County Theater

20 East State Street,
Doylestown, PA 18901

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County

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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.

Contributed by Marc A. Wessels, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on August 25, 2007 at 10:56 pm

The June 1999 Philadelphia Magazine rated the County a very high “4” on a 1 to 5 scale, with comment “Bucks County’s answer to the Ritz. Best Bucks art-house choice.” Highest possible ratings were achieved in the categories of Cleanliness and Service, and very high rating for Seating. For movie Selection, whereas Ritz and Roxy theaters in Philadelphia were specified as “Art-house and indie” the County was stated as “Highbrow fare”

I will add that the movie selection is always top of the line arthouse.

raymondgordonsears
raymondgordonsears on December 31, 2007 at 1:25 pm

History of the County Theater
1907 22 S Main St. Hellyer’s movie house
1909 The theater moves across the street 1 S. Main Lenape building
1925 First actual movie theater is built at its current location
and called the Strand
1937 The Strand is sold Goldman & Associates
1938 The Strand is torn down for the new, modernized County theater.
Grand opening Sept. 3rd, 1938 “Little Miss Broadway” The new
The new theater is owned by Kahn who buys out Goldman.
1940 Nov. 18th, 1940 capacity crowds attend first Sunday movies.
1950 Theater is leased to C. Schlanger and Budco Theater Chain. from
Doylestown
1970 Theater runs for a time as a dollar theater.
1980 Kahn’s widow seels to local businessman J. Rudolph. The back
third is converted into apartments. The theater is divided into
two smaller aud. Hard times fall on the County. Two different
indenpents try to run the theater. It closed in 1992.
1992 Closely Watched Films (Non-ptofit) saves the theater
1993 Theater re-opens on Feb.3, 1993
1997 The non-profit buys the theater on April 1, 1997
1998 New Neon tower
1999 Marquee is removed, restored aand re-installed in May 2000

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 9, 2009 at 1:46 am

http://issuu.com/bucksliving/docs/bucks_sept
Go to page 39 for article and photos of the County Theatre in Dolyestown, PA

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on October 30, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Featured on Huffington Post list of 10 beautiful movie theaters in US,
http://cinematreasures.org/news/24968_0_1_0_M/

str8bourbon
str8bourbon on June 28, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Here is a current video tour of the County theater from their blog. http://www.renewtheaters.org/blog/2011/video-tour-of-the-county-theater/

RickB
RickB on July 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

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

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on July 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm

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 13, 2013 at 3:57 am

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 3, 2014 at 12:36 am

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

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