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When the “Sameric” as it was then named, closed in 2002, there was a sign in the Grand Lobby leading to the historic auditorium which proclaimed “Philadelphia’s largest movie screen.” Having seen numerous movies there, I can attest to the fact that the screen was large enough to truly excite any cinema lover. I say “was” with some hesitation because I understand the screen is still there, but we no longer see it since the Fire Curtain was lowered a year ago. The screen could not be reused, and its removal will happen when major work starts. In the meantime, the Fire Curtain with its triangles and original paint colors, is much more fun to look at than the screen, which became torn & written on after the theater closed.
I have seen screens in front of proscenium arches, though I think only in places still used as daily moviehouses. There needs be a place for the screen to go, whether in the floor or the ceiling. It won’t be the ornate ceiling. And, it would be expensive, complicated, and take some room, no doubt, for it to go into the floor.
Fortunately, the Arch is wide and big enough for a very large movie screen. It wasn’t wide enough for Cinerama, but for other format films, 35 mm- incuding Scope, and 70 mm, the Arch will house a screen big enough to impress film audiences. I’ve seen movies in numerous historic movie palaces from Boston to California, and Europe, too, so I do believe I can say that the screen will be appropriate.
And, I’m not saying that we have no appreciation for an even larger screen. I love the Uptown in D.C. and can only imagine that the Boyd with its Cinerama sized screens (at least two different sizes says Vince Young above) compared. However, the Boyd can have a movie screen within the Arch that people will very much enjoy. And, perhaps in the future, people can figure out an affordable way to have an even bigger screen present itself, if that’s what they want! As you say, the critical need is the survival of the last movie palace.
The Cinerama screen, the circular marquee, and Ben Hur were all products of their time, half a century ago, as movie palaces sought to survive in the TV era. We’re in a different era now. The Boyd, with its original Art Deco features restored, will once again entertain audiences.
The Cinerama screen was taken down in 1971, revealing then & ever since then, the beautiful Proscenium Arch. Fortunately, the auditorium was designed very wide, so that a large Cinemascope screen entertained audiences since 1971.
Buildings especially movie palaces, do stand proudly on their own. They don’t try to ape their neighbors. The original marquee will blend with the rest of the Boyd architecture, exterior and interior.
The Boyd was built, and viewed from the start, as a downtown showplace movie palace, not a “large-sized nickelodeon” Hollywood stars regularly arrived with the films. Alexander Boyd intended it to be the flagship of a movie circuit empire. He probably had to sell it to Warner Bros because the national studio also was purchasing the Stanley Co theaters, and he couldn’t compete against a nationwide firm- same problem many companies have today.
When the Boyd reopens with many of the magnificient Art Deco features that it originally had, people will once again enjoy its true glory!
As to W. H. Lee, he was a great theater architect who didn’t get to design a downtown Philadelphia movie palace. Much of the Boyd was simplified in 1953, a common post-WW2 trend, but that didn’t make it better. Many remember a huge curved screen in front of the Proscenium Arch, but that-like the 3 orchestra projection booths- likely was built for the specifications of the Cinerama company. I’ve always liked the circular marquee, but it seems more appropriate for a 1950’s Penn Center building. The original French Art Deco marquee will fit better at the Boyd.
Sam’s son Merton ran the Sameric Corporation after Sam died. A grandson, Eric died young & was memoralized by the naming of so many of the theaters as Eric. I don’t about others.
In 1991, I enjoyed the restored 70 MM 6 track print of Spartacus on one of the two large (40 foot wide) screens at the Worldwide Plaza, before that theater went 2nd run. It was presented fine there. I had missed it at the Ziegfeld & at the Uptown in Washington. I’d love to see it in 70 MM at the Uptown and I’m sure many people would love to see it at the Ziegfeld. I’ve not seen the Alamo. On vacation, I did see a 35 MM print of Mad World at the Castro in S.F. More 70 MM prints of classics please!
Magaziner was the architect. Shapiro was the client. The Boyd theater later knew Shapiro as he who bought it in 1971 for the Sameric Corporation. Irv Glazer’s hardback book on Philadelphia theaters makes clear that Shapiro was the client.
I attend first run films at the Ziegfeld, and do NOT have any problems with the presentation, and I’m picky.
The Godfather was perfect!
It does sound like at least a couple crappy prints were sent by studios: certainly Alien, and possibly this very spliced print of Lawrence of Arabia.
From what I can read, Clearview has learned much & improved for some of these “classics” concerns of intermissions, etc.
So, let’s not get down on Clearview. MANY people appreciated the classic film festival. One matter they can improve- those 2 week passes need more time, even if they happen to be good at their other venues. People need time to find something they want to see.
I met Steve at the Uptown when he was showing The Aviator and the platter had arrived. I’m sorry he’s gone.
I don’t disagree that the Uptown is great for 70 mm, but those of us who love this theater do enjoy 35 mm and especially Scope films there.
Steve is correct in that there seem to be fewer movies worthy of adult patronage in movie theaters. It almost seemed that Hollywood issued better movies in 70 mm 6 track, and when a decade ago that format died when DTS arrived, Hollywood stopped trying. There arestill some worthwhile films, but fewer.
70 mm classics have often returned over the years, so I hope the current exhibitor (AMC) presents more 70 mm classic films. Hollywood doesn’t seem to be issuing any new movies in 70 mm or blowups from 35 mm, but classics look & sound great on the Uptown!
I’m guessing they did NOT remove the second platter. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that for classics, a platter should never be used? The prints are rare & the studios & archives don’t want theaters to use platters for the rare prints, right? When we retrieved film equipment from the closed Boyd in Philadelphia (to reinstall later in the upstairs original booth), we retrieved the two 35-70 mm movie projectors (and an extra one from an adjoining auditorium) and told management to toss the platter!
I wasn’t at Lawrence, but agree that it was unacceptable to run the sound out of sync with the visuals. The paid projectionist should have known how to put the film back on track after it burned, but since he didn’t, I see nothing wrong with audience members who were
evidently projectionists helping out. Those of us who aren’t projectionists wouldn’t have volunteered.
Yesterday, I enjoyed a collector’s original 1956 print of The Ten Commandments at the Loew’s Jersey in Jersey City. There are comments at that site as to how impressed everybody was. As much as I love the Ziegfeld, it is an even greater experience walking into the Grand Lobby, Auditorium, and other public areas of one of the grandest neoclassic 1920’s movie palaces ever built. The Loews doesn’t have a working curtain, or side and back sound, so we should appreciate those features even more at the Ziegfeld.
Hal, I’d love to see 70 mm film festivals, and that includes some of the recent Ziegfeld classics that weren’t presented in 70 mm but were issued that way.
As to new releases, there’s another problem. 70 mm presentations are expensive, as you know. They was more of an effeciency of scale when they were presented in single screen flagship houses in the cities. One 70 mm print was shown in an auditorium that ranged from 500 seats (such as the Paris) to 1000+ seats. Unfortunately, there’s very few such screens left! The blockbuster movie is often presented in a multiplex every half hour, requiring several prints, and at the same time throughout the city & suburbs since there’s no more downtown exclusive for maintream movies. The cost of making, shipping, and showing all those 70 mm prints would be high.
No doubt the old days were better: 70 mm 6 track on giant screens in single screen moviehouses!
Thanks, Dennis, and Mike.
“Philadelphia” had its premiere in the historic Boyd, then known as the Sameric, but its actual run was at Sam’s Place I and II, where I saw it.
The Milgram family, owner of Fox, Milgram, and assuming the Stage Door was the auditorium created from the Fox stage, sold. I don’t know if PNB was the developer or merely the tenant, but if not them, somebody else would have leased the office building that arose in its place.
The late Willard Rouse was the developer of Liberty Place. From what I hear, the Duke and Duchess were no great loss. The Regency wasn’t a single screen past half a decade. I was in it as a twin, and in that capacity, it, too, was no great loss.
I believe that it was in 1953 that the original Stanley Warner company, which belonged to Warner Bros, was divested from Warner Bros due to antitrust law. So, it wasn’t the Hollywood studio that demolished the Mastbaum, which was a “white elephant” from the start. The Mastbaum was closed more often than opened, and cost more to keep it closed than to open it. It was too huge, and too costly to staff, heat, etc. Regardless, it was one of the greatest movie palaces ever built, and those who recall it speak of it with awe, a “cathedral” or “opera house” setting that was glorious.
Movie theaters did indeed change with the times, and they have indeed evolved- into multiplex theaters.
The Randolph page says 2001 played there. So, the local premiere was at the Boyd, but the run was at the Randolph? Do you have a date for the premiere being at the Boyd? We are working to document the Boyd’s history.
That’s a big difference.
It is possible that the Capital Theatre’s box office was redone by that firm. Many theaters had exterior remodels in whole or part.
Despite what the PAB site says, this theater opened in 1913, not 1933. Despite what Glazer lists, Thalheimer and Weitz weren’t the architects- except maybe for a remodel. And, from the PAB photo, it looks nothing like the Devon.
Unfortunately, architect name isn’t in Glazer’s books on theaters. My W.H. Lee file doesn’t include the Castor in the list of theaters he designed (Note: the list says it may not include them all), so probably not by him. There were at least several architects at the time in Philadelphia well designing Art Deco movie theaters. If & when I see more information, I will share here.
Go visit & photo exterior? and the Tyson, too, Theaterbuff1?
Congratulations, and THANK YOU Ross, Patrick et all for YOUR great work. This site is a wonderful resource of information for so many purposes, including all of us who want to visit theaters in other cities.
THIS page is for the Castor theater, not the Tyson, which was a separate theater at a different address. Why don’t you go visit & see, TheaterBuff1?
More references here, including that interior redecoration was in 1938, and an exterior photo. It would be neat to see a photo of the interior as redone in 1938. And, it would be nice to have photos of the exterior from now linked to this site. I wander if any interior decoration is still visible? Anybody want to pretend to be a pervert & buy a ticket just to see?
The late Irvin R. Glazer in his out of print hardback
“Philadelphia Theatres, A-Z” (1986) has the following entry:
ACE THEATRE (Windsor, Holiday), 4204 Kensington Avenue, capacity 920. The Ace Theatre is a two story plain red brick structure with a large multi-colored marquee. It was built in the early 1920’s as the Windsor, a silent movie house. It was entirely re-decorated in the moderne style by theater architect W. H. Lee after it became the Ace. In the ‘70’s, it became the Holiday, a porno house. Most of the exterior decoration is hidden by the city transit authority’s elevated railway structure."
I agree with what Theaterbuff1 says in the first paragraph above, especially the “remote possibility” that things will change. It certainly isn’t impossible that a theater building could again be reused as a theater in the future. At this point in time, most theaters have a greater chance of being reused for live performance or church than for daily single screen cinema.
We have found photos of the Boyd over time to be invaluable for its restoration, as well as documentation of its history, and our public relations campaign. We are still seeking and obtain such photos.
You will find Art Holiday on this site, but search under Holiday Art, and you can issue your comments on that page. I found it by google “Art Holiday Philadelphia cinema treasures” and found its title in this website.
I would add that Theaterbuff1’s photos of current exteriors of Mayfair and Holmes theaters adds to our history and documentation of our theaters, and of our changing neighborhoods. I would encourage him to continue to photograph those theaters as their uses change, and other theaters, too and post such photos online (linking to this website) and provide copies of those photos to places like the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Central Library of Free Library of Philadelphia’s Theatre Collection, and the Theatre Historical Society of America (by print, CD, etc.). Future generations should know what happenned to each theater, and see photos of any surviving original features such as marquee, poster cases,etc. That service is invaluable.