Lansdowne Theatre

31 N. Lansdowne Avenue,
Lansdowne Borough, PA 19050

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Lansdowne Theatre

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The Lansdowne Theatre opened in Lansdowne, a Delaware County suburb of Philadelphia, on June 7, 1927 with the movie “Knockout Reilly” starring Richard Dix and 1,381 seats. Originally operated by Stanley Warner Equity and Herbert Effinger, the theatre was designed by prolific Philadelphia-based architect William H. Lee and was decorated by Gibelli & Co. Nearby theatres designed by Lee that continue to show movies include the Anthony Wayne, Bryn Mawr, and Narberth, though each of their auditoriums have been divided into more than one theatre. Other nearby theatres designed by Lee have met varying fates, with one showplace, the State Theatre in Easton, reused for live shows.

The Lansdowne Theatre is an ornate movie palace inspired by romantic Spain. The lobby and foyer are Spanish Mission in style. The auditorium is influenced by Spanish Baroque, and has painted ceilings possibly based on Nero’s pleasure palace. The theatre was decorated by Harry Brodsky. While there are some less than sensitive attempts at redecorating and the damage due to lack of the climate control, the theatre retains much of its original appearance including light fixtures, stage curtains, seating, carpeting and plaster reliefs.

The original ‘blade’ sign and marquee were removed before 1941 possibly because it lacked space to list what was being shown at the theatre. On October 5, 2012, the marquee, restored with new ‘sparkling blue’ neon, was lit for the first time since 1987, and the first time the neon has been fully intact since the mid-1950’s.

The theatre’s Kimball 3Manual/8Rank organ faded with the silent era and was rediscovered in 1962 by the Theater Organ Society of the Delaware Valley, and restored. It was played regularly to at least 1975, by which time it was the only playable pipe organ in a Philadelphia area theatre. The organ was sold to raise funds to replace the air-conditioning system. It was later installed at a private residence in Mississippi, and sold again in 2003 to a collector in Arizona.

The Lansdowne Theatre closed July 8, 1987 as a dollar house, a last run theatre. Closure was due to the result of a fire in the electrical sytem under one of the retail spaces. “Beverly Hills Cop II” starring Eddie Murphy was the final fim screened. In 1987, the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and featured in David Naylor’s 1987 book, the National Trust Guide ‘Great American Movie Theatres’.

It was purchased in late-2007 by the non-profit Historic Lansdowne Theatre Corporation. The restored building will host the performing arts including popular music concerts, theatre and dance. Film will also continue to play a major role in the building. On April 10, 2010, the Lansdowne Theatre hosted a performance by the nationally known acapella group ‘Straight No Chaser’ to a sold out performance. The theatre was featured in a series of commercials for 2010 AMC Fearfest, and served as the backdrop of the filming of ‘Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell’ and in the 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook”.

The Lansdowne Theatre is the grandest of all the theatres that are closed, yet intact, in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Contributed by George Quirk, Howard B. Haas. Matt Schultz

Recent comments (view all 49 comments)

mattschultz91 on May 12, 2011 at 8:52 am

Lansdowne Theater Open House
June 4, 2011 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
$5 admission fee, payable at the door

Join us as the doors of The Lansdowne swing open for tours of the lobby, auditorium, stage and projection booth. Learn about the plans for the beloved building, and the history of one of the few remaining unaltered 1920s movie houses in the Philadephia region. Make sure to bring your camera!! The Lansdowne Farmers Market will be going across the street from the theater—stop in after you tour the theater.

mattschultz91 on October 26, 2011 at 9:16 am

Lansdowne Theater receives grant to restore marquee

mattschultz91 on October 26, 2011 at 9:17 am

TOUR & POUR Historic Lansdowne Theater Opens Doors, Announces Vision

TOURSThe beloved Lansdowne Theater is opening its doors offering the curious a unique peek of the historic landmark that remains largely unchanged since its opening in the 1920’s. The public spaces—the grand theater complete with lit large main chandelier and the projection booth – will be open for tours and picture taking.
The tour marks an exciting milestone in the emerging plans to restore this grand theater. The premiere showing of a 5 minute promotional video about the future of the project will debut for Tour & Pour attendees. POURSAttendees will receive a coupon upon entering the theater which will entitle them to discounted pints of Yards Beer at 2312 Garrett Restaurant in nearby Drexel Hill. (Directions from the theater to the restaurant will be provided.) A portion of the proceeds from all food and drink at the restaurant will go to the campaign to restore and reopen the theater. WHO:OPEN TO THE PUBLIC WHEN:TOURSSunday, November 6th / 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM POURSSunday, November 6th / 4:30 PM – 9:00 PM

WHERE:TOURSHistoric Lansdowne Theater
31 N. Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne

POURS2312 Garrett
2312 Garrett Road, Drexel Hill

ETC: There is a $10 tax-deductible contribution per person for the tour. If you want to make a larger donation we would certainly be grateful. Please make checks payable to HLTC. All donations by check will be acknowledged in writing. There is plenty of free parking directly across the street from the theater. Children are invited to attend, but must be accompanied by a parent.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on January 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I recently photographed the Lansdowne Theatre. Check out my blog post at After the Final Curtain

Outverb on September 26, 2012 at 1:52 pm

The marquis has been restored! All are welcome to attend the FREE relighting on Friday, October 5th at 7:00 pm. After the relighting the doors will open for tour for a $10 or more donation.

See more at the Facebook group “Save the Lansdowne Theater.”

bobc316 on September 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm

yes it will be a grand occasion but thats my wedding rehersal day ill cath up to matt another time please go out and support matt

HowardBHaas on December 1, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Exterior is featured in “Silver Linings Playbook”

RickB on April 26, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Hidden City Philadelphia has an update on restoration efforts.

RickB on August 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Veteran concert promoter Herb Spivak said this afternoon in an interview on WXPN radio that he is involved with the restoration and that it is nearing completion. Watch this space…

RickB on March 2, 2015 at 4:02 am

Up next: some exterior work and a campaign to get a liquor license. story here.

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