closed for months at a time. Because of TV & multiplexes, the County Theater was no longer viable for daily mainstream blockbuster movies.

The County Theater was reopened for arthouse films on February 5, 1993, by a nonprofit organization, Closely Watched Films Inc., a local film society that had been showing art films in Doylestown since 1982. “Enchanted April” was the film which reopened the theater that day, and ever since, the County Theater has enchanted film fans with arthouse films, classics, and special presentations. The nonprofit organization became the owner of the theater on April 1, 1997.

The exterior of the County Theater is depicted in the book “Popcorn Palaces: The Art Deco Movie Theatre Paintings of Davis Cone” (2001) which describes the County’s exterior ‘an outstanding Art Moderne design’ The Art Moderne exterior has been restored. In May 1998, the towering 18 foot neon vertical was removed, and restored, reinstalled in September 1998. The marquee was removed October, 1999, and restored, reinstalled May 2000. In January 2016, the County Theater purchased the adjacent Poor Richards building. The plan is to replace the existing building with an expansion opening in 2019 that would have an expanded lobby, a community meeting place, and two new auditoriums. One of those auditoriums would have a partial stage.

The reopened and revitalized County Theatre has been so successful that its parent non-profit corporation, Renew Theaters, Inc., led by John Toner, was asked to oversee the renovation and operation of the Ambler Theatre, the operation of the already refurbished Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown and the refurbishment and operation of the Princeton Garden Theatre in Princeton, NJ.

Contributed by Marc A. Wessels, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

HowardBHaas on December 8, 2009 at 5:46 pm
Go to page 39 for article and photos of the County Theatre in Dolyestown, PA

HowardBHaas on October 30, 2010 at 8:15 am

Featured on Huffington Post list of 10 beautiful movie theaters in US,

str8bourbon on June 28, 2011 at 9:48 am

Here is a current video tour of the County theater from their blog.

RickB on July 11, 2012 at 3:11 am

The County has completed its digital conversion. Philadelphia Inquirer story here.

HowardBHaas on July 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

Thanks, The County Theater, which shows first-run, art, independent, and foreign films, is “ahead of the curve” for small theaters, Toner said. Its 4,100 members and other supporters responded to a Digital Cinema Challenge by surpassing the $200,000 goal for a minimal conversion.

The additional $110,000 paid for a full conversion, including 3D in one auditorium, projectors with capacity for 4,000 lines of resolution (2,000 lines is the current standard), new screens, and other equipment. Rick. From that article, here are the details:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Philadelphia Architects and Buildings says that the Strand Theatre in Doylestown was built in 1921. At least one other source makes the same claim, but other sources say it was built in 1925.

I have found the Strand Theatre mentioned as early as 1921, but The Gleaner, an annual publication of the National Farm School, located near Doylestown, has courtesy advertisements from a Doylestown house called the New Strand Theatre in its 1925, 1926, and 1927 editions. By 1928, the ads are simply from the Strand Theatre. My guess would be that there was an earlier Strand Theatre, perhaps opened in 1921, that was replaced by the New Strand Theatre in 1925.

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on June 2, 2014 at 4:36 pm

This theatre was in the 1970’s and early 1980’s part of the Budco Theatres chain

HowardBHaas on December 3, 2015 at 4:57 pm

To expand with 3rd auditorium & more lobby space-

DavidZornig on April 23, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Design contest.

50sSNIPES on November 17, 2019 at 7:46 am

It’s Originally Called “County Theatre” Until Its Renamed County Theater In An Unknown Year.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater