Arcadia Theatre

1529 Chestnut Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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Arcadia Theatre  1529 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Arcadia Theatre was on the north side of Chestnut Street between 15th Street and 16th Street. Alexander R. Boyd built the theatre. The two story facade was brick with white terra cotta. The main lobby had a cove lit ceiling, polished brown marble columns with gold Corinthinan caps and marbled and mirrored walls. The auditorium was decorated in a French Renaissance style and had a 2 manual, 13 rank Kimball theatre organ.

The Arcadia Theatre opened April 24, 1915 as a first run movie theatre with the movie “The High Road” and prices of 15c for matinee and 25c for evening shows. The April 25, 1915 Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the theatre had an air-conditioning system. and that the overall design was part of a shift towards more elaborate exhibition spaces such as picture palaces.

The Arcadia was sold to the Stanley Corporation. In the 1920’s it was sold to the Sablosky Corporation which operated other movie theatres throughout the region. It was remodeled twice in the 1920’s.

By the 1950’s, a newer, circular or curved marquee was present, and the ornate facade remodeled or covered up. In 1967, the facade was remodeled again and a newer marquee (which fronts the current store) was installed. The main ornate lobby was gutted, and expanded into what had been the store to the west that was built with the theatre. A basement lounge and more restrooms were added. The decor of the auditorium was also made plainer. The Arcadia advertised ‘a giant new screen’.

From its opening, the Arcadia Theatre showed movies that catered to an upscale Chestnut Street audience. Among the classic films that had their first runs here were: “Tales of Hoffmann”(1951), “The Bad and the Beautiful”(1952), Marlon Brando in “Julius Caesar”(1953), Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”(1954), “Blackboard Jungle”(1955), “High Society”(1956), “Imitation of Life”(1959), Hitchcock’s “Psycho”(1960), “Breakfast at Tiffanys”(1961), “Darling”(1965), “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”(1967), “Rosemary’s Baby”(1968), “Harold and Maude(1971), "Tommy”(1975), and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”(1975).

The Arcadia Theatre closed in 1978 and was converted into a fast food restaurant, Gino’s, which became Roy Rogers when that chain purchased Gino’s. Sad as it was to lose the theatre, it was the most interesting fast food place in town. It retained the slope of the theatre, with a ramp to the former stage where the food was sold. The seating was in tiers in the former audience area.

By the 1990’s, the restaurant had closed, and after years of being boarded up, the main floor became a women’s clothing store. Posted on the building in 2004 were photos of the upper portion of the former auditorium, now a second floor, showing that it retained ornate decor including the upper portion of the proscenium arch and a ceiling dome, and was available for rent. In 2007, that space was also rented. As of 2009, the upstairs hosts the Chestnut Club at Arcadia Theatre, a catering and event facility. Its website’s history link has well utilized this introduction.

Contributed by William Arndt, George Quirk, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 21, 2008 at 4:41 am

An obituary in The New York Times (8/31/1962) of pioneer exhibitor Alexander R. Boyd said that his Arcadia Theatre in Philadelphia was the first movie house in the USA to install an organ. No actual date was given: “Mr. Boyd was said to have walked into a store on Fifth Avenue in New York many years ago to buy an organ. He was asked to which church he wanted the instrument sent. ‘It’s not a church; it’s a theatre,’ Mr. Boyd told the surprised clerk. The organ went to the Arcadia Theatre at Sixteenth and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, which Mr. Boyd then owned.” Boyd, of course, is best known at Cinema Treasures as namesake of the Boyd Theatre and head of the A.R. Boyd Theatres chain, which he formed in 1930 after leaving Stanley Company of America when it was taken over by Warner Brothers.

finkysteet
finkysteet on July 13, 2008 at 10:12 pm

We didn’t get to this theatre until the late ‘60s after it had been modernized. I recall the drop-ceilings with fluorescent lighting mounted above them, yet the bulbs weren’t visible from the floor (trust me, as a kid I looked for them!) and always thought the decor was really cool. Hated when Roy Rogers took it over, but at least it still kinda resembled a theatre (remember the giant red neon RR sign where the screen was?) And Mandee’s just destroyed the place. ARRRGH!

veyoung52
veyoung52 on July 28, 2008 at 11:00 am

“Arcadia Theatre in Philadelphia was the first movie house in the USA to install an organ”. Quite possible. It was, however, the first movie house in Philadelphia to install Dolby optical stereo..also Dolby’s short-lived “Quintaphonic” sound system for “Tommy” 1975..(I posted this in January 2005 here)…A fairly full view of the marquee, but not the large billboard above the marquee is in the “special features” section of the “Psycho” DVD. The Arcadia was hand-picked by Paramount Pictures to be one of the world premiering houses of “Psycho” in 1960, along with theatres in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on June 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm

This is an October 1943 photo. The marquee has evolved from the 1930s version.
http://tinyurl.com/l5n2pe

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on January 20, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Here is a July 1967 photo from Temple U:
http://tinyurl.com/yzos5pp

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on February 23, 2010 at 7:59 am

Vince Young informs me that on 7/4/67 Arcadia reopens after renovation…advertising “gigantic new screen”…opening attraction “Two For The Road”

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on February 24, 2010 at 1:53 am

Actually the last film to play before renovations was Doctor You’ve Got To Be Kiddiung. They reopened wityh a film in 70mm I think called The General. Two For the Road came after that. That was 43 years ago so my memory could be foggy

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 4, 2010 at 8:51 am

Interesting photos.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 14, 2012 at 10:19 am

Described in this 1915 trade article: archive

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