Films at the Sedgwick takes Baby Steps

posted by DSTitus on November 1, 2006 at 9:15 am

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Sedgwick Theater, once the Sedgwick Cultural Center at 7137 Germantown Ave, is closed, except for the occational films.

I started showing films in the Sedgwick in July of 06. The Sedgwick was a beautiful building- Art Deco, built in 1928. It closed in the 60s and was bought up and divided, the theater space was cinderblocked off, and the remaining lobbies ignored. With the theater space able to seat over 1600 people, the former owners figured… hey, I could probably cut a good profit by stripping the theater down, and turning it into a storage facility.

And so it sat until the 1990s when it went back on the market and was bought by the current owners. They’re the ones who set up the Cultural Center, but as far as I can tell, the running cost of the building ran the non-profit into the ground.

So that brings me to Films at the Sedgwick. I started by showing some public domain films for free, trying to give the building a presence once again.

And now, I’ve come to a sort of crossroads. I need help. I can’t do this alone anymore all out of pocket. So with our sites set on the Sedgwick Theater, we’re thinking big and starting small. Next door I’m openning the Little Theater, the Sedgwick’s baby sister. And as of November, the Little Theater an intimate 25 seat theater will be a second-run theater, showing films every weekend.

What I need is Art Deco theater decor, A ticket booth, a sign/marquee, and I need to take this full time. In short, I need donations, investors, and lots of advice to start building the Sedgwick’s comeback.

Thank-you in advance for your help.
-David Titus
Director, Films at the Sedgwick

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Comments (12)

raymondgordonsears on November 1, 2006 at 1:31 pm

You need to go into more details as to equipment, etc. What is the status of the theatre NOW. I’ve been in the aud. through the storage company, But what has changed. Detail are important if you want MONEY. rg

DSTitus on November 3, 2006 at 6:05 am

More details- The lobbies of the Sedgwick is currently the only functional space in the building. The outter lobby is in relatively good condition, and as I understand it, that is where consessions would have been located. The Inner lobby lead to the bathrooms, and the coat check. Now, the inner lobby is being used as the theater. This is problematic for many reasons, but it’s not accoustically appropriate for showing films.

How have we showed films there in the past? The equipment we use is a digital projector, along with a mac mini. The programs are edited to create a seamless experience. The whole program is then played straight from a harddrive. The sound system is a pa and speakers.

So when we talk about details about equipment, and the status of the theater now, I can say that what equipment there is is not appropriate- terrifically undersized for the venue, and the renovation costs to restore the Sedgwick completely have been estimated by at least two surveys at around 12 million.

The Little Theater, will be screening second-run films from DVD on a digital projector which is well suited to the size of the room, and the theater has an excellent surround sound system. It is a way to start showing films, and getting people used to having a theater experience in Mt. Airy. I am certain I can keep people coming to see the films we show, but I want to keep the future of the Sedgwick in sight and to tie the building’s return in with our small venue.

-David Titus
Director, Films at the Sedgwick

raymondgordonsears on November 3, 2006 at 7:38 am

Who owns the theatre now and the equipment. rg

KenLayton on November 4, 2006 at 9:31 am

You’re showing videos——for shame. You need a projection booth and motion picture film projectors. Then you can legitimately book (and pay film rental) on 16mm or 35mm films.

DSTitus on November 4, 2006 at 10:09 am

We are renting films legitimately on DVD from a distributor. I’m using Swank ( I refuse to show something without properly paying for the rights to do so. I would like to screen 16mm or 35mm, but what equipment that is available is digital. So “For Shame” isn’t very fair.

raymondgordonsears on November 4, 2006 at 1:19 pm

Who owns the theater. This is very important in regards to what you put into this project. You could put money and equipment into thos and if you don’t own the theater and someone comes along with money to buy the building for retail or non movie use you are s—– out of luck. These are important questions. As for “For Shame” I understand your pain. As a former theater manager in the good old days film was it. BUT today Video is in. rg

KenLayton on November 4, 2006 at 8:07 pm

There’s plenty of good condition used 16mm and 35mmfilm projection equipment available. Just check with your nearest theater equipment dealer.

If you show videos then you should state that in your advertising with a phrase like “shown on video” or “video presentation”.

optlabguy on November 19, 2006 at 4:45 pm

I sure wish I knew how to help you. You see, my Grandfather, John Collins, was the projectionist from the day it opened till the day it closed around 1965.
I still remember the projection room,it was up a few flights of stairs on the right side toward the rear of the lobby.
Good luck with your endeavor, and if I could be of some help please contact me.
Ed Collins

Bischof on January 6, 2007 at 12:27 am – They SHOULD have used projectors which they SHOULD be willing to sell. I know they have them still… it’s just a matter of whether or not they’re willing to part with them.

cinemaforyou on February 13, 2007 at 11:45 am


Is it legal to rent a movie from BLOCKBUSTER and play it at the movie theater, but you’re not charging people for the movie but food and soda?>

cinemaforyou on February 13, 2007 at 11:45 am


Is it legal to rent a movie from BLOCKBUSTER and play it at the movie theater, but you’re not charging people for the movie but food and soda?

DSTitus on February 15, 2007 at 10:39 am

Cinemaforyou… I’m sorry, but no. Blockbuster has videos you can rent for home viewing only. In fact, the MPAA (motion picture association of america) would love any home-theater owner to register and pay an additional fee to own equipment that can screen films larger than 72" and to more than you and your family. Ouch. So what that means is that if you are in my boat, and want to screen films in the community, you need a distributer, such as “Swank” or “Criterion USA”, and then you need financial backing. With our 25 seat theater, our distributers are asking $100 per film* to get the PPR (public performance rights).

*or if you sell tickets, %50 of the door for ticket sales over twice the rental cost. ie $200 in ticket sales = $100 rental fee… $250 in ticket sales = $125 rental fee

If you run the numbers, it becomes quite hard to cover your costs (let alone make a living at it.) I’m lucky that I’ve got minimal funding which covers the cost of film rentals, for now… and a day job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m working on a business plan for the Little Theater, but It’s proving very… very… difficult. I thought I’d find some helpful exhibitioners here that went through this process- But as of yet, I’ve only heard scoffs about how shameful it is to screen on video rather than film.

Consessions have helped in screenings, but only one in four of my audience decides to get a snack before the movie. Even if it were “free” to show a movie publicly without selling tickets- to raise 12million dollars for the Sedgwick’s rebuild- with the $25 worth of consessions each night, would take 1,315 years.

So I’m still at the drawing board… Now if every person in Mt. Airy (Population 37,412) gave me $320.75… I could come up with 12,000,000 dollars. Then again, if everyone reading this mailed me a dollar?

Here’s an article on the MPAA’s desired home theater fee:
View link

If anyone has some business advice as to how they’ve made their Theater a successful business, please email me at

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