Saint James Place & Montgomery Avenue,
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The Suburban Theater was built by the Suburban Company in Suburban Square just north of the Ardmore railroad station of the Main Line, in Philadelphia’s western suburbs. Designed with downtown streets, the shopping center was the one of the first major shopping centers located outside a large city. It was anchored in 1930 with the first suburban branch of any of Philadelphia’s department stores, a Strawbridge and Clothier, still open, but as Macy’s.
The Suburban Theater was designed in Art Moderne style by architect William Harold Lee and had seating all on one floor. It opened in 1937. The marquee faced Suburban Square. The back of the theater faced the train tracks, and can be seen from trains passing through. The Suburban should not be confused with the Ardmore Theatre on Lancaster Avenue, on the other side of the train tracks.
In 1950, Fried Theatre Management Co, operated the theater, and also operated the Anthony Wayne, City Line Center, and theaters in Conshocken, and had its company offices in the Suburban Theatre Building. In 1969, after Suburban Square was sold, the theater underwent a facelift with repainting, new fixtures, and new seats. The Suburban theater was known for excellent projection, sightlines, and state of the art sound. It had 800 seats. The last movie operator was the local Budco chain.
In 1979, Suburban Square became even more pedestrian friendly, closing off areas to automobile traffic and landscaping as a suburban equivalent to New York’s Rockefeller Center (without the ice skating), but the movie theater closed as part of that redo.
After closure, the auditorium became one large space for the Ardmore Farmers Market until a new Farmers Market opened in 2003. With real marquee letters, the theater’s marquee advertised the market. The ticket window was still present.
Unfortunately, the current clothing store which replaced the Farmers Market made unrecognizable the historic marquee and remodelled away the ticket window. In 2014, a restaurant reuse further remodelled the façade.
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