Band Box Theatre

20 E. Armat Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19144

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dallasmovietheaters on February 13, 2022 at 1:44 am

The Band Box Theatre launched with art and foreign films on February 3, 1930 for the Motion Picture Guild Circuit. The German film, “Die Meistersinger” launched the venue. It was the MPG’s sister location to the downtown Little Theatre. The diminutive Band Box opened with just 202 seats. In 1935, William Goldman had the venue refreshed to the plans of Fleisher & Stephens. The Band Box closed with David Chiang in “Triple Irons” and Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor in “Hit!” The theater was part of a sheriff’s auction in 1979 and did not ever play another film.

fallriverflash on April 24, 2018 at 1:39 am

There were NO other repertory art houses in Philly during the mid to late 1960s, only my beloved Band Box. What most folks don’t know is that Armat Street in Germantown was named for Thomas Armat, one of the inventors of the motion picture, whose patents were bought out by Thomas Edison. I am not sure that Art Carduner knew this. Art, where art thou? Wherever, thank you.

moleskinner on July 8, 2017 at 3:52 am

My dad used to take me here regularly in the late 60s, early 70s. The mini marquis perpetually read, “COMING SOON! THE LOST WORLD” Two years is a lifetime to a kid and I was miffed at his idea of soon. My dad had me primed for a good dinosaur flick. I saw King Kong here. I also saw my first Marx Brothers double feature and became a lifelong fan. I remember the guy had a Nickleodeon in the lobby, one of those automatic flip the pictures thingies that fired up with a coin. My dad must have known Art because they always had long reminiscences after the show.

James_Feldman on April 1, 2016 at 11:50 pm

Art Carduner owned the Bandbox and it was then THE place in Philadelphia to see art, repertory, foreign, silents, and historical cinema during the 1960s. The Bandbox would also play some of the great silent films to live improvised piano accompaniment by Paul Garabedian, a great local musician who would get standing ovations for his performances there. Mr. Carduner would come over to my family’s house for book club meetings held there. And Mr. Garabedian also frequently visited as a family friend. I also remember David Starobin who worked at the Bandbox. David was the brother of Danny Starobin, who calcynic mentions above, and they both played together in a blues band called Sweet Stavin' Chain. I didn’t see the group play at the Bandbox, but did see them perform as the opening act for Buddy Guy at The Electric Factory in the late 1960s.

Bandbox on March 25, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Can someone tell me who owned the bandbox in 1960?

TheALAN on May 31, 2015 at 5:23 am

Today, the Band Box Theatre is home to the Germantown Recovery Community, a facility of NHS Human Services, Inc.

averygosh on February 9, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Dear Calcynic, Thanks for the sweet not about my dear departed cousin, Danny. I loved my unc., but he wasn’t exactly the easiest guy to get along with. Freddy, I saw it too!!!

freddylubin on May 23, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Once, in the late 1960s, when it was an “art-house theater”, I saw Buster Keaton’s “The General”, with live accompaniment.

calcynic on January 15, 2013 at 2:29 am

I remember Hecate’s Circle very well. Danny Starobin turned me on to the place and I saw Sweet Stavin Chain play dozens of times there. Danny and I got to know each other while I was caddying for his pop at Ashbourne C.C. Danny showed up to talk to his dad and got the worst treatment from his pop…made me sick. I dropped the golf bag and told him I don’t work for assholes. We became friends . I miss him. RIP Danny.

joesview on March 5, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I loved going to the Bandbox when I was a teen in Philly in the late 1960s. Art Carduner was a culture hero of mine for his programming and the great program notes he wrote. Much of my early movie education took place in this theater – from “Citizen Kane” to “Morgan!” to “Pierrot le Fou.” It was an adventure to get to from the Northeast (via public transportation) but you knew you were going to see something very special!

SuzanDMB on February 25, 2010 at 9:57 pm

WOW!!! Thank you ever so Dennis!!!

DennisMcG on February 25, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Thanks Renel-fan for that great description of the Bandbox Theatre

DennisMcG on February 25, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Here is a link to a photo of the Bandbox Theatre

View link

Here is a link to how the Bandbox looked in 2004

View link

Here is link to a photo of the basement lounge of the bandbox:

View link

SuzanDMB on February 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

My parents met at the Band Box in 1957 ish. (My mom worked there) They are celebrating 50 years married this weekend. I so wish I could get a photo of this place…if anyone has a lead please post here and THANKS MUCH!

SuzanDMB on February 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

My parents met at the Band Box in 1957 ish. (My mom worked there) They are celebrating 50 years married this weekend. I so wish I could get a photo of this place…if anyone has a lead please post here and THANKS MUCH!

RickB on December 10, 2009 at 12:51 am

Former Bandbox owner Art Carduner died last Friday at age 88. A colorful Philadelphia Daily News obituary may be found here.

barneystone on November 25, 2009 at 10:54 pm

I remember the Band Box, the basement cafe, and Hecate’s Circle all very well. My girlfriend at the time, Helen Lynch, ran the cafe, and I was one of the owners of Hecate’s Circle, along with Ken Moore and Michael (“Smokey”) Blair. My favorite double feature listing for the Band Box was “2001 – A Space Odyssey and Barbarella – A Space Goddessey”. Another favorite was a double feature of King of Hearts and A Thousand Clowns. My least favorite was Fellini Satyricon (spelling?) – I sat thru it hearing the soundtrack from the basement for what seemed like weeks!

ganderse on December 29, 2008 at 11:44 am

I remember the lounge. They sold cheese, wine, and other drinks and food. Does anyone recall the summer when the Band Box had a Beatles marathon? They showed “A Hard Day’s Night” multiple times over one summer. On a different note, does anyone remember “Hecate’s Circle” Coffee House on Chelten ave.? It would be fun to hear from you!

dodgerg on April 22, 2008 at 3:12 am

Great work Renel-fan. Thanks for all you input.

teegee on April 21, 2008 at 6:56 pm

I saw many films at the Bandbox from the early 60s to its closing as a repertory house in the mid 70s. The downstairs lounge was possibly the first theater cafe in the country. The theater box office was on the left side of the entrance, under the marquee. Upon first entering the theater there was an outer lobby with a floor that sloped gently upward. The candy stand was in this outer lobby.

I remember seeing William Castle’s gimmick film ‘Mr. Sardonicus’ here. That was the film where the audience voted on the outcome of the story. The ticket taker gave you a ballot after tearing your ticket. The ballot had the image of a fist with an extended thumb printed with glow-in-the dark ink. In the outer lobby there was a large standup photo display of William Castle with a hole into a light box attached to the back. You would insert the glow-in-the dark ticket into the light box to charge it up so that at the appropriate point in the film you could vote either ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ for the villain. Of course, there was no real voting. The story had a twist ending that would fit either vote.

Anyway, the doors at the rear of the outer lobby led to the inner lobby. The auditorium was to the right of the inner lobby, so the theater was L-shaped. The auditorium had two aisles, and it was wider that it was deep, allowing for a much larger screen than you might expect in such a small theater. I remember a rather large area in the front without seats. As a repertory theater there was a piano up front that was played for silent movies. Mr. George Garabedian was often the pianist.

The stairway to the downstairs lounge ran along the left side of the inner lobby, beginning at the far end. The lounge was about the same size at the upstairs inner lobby. In an effort to increase income they installed a cafe in the lounge shortly before the theater closed. This was possibly the first cinema cafe. So that patrons did not miss the movie being shown upstairs there was a closed circuit broadcast of the film on a small black & white TV.

The Bandbox was a great place to see movies. Art Carduner programmed a wide selection of great films, new and old. Sometimes the distributors would force him to book a film he didn’t want in order to get a film he did want, and he would often say so in the program. The program guide sent to those on the mailing list was filled with short descriptions, and sometimes long essays, on the films written by Alda Cortese (I think that was her name). I wish I’d saved those old programs.

jacqualynn on April 7, 2007 at 10:16 am

Does anyone have any information on the lounge-pictures, literature? My grandmother was a singer in the 40s and an older relative mentioned “The Bandbox” as the place where my grandfather first saw her on stage. They both passed many years ago but I’m desperate to find any information I can on her performance(s) around Philly. Her stage name was Constance June. Any information would be helpful. Thank you.

veyoung52 on November 6, 2006 at 8:13 am

The lounge was in the basement where the restrooms were located.

dodgerg on November 6, 2006 at 8:03 am

In the 1940s and early 50s, my parents would take us to Germantown for dinner and a movie. After dinner, we would generally go to one of the 4 theaters in the vicinity of Germantown Ave. and Chelten Ave. — the Orpheum, on Chelten Ave.; the Colonial and the Vernon, on Germantown Ave.; and the Bandbox, on a little side street off of Germantown Ave. The Bandbox was definitely the smallest of the 4. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the lounge.

DennisMcG on September 1, 2006 at 11:46 pm

I know the Bandbox had an art deco basement lounge. Does anyone remember it? I came across a picture of a lounge for the “Bandbox”. The narrative gives a description that indicates it to be Germantown’s bandbox. But, never discloses its location or city. Looking to confirm that that is the Bandbox’s lounge. If you recall the lounge, email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you for confirmation. My email address is:

veyoung52 on June 1, 2006 at 9:17 pm

I wish. Last time I was in the area – maybe 10 yrs ago – the marquee was still standing. The building of course was being used for other purposes. DennisMcG is correct in that there was a separate basement lounge. I can only assume that pre-Scope, there was a narrow proscenium which was covered up in late 1953 with a screen/masking configuration to show scope and flat films. My only question is that, according to the advs in the then papers, the scope films were advertised with “stereophonic sound” (4-track mag), though I truly don’t remember seeing (or hearing) surround loudspeakers, or hearing anything other than mono behind the screen. Might be faulty memory. Dennis, can you help?