Comments from TheaterBuff1

Showing 551 - 575 of 693 comments

TheaterBuff1 commented about Castor Theatre on Mar 23, 2006 at 5:19 pm

GOOD NEWS! I finally got a chance to make it down to Castor Avenue and Fanshawe Street today (March 23, 2006), and the Castor Theatre building is not only still standing but it looks to be in fairly good shape at that! And yes, it is now a furniture showroom. It’s on the same side of Castor Avenue that the Tyson Theatre is (southeast), and has an identically shaped marquee — triangular. The theater is unusually shaped at the back, though, roundishly cathedral-like. And over all it is very small all told.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Mayfair Theatre on Mar 20, 2006 at 8:37 pm

It was just brought to my attention today that it’s pretty close to impossible for most people to look upon the Mayfair Theatre as it is today as a “work of art.” And in all fairness to those who don’t see it that way, it made me realize that when I look at it, not only do I see it as it is here and now, all boarded up and much stripped down of most if not all the many embellishments it once had had, but I also see it as it once was. That is, as an alive and well theater and being run in the best possible way. And very little if indeed any indication of that shows now. And naturally there’s no way I can take photographs of what I can now only see in my memories. And yes, it could well be that my memory is creative in that what I think I remember differs greatly from what actually once was. Children see things much more specially than we the adults do, and to be sure, my best memories of the Mayfair were when I was at my youngest. As a child everything looks so much bigger, of course, not to mention that a child’s focus is much more selective. And children are powerless to destroy things the way we the adults so readily do. And now as adults we’ve become one heck of a tough audience to so easily please. And with the Mayfair Theatre building being at its worst ever at this moment at that.

Money-wise, there’s no question it would cost a fortune to bring the Mayfair Theatre up to what most adults today would regard as a “work of art.” But instead of thinking strictly in terms of money, what about imagination-wise? Have we adults become so dead in this regard that we can’t even write out on paper at the very least what changes and alterations the Mayfair Theatre would require so as to readily be recognized by everyone as a work of art? For instance, can we simply make a list of what it is we don’t like about the Mayfair Theatre building as it is today? Factors that either didn’t exist or that we didn’t notice when we were children? For maybe some of those factors can be changed, we really won’t know until we draw up such a list. Or, if not changed, at least compensated for in some other way. The latter is a process I call “off-setting.” For instance, it may totally lack parking, but on the other hand it could have so many other positive things going for it that would make it well worthwhile to get to it via public transit or on foot. And what would such other factors be? Using our imaginations and only just that for now, could we make a list of that much? Or has money consciousness fully cancelled out our ability to still think in that way?

When a child sets out to build a sandcastle, money is the last thing on the child’s mind, and in achieving this task, the child has no money to speak of. Yet lo and behold, that sandcastle gets built. With a child’s imagination, the “unrealistic” is simply the reality.

TheaterBuff1 commented about West Shore Theatre on Mar 19, 2006 at 7:26 pm

All excellent points, John. Meantime, my point about well-run movie theaters differing from other businesses is that in addition to being businesses they are also art. And the fact that they’re art means that they’re contributing to society in more ways than simply generating tax revenues. Although many lowgrade politicians have us boxed into thinking so, life is much more than just being about money all the time. There is that above and beyond money that needs to be recognized and respected also.

Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not advocating that any theater owner/operator become a tax evader, as surely their theater will get shut down and they’ll get carted off to prison also accordingly. Rather, I’m pushing for greater tax exemption status for theaters which the government full consents to on the basis of its recognizing the many other ways a theater contributes to uplifting the community besides merely generating revenues. For there are countless things that well-managed theaters contribute to a community that you could not even begin to put a price on. And far too often the government turns a blind eye to this other major contribution that theaters make as an excuse for collecting taxes when it shouldn’t be. For just to be real, it is totally ignorant to tax a well-run theater the same way you would a Rite Aid, bank or whatever, and most especially when it forces that theater to fold. In Shamokin, Pennsylvania, where the designer of the West Shore Theater, William Harold Lee, was born and raised, there had been his masterpiece, the Victoria Theatre, which had been demolished in 1998 to be replaced by an all new Rite Aid. To which I can only ask, have we all gone insane?! For new Rite Aids can be built anywhere. Meaning there’s never a good reason to have to tear down a well-designed theater to make way for an all new one. No matter what, there’s always the much better alternative.

I think right now that many politicians, particularly the lowgrade ones, not to mention the more unscrupulous businesses, see themselves as being in competition with well-run theaters. There’s the strong jealousy factor at work there, very much a Cain & Abel type thing. So to make it all “fair,” they advocate taxing theaters the same way any other businesses are taxed, overlooking the fact that well-run theaters are also art as well. And that, in David & Goliath fashion if need be, needs to change. For look at it this way, from the consumer point of view: If I go to a really well-run theater, such as the West Shore, and I love the movie going experience of it from start to finish, is it ever in my thoughts, “Hmmmm, is this theater generating enough in tax revenues?” Of course not. Only an idiot consumer would think that way. As a consumer, what I want from a theater is a great movie going experience. And if the theater gives me that, then I’m on cloud nine. And anything that undermines that experience to me is what needs to be fully phased out if need be, not the theater itself. For the theater is giving me what I want, the other isn’t.

TheaterBuff1 commented about West Shore Theatre on Mar 16, 2006 at 9:29 pm

Which to me drives home the fact that many still do not recognize well-run movie theaters as being works of art in addition to their being businesses. And that really does need to change! For to me, a well-crafted movie exhibited in a well-run theater, which the West Shore Theatre appears to be, is the highest art form there is. Meaning that it is totally obscene to categorize a movie theater as a business just like any other — a bank, a drug store, a dollar store or what have you. It may well be a business, sure, but as a movie theater, particularly if it’s well run and presents the best of movie fare, and in the most tasteful, considerate way, it is much more than that. Movie theaters uplift, they inspire, they transform our whole lives. And at times they offer hope, and joy, when there’s none to be found anywhere else. And how do you put a price on that, how? And to look at a movie theater and say, “Well, you’re not generating enough revenues, sooooo…either you’re going to have to find a way to make more money to keep up with taxes or, we’re gonna have to shut you down,” is as offensive as it gets, and not just to the theater owner/operator but to all of us. For my view is this: What theaters fail to generate in tax revenues they make up for a thousandfold by by being great movie theaters. And this West Shore Theatre to me looks like one hell of a great movie theater. As I say, every small town, and neighborhood, all throughout America should be so lucky to have one! Here in the Holmesurg section of Northeast Philadelphia where I reside and which in many ways is very small town-like — but needs to become moreso — we have another of William Harold Lee’s brilliant theater designs. But is it currently being restored as a movie theater? No. Without anyone in the Holmesburg community even being asked, in a forced-through way it’s being made a mini mall instead, and to have the types of businesses that Holmesburg has too many of already. A well-run movie theater in Holmesburg is needed badly. Without it, the quality of life in Holmesburg is very Taliban-like at the moment. And with every political force currently overshadowing Holmesburg determined to keep it that way. And there are those in Pennsylvania government, such as Governor Ed Rendell, and House Speaker John Perzel (whose district includes Holmesburg) who seem to want to make what Holmesburg has been reduced to standard throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania. And we’ll know that with absolute certainty if they go after New Cumberland’s West Shore Theatre as well.

They try to play down small town and neighborhood theaters as “not being very important.” But as Norristown, PA, which lost its Norris Theatre (which, incidentally, was another William Harold Lee designed theater) can attest to, they are very very important. Too important to be treated just as businesses like any other. Meaning that if we have to choose between shutting down the theaters, or shutting down the tax collection agencies, by all means let it be the latter.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Castor Theatre on Mar 16, 2006 at 7:28 pm

That, I suppose, is why few people remember it, particularly when the Tyson, which was great, was so near to it, not to mention the Crest up on Rising Sun Avenue, which was not all that far. So all told, therefore, if the Castor Theatre building is still standing it’s of historic interest only, similar to how it is with Holmesburg’s first movie theater — a silent movie house — which today is in use as Dance Kidz near Frankford & Rhawn.

Incidentally, given how Cinema Treasures does not seem to have a special page for it, does anybody have any familiarity at all with the United Artists Grant Plaza Cinema 9 not all that far north of the Castor Theatre at Grant & Bustleton? Although it’s a multiplex, it appears to be impeccably being taken care of, is still in full operation as a theater — and a first run theater at that — yet is the first theater I’d ever seen in my entire lifetime without a marquee! It’s as if to say if you still want a half-decent theater right here in Northeast Philadelphia to go to, here it is. But shhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody about it…

TheaterBuff1 commented about Penypak Theatre on Mar 15, 2006 at 8:51 pm

Another excellent William Harold Lee theater has just been discovered and can be found at this Cinema Treasures link: /theaters/7682/

Built in 1940, it looks similar in many ways to the Holme Theatre though it’s a lot smaller. And it’s being run very very well from the looks of it. Located in a small town just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, one does really have to start to ask, if it can work there, why not here, too?

TheaterBuff1 commented about West Shore Theatre on Mar 15, 2006 at 8:21 pm

Ah, now this looks to be a theater that appears to be doing everything right! And designed by William Harold Lee at that no less!

An old photo showing how its front exterior looked in 1940 can be seen at this link: View link

And a newer one, showing the same exact view in more recent times, can be seen here: View link

And this to me is a perfect example of a neighborhood cinema at its finest. Every neighborhood should have one, to which I ask why not?

TheaterBuff1 commented about Penypak Theatre on Mar 15, 2006 at 5:44 pm

Thanks for your vote of confidence, John! Meantime, just to go over some of the finer points, because of its location, it is positioned specifically to be a neighborhood theater, as it would be very tricky for a sizeable number of people to be able to get to it from outside the city or from other parts of the city. While Route 1 and I-95 can get people somewhat close to it, beyond that the stretch would be very slow moving, whether we’re talking Frankford Avenue, Welsh Road, Rhawn Street or any of the other major Northeast Philadelphia thoroughfares they’d then have to travel. And for those thoroughfares that would be quite an increase in traffic each time a movie is shown there! Which is why Mr. Haas’s suggestion (he being the man currently in charge of restoring the Boyd movie palace in Center City Philadelphia) that it might work if it were remade into a multiplex is totally out of the question. Which leads back to its being workable only if it could be made a neighborhood theater and those in the neighborhood could be counted on coming to it regularly.

And see, back when this theater was built, 1929, Holmesburg and other communities nearby were not so much the “Simon says” type communities they are now. I.e., at that time there was no such thing as a political machine, or any particular powerful religious faction, or any sorts of organized crime factions or whatever else, overshadowing Northeast Philadelphia the way it is now. Folks around here did as they wanted to do, not what some higher order told them it was okay, or not okay, to do. And the economy of Northeast Philadelphia at that time was such that people around here could do pretty much what they wished without fear. All told, it must have been fantastic!

Now, however, if I were to acquire this building to restore it as a theater but without this or that power-that-be’s blessing, if the powers-that-be tell the folks who reside around here not to go to this theater once it’s completely restored, simply put, they won’t. They’d all be afraid to.

In the Devon Theatre’s case farther down Frankford Avenue it’s a totally different story however. For there we see the political powers-that-be endorsing it. Of course, there’s going to be the big trade-off, all entertainment fare at the Devon limited to what they want the people around here to see and no more. I can assure you, for instance, nothing along the lines of “On the Waterfront” or “Erin Brockovitch” or “The Pawnbroker” or “The Molly Maguires” will ever get shown at the Devon…

TheaterBuff1 commented about Penypak Theatre on Mar 14, 2006 at 7:41 pm

Yes, but not for it to become a theater, at least not just yet. Far too many uncertainties still loom. Then again, everything looked rock solid and certain at the time it was built. That is, up until rock solid certainty itself struck, and the two — this theater and certainty itself — could not possibly have been more out of sync. William Harold Lee did design his theaters to be in solid alignment with the underlying natural environment though, something which never changes in terms of what it shall do and the predictability of which he understood very well — the mark of a very great architect. You can see in his design that he had actually been out to the site where it was built and more than likely oversaw all the surveying and geological studies himself, rather than designed it from some remote faraway office based upon none other than X amount of square feet to work with. He was a green architect long before that term was ever coined, stemming from his simplistic beginnings growing up in a small humble Pennsylvania farm town. And all throughout his career I don’t think he ever forgot it.

What I wish I could find, but have had no luck so far, is some Holmesburg resident, or former resident, who’s either still living or has their mind fully intact, who has sharp memories of what the Holme Theatre building was like when it was still a theater. My oldest brother got to see “Davy Crockett” there in 1956 or so — it likely being the last movie ever shown there and after it had been renamed the Pennypack — but he has no specific memories of it, being as neighborhood theaters were so plentiful at that time and he was so very young. And few if any thought of movie theaters as being “art forms” way back in those days. And here in 2006 many still don’t. But I think back in those days a lot of it had to do with film itself being seen as not all that permanent. But now that’s another thing that digital technology is in the process of revolutionizing, and which I believe in time will force us to see movie theaters as other than these fleeting things.

Anyhow, stay tuned to the Holme/Pennypack Theatre saga, as time could well prove to be its best days are still ahead of it…

TheaterBuff1 commented about Mayfair Theatre on Mar 11, 2006 at 7:11 pm

If the Mayfair Theatre building gets converted to something the people of Mayfair can really connect with and love, there’s no need for programs such as CLIP. Which was the point I was trying to make many many comments back on this page when I described the Flyers celebrations/riots that took place at that Frankford & Cottman intersection in 1974. The rioters went after all else, but the Mayfair Theatre as I say was completely unscathed. At which point all the other merchants of Mayfair should have asked themselves: “What are we all doing wrong that the Mayfair Theatre is doing right?” Instead, a whole battalion of cops was brought in to beat the people down for expressing what they really thought through their actions. I remember that night very vividly. A thousand and one billyclubs suddenly tearing their way into the drunken crowds and swinging this way and that, the sounds of screams and cracking bones and the sight of blood immediately following. I managed to stay out of harm’s way, however, given how I stayed close to the Mayfair Theatre the whole time, where all was very calm.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Devon Theater for the Performing Arts on Mar 11, 2006 at 6:29 pm

Well that’s certainly very good news to hear! I am curious, though, to know what sort of live performances it will present when completed, given how “live performance” can mean a whole variety of different things ranging from concerts (classical, rock, rap, hiphop, jazz, etc.) to stage plays to musicals to operas to dance reviews to magic shows and so forth and so on. In determining this, I presume the restorers of the Devon are conferring with the residents of Mayfair constantly. Or…is that just another case of “dream on” on my part?

TheaterBuff1 commented about Capital Theatre on Mar 10, 2006 at 5:38 pm

Howard, exactly. And now the question is, where do movie theaters evolve from there? Or do we want the evolution of theaters to end with the multiplex? That might make good sense from a strictly business point of view. But my interest in theaters, in case you haven’t picked up on by now, is on the artistry end of things. And when I say a well-crafted movie exhibited in a well-run theater is the highest art form there is, I am most certainly not referring to a multiplex, or worse still, megaplex, theater. From a business point of view a megaplex might look like a high point in the movie theater’s evolution. But from an artistic viewpoint it’s just the opposite, a low point that needs to be evolved from. Which, of course, includes looking toward old movie theater concepts with a fresh new outlook, but certainly not limited to just that. For new things are coming along, too, that will certainly lend to the artistry as well, and to be sure, will go a long way in breathing new life into what had been abandoned.

As for the Capital Theatre which you’ve enlightened us more about, Zeldaah, it sounds like it has great promise if anyone wants to acquire it and take it in an artistic direction. For we need things in our community to remind us that not everything is strictly business. And if I’m not mistaken, the Capital Theatre is in Philadelphia’s Overbrook section which, at least as I remember from the last time I was there, is a very beautiful community. And this theater building if restored properly could certainly add to that beautifulness all the more, serving as a vital reinforcer of sorts.

Though the city of Philadelphia might not be sympathetic to this direction at the present time, it is starting to get more and more questionable why Philadelphia’s more outlying communities are still even a part of it. There might have been good reasons for this connectivity to the city at one time, but such reasons today seem to be totally missing. The detriment of it far outweighs the benefit. It’s time for Philadelphia’s nicer communities, or communities that have the potential to become nicer when they have such beautiful structures as the Capital Theatre building in their midst, to begin coming into their own again. All the signs are there.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Mayfair Theatre on Mar 9, 2006 at 8:40 pm

The latest news on the Mayfair Theatre building, as told me by my brother yesterday (March 9, 2006), is that trash and litter is fast beginning to fill up its boarded up front vestibule, and grafitti artists are wasting no time seizing upon it. And what’s the political message? That either it be a drug store or bank or whatever, or it just become what we’re seeing it be reduced to now? But for it ever to be restored to a neighborhood theater again is totally out of the question?

What I feel is that Mayfair needs to become its own municipality, quite separate from the rest of the city, with its own mayor, police force and so on. For Mayfair is not a community that can be run unseen, and from a far distance. For we’re seeing right now how that alignment is failing miserably. And we’re seeing the exact same pattern in communities all throughout the Northeast portion of Philadelphia, ranging from Mayfair to Holmesburg to Burholme to Fox Chase to Bustleton to Somerton and so on.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Capital Theatre on Mar 9, 2006 at 6:45 pm

I can think of no other type building moreso than a movie theater that should evolve with the times so as to always be in the vanguard. Just as movies evolve, so, too, should the venues that present them. For it should be understood that what seems fresh and modern today will not seem so come tomorrow.

In 1913, when the Capital Theatre was built, and which, incidentally, was the same year of the Titanic’s maiden voyage and consequent disaster, stainless steel wasn’t even in existence yet. And some of the Titanic’s wealthier passengers — such as the Wideners — were very influentual with regard to how that part of the city was run. And how different, really, was that which influenced the Titanic’s design from that which influenced the Capital Theatre’s? To be sure, news of the Titanic disaster, along with news of the loss of the Widener family’s influence when prominent members of the Widener family went down that night, must have come as quite a jolt to it, a disillusionment with how it had been designed originally. As if to say stainless steel which came along in the following years came along just in time.

To be sure, every great theater architect aims to present the latest and the best, but which was not available just yet at the time of the Capital Theatre’s construction. So when the newer and more resilient building materials came along by which it could evolve, given how it was a living, breathing movie theater, and with memories of the Titanic disaster in tow, naturally it did evolve. But evolution is a very circular thing, but only when moving in a clockwise direction. By moving in this direction, ideas of the past are picked up on and incorporated time and time again, but always as if something totally fresh and new, while ideas that once seemed fresh and new look old time-ish. Right now, for instance, the use of stainless steel in buildings is seeming a bit dated, it being lightyears away from being the latest new thing. Which, in turn, forces us to have a second fresh new look at what came before it if there’s nothing fresh and new to take its place. But in reincorporating that, is that the same as stripping away the stainless steel to whatever is underlying it? For there doesn’t seem to be anything evolutionary about that, while I feel it’s upon movie theaters, moreso than any other type building, to evolve. And to evolve is to go forward, not back.

TheaterBuff1 commented about The Ideal Theater of the Future? on Mar 8, 2006 at 9:01 pm

In my estimation, theaters of the future will pay far closer attention to how they look from the exterior, simply as a cost-cutting measure if nothing else. It all has to do with the rising costs of promotion and advertising, which as we all know can get very expensive. A well-designed theater externally, however, serves as its own promotion and advertising. My only hope is that it will not come at the expense of what patrons will experience when inside the theaters, as certainly that will remain all important, too!

Meantime, in answer to my question above as to what it is we are all waiting for, my own personal answer to that is better political leadership among other things. To me, well-produced movies exhibited in well-designed theaters is the highest art form there is, as they bring all other art forms together into a single entity. But many still tend to think of movie theaters too much as being businesses, and thus, as such, if they receive any sort of political and other favoritism it comes across as a conflict of interest. And yes, to be sure, movie theaters are businesses. Yet when well-run they become far more than simply that. When operated at their best they certainly are art as well. And that, in turn, does entitle them to a different type of treatment. And I have seen time and time again when movie theaters fold, or are run strictly as businesses, the businesses all around them suffer. In fact, I’m hardpressed to find where this wasn’t the case. And what other business can be signified the same way? Movie theaters, when run well, set the pulse for all that’s around them, even nature itself. They put across what the prevailing view is, or at least what people in any given community want it to be. They raise awareness where it needs to be raised and offer answers to certain problems people face that might be hard to come by otherwise. In a single shot they can make sense of what otherwise may be very chaotic or disinteresting. And without movie theaters in our midst it’s each person going their separate way, every person a complete stranger to the next.

And even theaters that fail unify people. When a particular film is showing and few people come to see it, there very much is a unified public statement being made there. And ultimstely all movie theaters, even those run strictly as businesses, are art. But when they fail when run strictly as businesses, it’s the business aspect getting too much in the way of the underlying art in question. Which I find to be a major turn-off with many movie theaters in existence now. Many are running commercials in addition to movie fare, to which many patrons are saying for that they could’ve stayed home for. And many are overly jacking up the concession stand prices. And perhaps worst of all is the multiplex concept, where patrons know they’re not getting the theater management’s full focus, given how there’s several theater units in the complex that must receive attention as opposed to the particular one they’re sitting in. And is that any way to put across what is supposed to be and is, in fact, art?

TheaterBuff1 commented about Castor Theatre on Mar 8, 2006 at 6:36 pm

As you can imagine, I did get some photos of the Tyson Theatre building. Over a month ago in fact. And if I can get confirmation that the Castor Theatre building is still there, farther down at Castor and Fanshawe, I’ll be more than happy to go get some photos of that, too.

As for my special attention to theater exteriors, with regard to theaters of the future I regard this aspect to be of extreme importance. My feeling is that the more attention paid to the design of the theater’s exterior, the less the theater operator will have to pay for advertising and promotion. The beauty of the theater’s exterior will be its own advertising. Also, the theater’s exterior must be respectful of and complementary to all that’s around it rather than having an invasive appearance. All of Philadelphia’s greater architecture follows this rule, whereby its lesser architecture disregards it. And oh does the latter look God awful! I call it landscape (or cityscape) iconoclasm. And at present we see examples of this visual assault all throughout Northeast Philadelphia, a trend which this part of the city clearly needs to get beyond, for consciously or subconsciously everyone gets hurt by it. And contrast Northeast Philadelphia at present to, say, Santa Barbara, California, where every new structure must meet full community approval first. That practice should be made standard all throughout the U.S. just as it is now throughout most if not all of modern Europe. And if you read the Reverend S.F. Hotchkins account of how Northeast Philadelphia was in 1893 in a book he wrote called The Bristol Pike, you’ll see how at one time that practice had been standard all throughout this part of the city. It’s not to say all architecture must be fully uniform, that is, of one particular architectural style, for this practice to work, only that contrasting architectural styles should not be in conflict with one another. In Hamburg, Germany — which had been severely bombed in World War II — they rebuilt it in such a way so that buildings that survived from before were blended with all new ultra-modern structures that rose up after the war, and did they ever do a beautiful job of it! And Northeast Philadelphia has it in it to be as good as Hamburg, Germany….er, doesn’t it?

TheaterBuff1 commented about Capital Theatre on Mar 8, 2006 at 5:13 pm

To get more specific, Mr. Messick stated that the Capital Theatre’s box office looks very similar to that of the Devon. And given how the Devon’s box office is glass and stainless steel, and stainless steel was not in commercial use yet in 1913, if the Capital Theatre’s box office strongly resembles that of the Devon, the firm of Thalheimer/Weitz likely designed it — in 1933 or so.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Penypak Theatre on Mar 7, 2006 at 6:35 pm

Just to put forth the latest info I can with regard to this historic theater building, first and foremost I had absolutely no idea when I first put forth the concept that it could be restored as a classy neighborhood movie theater the serious socio-economic issues the Holmesburg community all around it has. I was simply looking at the building itself plus the surrounding infrastructure, and based on that alone I began lining up various investors and theatrical equipment providers quite willing to get behind its restoration as a theater, and yes, to be a very classy one at that. Only to then come up against a wall of resistence to the proposal when I began talking it up with various Holmesburg residents. At first I held this against the residents of Holmesburg themselves, for it did seem quite unexplainable and unreasonable why anyone would not want such a classy theater so close to home. But then on further investigation I discovered that it was not they who were saying no to the proposal, but rather, certain individuals — nearly all if not all who are not from here — who have them very intimidated. In other words, a rot that currently exists in Holmesburg that clearly needs to be cleaned out first before a classy theater or anything else that’s nice can hope to rise up in Holmesburg. From my viewpoint, being that I’m fourth generation to here, Holmesburg has every right to be a beautiful community just as does any other community anywhere here in the U.S., while I really don’t have the time, patience or sympathy to debate this point with anyone who disagrees. And I just wish that my fellow Holmesburg residents could find the courage within themselves to say the same thing. Otherwise, how do we expect to rid Holmesburg of its rot once and for all? And I know, I know, drug dealers, bagmen, pimps, loan sharks, auto thieves, burglars, slumlords, cops who thought it was okay to turn crooked and whatever other human garbage have to be able to “earn” livings too. But when it comes at the expense of what otherwise could be a very beautiful Northeast Philadelphia community, I think all of us, not simply me, should seriously rethink that outlook. And to do it now while we still can.

For right now my backers are asking me what the big hold-up is, and I don’t know what else to tell them other than I’m as anxious to get on with this Holme/Pennypack Theatre restoration project as much as they are.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Capital Theatre on Mar 7, 2006 at 5:20 pm

The firm of Thalheimer/Weitz also designed the Devon Theatre at Frankford Avenue and Barnett Street in Northeast Philadelphia’s Mayfair section and which is currently being restored to be a live performing arts theater. And though I’ve not seen the Capital Theatre, according to theater afficianado John Messick, who posts regularly at this Cinema Treasures website, the architecture of the two theaters is strikingly similar. So good eye, John Messick!

TheaterBuff1 commented about Castor Theatre on Mar 7, 2006 at 4:37 pm

And both became fur and clothing stores after they were no longer theaters and then furniture stores after that? I’m not arguing this couldn’t have been the case, mind you, only that it’s quite a coincidence! (BTW, when in small caps “theatres” should be spelled “theaters,” since this is the U.S.A., and that’s been the correct spelling here, the other incorrect, ever since the time of the American Revolution. The spelling you used is only correct when it’s part of the theater’s name, while we should be respectful of the fact that not all theaters use that spelling in their names.)

Now I’m quite curious what the latest story is with the Castor Theatre building since we’ve established it’s separate and six blocks or so below the Tyson. Do you remember the Castor, Hdtv267? If so, I’m sure we’d all love to hear what memories you have of it. And any chance you or anybody might know who its architect was?

TheaterBuff1 commented about Castor Theatre on Mar 6, 2006 at 8:36 pm

Just as a side note, the name “Castor” is that of George Albert Castor, the Holmesburg man who invented the ready-made suit which revolutionized the whole garment industry. Meantime, the confusion I made between the Castor Theatre and the Tyson Theatre was due to the fact that Cinema Trasures does not list the Tyson. However, the Tyson is listed at the website, which is how I knew it was designed by David Supowitz. And further confusion came about when the description given of the Castor Theatre at the top of this page said that today it’s a furniture showroom, which for the most part is what the Tyson Theatre is today. Add to this that before the Tyson became a furniture store it had been a fur and coat store just as Rg said in his comment above. Soooo, given how the Tyson Theatre IS on Castor Avenue, and it IS a furniture place today and had been a fur and coat store prior, why wouldn’t I have made the assumption that the two were one and the same? For in my having grown up in Northeast Philadelphia I have no recollections whatsoever of any theater totally separate and farther down on Castor Avenue. Does anybody?

TheaterBuff1 commented about Holiday Art Theatre on Mar 5, 2006 at 7:58 pm

Ah, William Harold Lee strikes again! And can this man, one of the most brilliant leading movie theater architects of the 20th century, not get any respect or what? But surely the fact that this theater remains fully operational, though clearly not in showing the best possible films, attests to his practicality in theater design, given the totally rundown state of the community all around it.

In terms of getting good photographs of it as it is now, that would be best left up to anyone who really knows their way around there well as it is now, who are expertly street-wise when it comes to parts of the city such as that. And with all the advances of home video, cable-TV, DVD and the Internet, I couldn’t even imagine who still goes to it. For going in that theater disguised as a pervert, well what’s a pervert look like these days? And why am I suddenly having flashbacks of George C. Scott in that movie, “Hardcore”? His chewing gum and snidely laughing, “No man,” when asked if he’s a cop. But that was a whole different era. A much better disguise perhaps these days would be that of a homeless person looking to catch some shut eye, or, given how that part of Philadelphia is these days, a cop. Pretty ironic how the times have changed, eh?

TheaterBuff1 commented about Devon Theater for the Performing Arts on Mar 5, 2006 at 6:30 pm

Fortunately in the case of the Devon the photos I have of it are likely very unflattering in relation to how it will look when fully restored, and the only reason why I took them when I did (last October) was to see if that theater might have ideas that would prove useful for the Holme/Pennypack Theatre’s restoration. For of all historic theater buildings still in existence here in Northeast Philadelphia, the Holme/Pennypack is by far the most significant of them all. But see, because of the time when it was built, which was right at the onset of the Great Depression, it never got to be all that its architect, William Harold Lee, had intended it to be. All through the Depression years it was operated in a very watered down sort of way, and by the time newer communities to its south rose up, Mayfair especially, it was all but forgotten. And to this day there are people who for whatever reasons (though certainly none level-headed) are fiercely determined to block the Holme/Pennypack from ever being properly restored. It’s a much larger theater building than either the Mayfair or the Tyson, and it dwarfs the Devon completely. Furthermore, it was designed especially wide by W.H. Lee in anticipation of wide-screen Cinerama format for future generations, but which it never got to see.

As for the community of Holmesburg itself, where this theater building stands, long before there was what we call Philadelphia’s Main Line today, Holmesburg itself had been Philadelphia’s original Main Line. And a much better one at that I might add. For as such it was home to the man who invented the ready-made suit which revolutionized the whole garment industry (making it so suddenly the common man could afford to dress as nicely as society’s wealthiest), and it was home to Baldwin of Baldwin Locomotive fame. Actress Ethel Barrymore (Drew’s great aunt) grew up in and attended a private girl’s school here in Holmesurg. And prior to and all during the Civil War, it had been home to some of America’s leading Abolitionists. In fact, right behind the Holme/Pennypack Theatre there’s an African American community with roots tracing directly to that era — their having been given safe refuge there by my ancestors and others. And just caticorner to the Holme Pennypack Theatre stands an historic colonial house dating to the late 1600s that had belonged to various members of Philadelphia’s Peale family. Rembrandt Peale did his most famous self-portrait in the attic of that house, and “The Staircase Group,” a painting by Charles Willson Peale that today is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art originally hung in its parlor, while the staircase it depicts is part of it. And legend has it that George Washington, in his latter years, and when his eyesight was failing, stopped by that house one day on one of his many visits to it, and he tipped his hat to that painting, thinking the figures it showed were for real. And Holmesburg, of course, is home to the oldest stone arch bridge in the country. Another thing I should point out, when Holmesurg was in its rightful place of glory, Kensington, which is where the Art Holiday Theatre is, was not in the hopelessly impoverished state it is in today, that is, not when the wealthy industrialists of Holmesburg held reign over it. All that came later, when Philadelphia’s Main Line of today came into being. But when Holmesburg was in charge, Kensington thrived.

As for why anyone would want to prevent Holmesburg from rising up again to its former glory — with properly restoring the Holme/Pennypack Theatre building as a classy single-screen neighborhood theater being a huge step in that direction — you got me. For Philadelphia’s Main Line of today certainly isn’t doing anything worthwhile these days. And did it ever? Look at how miserable and rundown Kensington and North Philadelphia and so on are, and you tell me.

TheaterBuff1 commented about A Special Academy Award for the Best Run Theater? on Mar 5, 2006 at 4:55 pm

Though I’m sure it was pure coincidence in relation to this essay, I’m delighted that the 2006 Oscars gave recognition to the invaluableness of seeing a movie on a giant screen, and how with some movies there just is no other way to see them and hope to see them at their absolute best. To be sure, I would have liked them to have gone further and given full recognition to how great theatrical architecture plays a major role in seeing a great movie at its best, too, not to mention the artistic sensitivity of a theater’s management. But that is only something that audiences of the past with good memories — and hopefully those of the future — would readily be able to appreciate. There are theaters that match that description now, but to be sure, far too few at this moment. But take heart, as things do change. No one can predict when or why, but they do, as, assuredly, history has always taught us.

TheaterBuff1 commented about Devon Theater for the Performing Arts on Mar 4, 2006 at 8:27 pm

Rg, it’s not that you and I are in total disagreement, as I understand where you’re coming from in that you’re basing what you say on how things are here and now. And basing everything on that you couldn’t possibly be more right in what you say. And no one can predict when or if that situation will ever change. Which leads me to say that your idea is excellent, Howard (and glad to see we’re on positive terms again!), in that at the very least for now we can document all we can of Philadelphia’s theaters past so that knowledge of this won’t be lost completely, and, of course, with the remote possibility that at some future date things do actually change. Meaning that whatever knowledge we compile now might prove very useful when those of the future seek to recreate what had been lost. Needless to say, I have plenty of photos I’ve taken of closed down theaters here in Northeast Philadelphia — including of the Devon — that I would like to provide links to, while right now the only link I have is for just a few of the many I took of the Holme/Pennypack last year, which can be seen at this link: Http://

As for the Art Holiday, John, I’ve been wondering what the story is on that myself, as years ago I used to pass it by regularly on the Market-Frankford elevated, its green neon sign brightly lit up at night. And what used to amuse me as I look back now was that the el stop it was closest to was called “Church”! And it was one of the stops along the el that no one, unless they absolutely had to, would get off at — boarded up stores, drug dealers on every corner, etc. Meaning that I’d be totally surprised if that theater is even still open. So Rg, if you have any info on what the latest on that theater is please share it with us. This site doesn’t even have it listed, so maybe you could research and provide a Cinema Treasures page for it.