1620 Market Street,
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Firms: Hoffman-Henon Co.
Previous Names: Stanley Theatre, Stanton Theatre
News About This Theater
- May 6, 2009 — Historic downtown Philadelphia cinemas added or revised
This cinema showplace had 3 names, with Stanton Theatre lasting the longest, but as Milgrim Theatre was the most recent name, it is so listed here on Cinema Treasures.
Originally opened as the Stanley Theatre on April 25, 1914 with the movie “The Sea Wolf”. The theatre was named after Stanley Mastbaum, president of The Stanley Company, and was the flagship of the theatre chain. Designed by architect William H. Hoffman, the facade was in white terra cotta. The auditorium was decorated with designs in plaster such as cupids. The theatre had a 3 Manual / 28 Rank, classical Austin organ. A symphony orchestra was organized in 1915 to accompany the silent films.
When the Stanley Company built a larger (4,000-seat) movie theatre at 19th Street and Market Street, to be their new ‘Stanley’ flagship, opening January 28, 1921, this older Stanley Theatre was renamed Stanton Theatre. Only the last three letters on the signs had to be changed.
The auditorium was rather steep, so in 1955, as the ads boasted, ‘Philadelphia’s Only Theatre Escalator’ was added for access to the balconies. In 1956, architect David Supowitz oversaw renovations, including a new white marble facade and huge, curved marquee. An almost all-glass box office was installed at the front, replacing the old one. The lobby was expanded and redecorated with a new luminous lobby ceiling and panels. To install a wider screen, the auditorium side boxes were removed.
At this downtown movie palace, until about 1958, ‘B’ pictures including action films, low-budget westerns, and double features were exclusively shown before being distributed elsewhere in the Philadelphia region. Action films were frequently featured. Popular horror films were showcased at both the Stanley Theatre and the Stanton Theatre, with the Stanton Theatre getting the ‘B’ horror films. George Raft appeared in person at the opening of “Loan Shark” in May 1952. The world premiere of “The Fighter” was hosted May 29, 1952 with star Richard Conte appearing in person at the theatre. Bob Matthias and fellow athlete Jesse Owens appeared in person on the stage in 1954 for the local premiere of the movie “The Bob Matthias Story”. “Rumble on the Docks” was shown in 1957 with star, South Philadelphia native, James Darren appearing in person at the Stanton Theatre. In the summer of 1957, Sal Mineo appeared in person for the opening of “The Young Don’t Cry”. Frankie Avalon, Dick Clark and other stars of the movie musical “Jamboree” appeared in person on the stage in November 1957 for the movie’s world premiere. In 1958, the ‘B’ picture policy changed as “The Defiant Ones” ran most of the summer followed by the Oscar winning “I Want to Live”. In 1960, this former flagship Stanley theatre again hit a highlight of its long life as it hosted a reserved seat roadshow presentation of “Cimarron”. “In the Heat of the Night” was shown in 1967.
In 1968, the RKO Stanley Warner Co. sold the Stanton Theatre to Milgram Theatres, owners of the neighboring Fox Theatre. The Stanton Theatre was renamed Milgram Theatre. In 1968, a concept rendering was done (available on line at Temple Urban Archives) showing a totally new facade and marquee. The theatre facade was subsequently so remodeled.
In May, 1980, the Milgram Theatre closed. The square block (Market Street to Chestnut Street, 16th Street to 17th Street) that used to house the Milgrim Theatre, the Fox Theatre, the Stage Door Theatre, the Studio Theatre, the Regency Twin Theatre and the Duke and Duchess Theatre, is now occupied by the 1600 Market Street office building (PNC Bank Center) and Liberty Place.
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