Renel Theatre

7238 Ogontz Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA

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The theatre opened in September 1937 with second run pictures and closed in 1967. This theatre had a very large (working) fireplace in the inner lobby. The interior had glass bricks, modern murals, recessed lighting. A nice neighborhood theatre. Great Saturday matinees

Contributed by ray

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

raymondgordonsears on October 11, 2005 at 8:08 pm

YES the Saturday matinee was GREAT. Cartoons, Shorts, Serial and 1 or 2 Features. What a GREAT afternoon. My Cub Scout pack held a scouting program at the theatre which gave me some freedom to move around. I have a nice B&W photo with my cub pack on the giant stage. rg

raymondgordonsears on March 21, 2007 at 9:48 pm

Looking pictures of this theater before it went to adult movies. Thanks rg You can contact me at

veyoung52 on September 15, 2007 at 2:56 am

I was just at a funeral service at this former theatre, now the Upper Room Baptist Church. I was never in the Renel, but from reading these posts now see why this theatre was called the “sister” of the Erlen further Northwest, since there was also a “sunrise proscenium” effect here (see Bobo’s post of 10/11/05) and a post of mine on the Erlen page on 1/21/05. The building, especially the lobby area, is in remarkably good shape. Now I wish I would have spent some Saturday afternoons here. BTW, the church lists its street number as 7236 not 7238.

raymondgordonsears on December 4, 2007 at 1:17 am

Every so often when coming home from the station I will drive through my old neighborhood and I will stop church (theater). The folks are sooo nice and let me spend a little time remembering when I was a kid and spent a lot of time in this building. rg

HowardBHaas on February 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

If you google search EXACTLY “Boxoffice May 29, 1937” and when the issue appears, type “Philadelphia” in the search box then after enough clicks, you will eventually see a photo of the glass block fireplace & mural above it! (next to a photo of a giant Hollywood vertical sign).

Does the fireplace & mural survive?

raymondgordonsears on February 16, 2009 at 4:49 pm

The next time I come home from work that way I will stop in and check it out. rg

teegee on March 19, 2009 at 4:25 am

Thanks, Howard, for the link to the Renel’s fireplace. I remember those chairs very well, although I never sat in them. When I was going to the Renel in the late 50’s and early 60’s the lounge always seemed to be very dimly lit and creepy to this young boy. I was very quick in going to the boys room (I think to the left of the fireplace, girls to the right) and did not want to linger in the lounge at all.

kencmcintyre on August 19, 2009 at 7:45 am

Here is a better view of the 1969 photo. The photo is from the Irvin Glazer theater collection:

mlittle on March 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I was an usher in the Renel Theatre in 1952 or 1953 (I was 15 years old). At that time, my responsibilities were to usher patrons to their seats by holding a flashlight behind me and focusing is on the patrons feet, to clean the theatre after performances (a formidable task after Saturday matinees), and to clean the restrooms. I also had to change the marquee on a very high ladder (in poor condition) with new performances. I got to know the projectionist quite well and he would invite me into the upstairs booth to watch while he switched from one projector to the next. When he needed to splice broken film he would give me a few 35 mm frames from films. I had frames from “Young Bess,” “Stalag 17” and others. Most of the films shown I would watch 15-20 times, and it was after “The Juggler” played that I taught myself to juggle. My most vivid memory was when we converted to 3-D. I worked until 3:00am while the screen was painted silver and a device was added to the two projectors for coordinated projection. Films that we had during this period were “Bwana Devil” and the “Wax Museum.” The Renel was a “2nd Run” theatre so most of the films that were presented were several weeks or months old by the time they arrived at the theatre. Several years later, my sister worked at the Renel in the ticket booth selling tickets.

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