Great Northern Theatre

3639 N. Broad Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19140

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Here is the 1925 photo credit PhillyHistory.org

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Great Northern Theatre was one of Philadelphia’s early neighborhood houses. Located on Broad Street, just south of Erie Avenue, was opened in 1913. In 1916 it was remodeled and expanded to plans by Philadelphia architects Henon & Boyle. At some point, an Austin organ was installed (Opus 636.)

Vintage photos show that the Great Northern Theatre was still in operation in the late-1930s. It’s possible that at some later time the entrance was moved to Germantown Avenue, as the building extended through the block. The seating capacity was given as 1,050 in the early-1940’s.

The Great Northern Theatre was still listed as operating in the 1950 edition of Film Daily Yearbook. It was closed in 1953.

Additional information about the Great Northern Theatre would be appreciated.

Contributed by Joe Vogel

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Philly History provides this 1925 photo of the Great Northern Theatre.

Another page at Philly History has a paragraph about the Great Northern, saying that it had entrances on both Broad Street and Germantown Avenue, that it was expanded from a nickelodeon on the site in 1912, and that the building was converted into a drug store in 1953. The paragraph does not mention the 1916 expansion designed by Henon & Boyle, which was noted in issues of The Moving Picture World and at least one other trade journal that year.

This Facebook page about businesses on Germantown Avenue lists the Strand, Temple, and Great Northern as the theaters on Germantown between Tioga Street and Erie Avenue. The Strand is listed at Cinema Treasures, but I don’t see a page for the Temple. I’ve been unable to find any other mentions of that house.

Another glimpse of the Broad Street entrance to the Great Northern Theatre can be seen at far left in this ca.1940 photo of the intersection of Broad Street and Erie Avenue. Some of the original details of the facade had been removed by this time, but the entrance is still recognizable.

It’s impossible to tell from Google’s current street view whether the entrance building has been entirely replaced, or just drastically remodeled. The Germantown Avenue side of the building, which has the front entrances of the three retail stores that now occupy the site, looks almost entirely modern, but the theater’s auditorium building appears to still be standing.

The Pipe Organ Database of the Organ Historical Society has this page listing the 2-manual, 20-rank Austin organ that once served the Great Northern Theatre. The organ’s fate is currently unknown.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 12, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Street View has been set too far south. The Great Northern’s Broad Street entrance was immediately south of the “99 cent deal” sign that is just a short way south of Erie Avenue. There is a gap in Street View along the section of Broad Street just south of the theater’s location. It looks like something temporarily went wrong with the camera, and there’s nothing shown but an orange blur.

theatergypsy
theatergypsy on September 12, 2014 at 6:08 pm

I grew up in Tioga in the ‘40s. The Great Northern was on Broad Street but could be accessed from Germantown Ave through The Arcade. The Arcade, consisting of several shops, opened on Germantown Ave.

TheALAN
TheALAN on October 5, 2014 at 7:38 am

The auditorium still exists. A sign on the side of the auditorium offers: SPACE FOR RENT — 6,000 PLUS SQ./FT. — 2 Main Entrance (Broad St. & Germantown Ave.) — For Information Call: … .

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