Narberth Theatre

129 N. Narberth Avenue,
Narberth, PA 19072

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The Narberth opened on November 1, 1927 with “Loves of Carmen”. Evening performances were 35 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. Matinee prices were 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. After the vestibule lobby was the main lobby, and then the foyer. Turning right, was the auditorium. When built, the auditorium was open to the foyer which included stairs going up to the restrooms, but eventually a wall was built to separate the auditorium from the foyer. The auditorium had 856 seats, a Wurlitzer organ(long since gone), a stage and dressing rooms for vaudeville. The theatre was built and operated by Salasin and Freed, was decorated by Harry Brodsky and its lighting fixtures were furnished by Voigt Company.

Architect Jacob Ethan Fieldstein used New York City’s Roxy Theatre as an inspiration, and the Spanish style design of the nearby Seville Theatre(Bryn Mawr) may also have been an inspiration. Philadelphia theatre architect William H. Lee worked on the Narberth, perhaps sharing original design or renovations such as the glass topped wall that sometime after opening separated the foyer from the auditorium (until the wall later was remodeled to be all wood). The Lee designed State Theatre in Easton, PA has decoration which resembles the Narberth Theatre.

Franklin Enterprises from Atlantic City operated the Narberth from 1939. In 1971 David and Barbara Wax purchased the Narberth from Franklin Enterprises. They employed a decorator who restored the decorative interior and refurbished it. Eventually their son Greg Wax took over operations, and installed digital surround sound. In the auditorium, the original chandelier changed colors, and the side walls had original sconces which were lit during the film. The screen was 32 feet wide for ‘scope films, the screen curtain was used for each film, and there were 576 seats. The seats were replaced in the Spring 2001 with comfortable seats from the nearby closed Wynnewood Theatre.

Greg Wax has continued to operate the Narberth under new owners. In 2004 the Narberth was re-modeled, re-opening in December. On the exterior, the original ticket booth was removed. Ticket sales are now inside the lobby which was re-modeled with a larger concession stand. Restrooms were re-located to the main floor near the auditorium in space previously occupied by a stairway.

A wall was built in the middle of the auditorium facing the former screen, creating two stadium seated 212 seat auditoriums. The auditorium’s decorative plaster was hidden behind fake walls and ceilings, but not destroyed, so that it could be revealed in the future. Each auditorium received new seats and digital surround sound. Film projection and sound, movie selection, and quality of the food at the concession stand at the Narberth Theatre have always been to the highest possible standards under the Wax family operation.

Contributed by Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

savingtheboyd on April 18, 2005 at 7:16 pm

In late 2004, the Narberth was twinned. Howard Haas

HowardBHaas on November 22, 2006 at 5:08 am

Worst Remolding Job
Once one of the few remaining golden age of Hollywood single-screen theaters, the Narberth met a fate worse than the wrecking ball when the owner twinned the house and “improved” the setting but charmlessly destroyed, removed or covered up all the original ornate decoration. Now called the Narberth Stadium 2, the theater gives local residents of the sleepy village of Narberth the awful megaplex experience without the drive.

In Philadelphia Weekly today:
View link

HowardBHaas on July 17, 2007 at 6:33 am

Photo of current exterior, original ticket boothgone in the twinning renovation:
View link

HowardBHaas on July 19, 2007 at 11:08 am

in today’s Inquirer Food Section:
Posted on Thu, Jul. 19, 2007 email thisprint thisreprint or license thisOn the Side | Viva ratatouille – the movie and the idealBy Rick Nichols
Inquirer Columnist
It is the time, almost, of ratatouille, the local, field-grown tomatoes finally blushing up, and skinny eggplants and new zucchini, sweet peppers and cool, porcelain onions, all ripening for the picking – although the peppers are not quite what you’d call abundant, yet.
It is a French peasant dish, as the movie tie-in charmingly informs, a homey, kitchen-sink stew, basically, of all the stuff in the Proven̤al (or Philadelphia) summer garden Рplus garlic, olive oil, and, in some versions, basil, which is nothing if not gone totally berserk next to my pokey tomato crop.

It is the flavor of seriously deep July and August, of sunshine and juicy squash, meaty eggplant, sweet onion and tangy tomato, uncomplicated and mightily soulful. Bake it with fresh eggs cracked into wells on top; it can be a full Sunday supper.

Ratatouille, the movie, of course, is about a lot of things – about the triumph of the little guy, about grace under pressure, about keeping hope alive, about listening to your heart, going the distance, etc.

But it is also about rescuing a culinary reputation (of the late chef Auguste Gusteau) from an impostor who would cheapen it; turn it into a brand to peddle a line of frozen burritos and Chinese dishes – “make it CHINE-easy.”

So it came to pass that on the eve of my second trip to the Narberth Theater to see the film, I found myself contemplating a sample packet of the summer’s new seasoning shaker, something called “Great'a Tomat'a, with Lycopene!”

The Great'a Tomat'a Web site has a succinct critique of what’s wrong with your supermarket tomato: It’s not fully ripened on the vine, the better to enhance shelf-life. So its aroma, color, juiciness, chemistry and flavor are underdeveloped, leaving you with a pale imitation that tastes like, well, you know… .

Even New Jersey’s storied tomato fits that profile, its once-vast acreage vastly shrunken, its genetics – favoring thicker skin and longer shelf-life – now little different from any other commercial tomato. Talk about a reputation squandered!

This is not news. Tomato-modifying began falling on hard times years ago. A bad turn? In 1994, the genetically modified Flavr Savr tomato slowed down ripening, so the fruit could stay on the vine longer, but not spoil on the way to market.

But it didn’t taste very good. And one Cornell horticulture professor was moved to observe, it was bred from a bland variety to begin with: “There was very little flavor to save.”

For $3.49 the shaker-full, Great'a Tomat'a (Flavr Savr? Great'a Tomat'a? Who names these things? Rappers?) promises to restore the tomato’s glory; the missing ingredients of flavor, aroma, the tart, the tang.

So what technology has so carelessly expunged, technology will now artfully restore, cutting nature out of the equation entirely: Lab creates lousy tomato. Lab creates way to mask lousy tomato’s taste.

Except that the seasoning does nothing of the sort. I tried it on a hard, red, so-labeled “Jersey tomato,” and a slice tasted flavorless without it – and flavorless with it. “What is it, baby powder?” to quote my 11-year-old granddaughter.

And so we went on our way, ambling over the bridge humped across the SEPTA tracks, to see Ratatouille.

The movie reminds you, among other things, that anyone can add flavor to food, but with mixed result. (The model for the stunningly swirled ratatouille in the movie, by the way, was created by California’s celebrated master chef Thomas Keller.)

But the very best flavor must already be in the eggplant, squash and tomato to truly get in the dish, the result of good seed and good earth, good sun and good rain.

And there is only one way for a restaurant to get that, the sous chef Colette confides: Grow it yourself, or bribe the best farmer to get the first pick.

HowardBHaas on February 28, 2009 at 8:24 am

The Narberth now has 3D capability, starting yesterday with “The Jonas Brothers” in the auditorium to the right, with a new, larger screen. The Narberth’s exterior was featured yesterday on 5:30 PM WPVI TV (Channel 6) news.

bobc316 on February 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

i agree howard. i was in the narberth that was the worst cheapass job, plus they destroyed the tiled water fountain which i was willing to pay top dollar for. id rather see a movie theatre torn down or converted to something else then cheap work it with plaster and other bad ideas. at least the brookline theatre went out with dignity.

HowardBHaas on March 23, 2012 at 6:34 am

As of today, the Narberth’s 2nd auditorium was converted to digital projecton.

bobc316 on September 26, 2012 at 2:37 pm

the narberth theatre was built by THE FIRM OF salasin and freed who also built the BROOKLINE THEATRE and some local philadelphia theatres. the grandson of freed is in my brookline theatre facebook group.

Marlon Martinez
Marlon Martinez on December 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm

This theatre is offering a Groupon for tickets:

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