Circle Theatre

4650 Frankford Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA 19124

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Circle Theatre

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Built on the site of the Empire Theatre (aka Northwood Theatre). The Circle Theatre opened April 30, 1929 with Thomas Meighan in “The Argyle Case”. It was designed by the firm of Hoffman-Henon Co. The Circle Theatre was Philadelphia’s only Atmospheric style movie theatre.

It closed in the 1950’s. Some of the building has been used for retail. Some of the auditorium decor survives, but is not open to the public.

Contributed by graememcbain

Recent comments (view all 21 comments)

peregrinearts
peregrinearts on May 19, 2008 at 10:33 am

On May 17, I visited the Circle Theater, which is now owned by one couple, including adjacent 1-story shops. Bong Ho and Sang Koo Park have own the properties encompassing 4648 – 4662 Frankford Ave (which include the Circle) since 1991. I spoke briefly with Sang Koo, who confirmed that the theater exists in some state above the retail outlet. (They have a sporting goods and remaindered electronics business in the former vestibule and lobby spaces.) She even mentioned that the 1929 Kimball theatre organ is still in tact (to some unconfirmed degree).

She was very circumspect and rather suspicious of my interest. (They currently have $90,000 in tax liens against these properties according to the BRT.) A few more visits may be necessary to gain access to the theatre space.

diaphon
diaphon on May 30, 2008 at 5:13 pm

The Kimball organ from the Circle Theatre appears to have been removed and reinstalled in Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, Malden, MA sometime in the 1950’s based on this and other links…

http://www.pellandorgan.com/news.htm

I was told an apocryphal story that most of the Stanley-Warner organs (virtually all S-W organs were Kimballs with six notable exceptions) were removed from theatres and stored in the basement of their flagship Mastbaum theatre, and that row after row of Kimball consoles were seen, waiting to be sold off.

HowardBHaasEsq
HowardBHaasEsq on August 22, 2008 at 10:20 am

Photos 8-21-08 of pinnacle of front facade of Circle by Rob Bender:
View link

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 12, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Here is an interior photo circa 1929 from the Irvin Glazer theater collection:
http://tinyurl.com/o2s7l5

Alan_at_Circle
Alan_at_Circle on November 24, 2011 at 7:09 am

It would be interesting to see a photo of the original facade of the Circle Theatre. Also a photo of the auditorium and balcony as they exist today. I do know that the present retail stores occupy the theatres former vestibule, lobby, and foyer. I do not beleive that the retail stores extend under the theatres balcony. This area was sealed off as was the rest of the theatre. .

Alan_at_Circle
Alan_at_Circle on December 17, 2011 at 9:24 pm

On May 17, 2008, peregrinearts visited the Circle Theatre and Sang Koo Park, one of the Circle’s present owners, mentioned that the 1929 Kimball theatre organ is still intact (to some unconfirmed degree). Eleven days later, diaphon comments that the organ “appears” to have been removed in the 1950’s. Diaphon also comments that he “was told an apocryphal story”, meaning the story is questionable. The Park’s have owned the theatre since 1991. Why would Mrs. Park report that the organ is still intact if in fact it was removed? After seeing the recent photo of the stage and proscenium, it is believable that the organ is still in the Circle!

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Perhaps because links don’t auto link, I neglected in June to post this link here of current photo of auditorium facing stage! follow link to photo of lighting control panel, too http://theatrehistoricalsociety.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/philadelphias-circle-theatres-atmospheric-auditorium-seen-again/

Alan_at_Circle
Alan_at_Circle on January 6, 2012 at 12:04 am

Thanks for the link Howard!

spectrum
spectrum on June 23, 2014 at 11:22 am

The link for Howard Haas’s photo of the Circle Theatre interior has been moved. Here is the link for the blog posting:

http://www.historictheatres.org/philadelphias-circle-theatres-atmospheric-auditorium-seen-again/.

Here is a link directly to the photo: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150225757800818&set=a.10150225757795818.339858.51659460817&type=1

rivest266
rivest266 on October 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm

This opened on April 30th, 1929, just one day after the opening of the State. Grand opening ad for both theatres can be found in the photo section.

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