1046 Market Street,
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The Earle Theatre was one of the leading theatrical showcases of the United States for popular stars during the second quarter of the 20th Century. The theatre opened March 24, 1924 with 10 acts of Keith Vaudeville. Located at the southeast corner of S. 11th Street and Market Street in downtown Philadelphia, located at a convergence of public transport routes and near seven major department stores of Market Street East. Built by the Stanley Company as part of a seven story office building, the theatre was named for George H. Earle, Jr., an investor in the Stanley Company.
The Earle Theatre was designed by Philadelphia architects Hoffman-Henon Co. in the neoclassic Adam style and at that time it was the most expensive theatre ever built in Philadelphia. The theatre was lavishly decorated with marble, murals, tapestries, and other exquisite furnishings. The 35 feet high grand lobby’s decor included 27 murals by George Harding. The auditorium had 2,768 seats, and a 35 feet deep stage. The Kimball organ was played until the early 1930’s, when the console was stored away in the Mastbaum Theatre’s basement. A holding tank for aquatic animal acts was in the Earle Theatre’s basement.
The sign on the front of the theatre proclaimed ‘World’s Biggest Stars’ and all the stars, appeared on stage, as did orchestras and organists. The list of stars started with Keith vaudeville and goes on and on. Eddie Cantor, Frank Sinatra, Josephine Baker were among those who appeared on stage. Later the Earle Theatre became the Philadelphia theatre of the Big Band era, with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glen Miller and Duke Ellington being among those featured. Recording artists appeared to promote their hit records. Movies were shown, but often ‘B’ movies as the live acts were the main attraction. In October, 1951, the world premiere of the film noir “The Racket” was held at the Earle Theatre.
By 1953, television had arrived and rather than filling the Earle Theatre seven days a week, theatregoers stayed home to watch their favourite stars. February 26, 1953 was the last stage show. That year Stanley Warner’s lease was over, and the Earle Theatre was demolished. It was replaced by a two story store, which as of 2008, stands though it has had changes in retail tenents. The Earle Theatre is the subject of the 1986 Annual published by the Theatre Historical Society of America(THSA), and is included in books on Philadelphia theatres, also authored by the late Irvin R. Glazer. An article by Barry Goodkin features the Earle Theatre in the the third quarter 2003 edition of Marquee of the THSA.
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