2023 Sansom Street,
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Previous Names: Pocket Playhouse, Underground Cinema 16, Underground Cinema, Aarde Cinema, Acedemy Screening Room, TLA Roxy Screening Room
News About This Theater
The 1916 Sanborn Map shows ‘Motion Picture Film Testing’ on the 3rd floor of 2023 Sansom Street. In 1927, in this building, a model 20-person atmospheric auditorium was installed on the 2nd floor by electrical contractor Samuel & Elias Nusbaum, who worked on many movie theatres and were based in the building. A 1930 photograph showed a ballet rehearsal on stage. Pocket Playhouse opened as a live theatre in 1968 or 1969. In October 1969 it opened as the Underground Cinema 16, presenting 16mm films, but this was closed after two weeks for not having permits. From 1969 to 1970, Philadelphia’s world famous architect Louis Kahn drew plans for a super modernistic redesign, with a façade that would have included a pair of giant speaker horns, and a new interior, for the Raab Dual Movie Theatre, but this rebuild did not happen.
By January 1970 it had reopened as the Underground Cinema. In June 1970 it was renamed Aarde Cinema and began to screen adult movies, sometimes straight, sometimes gay. It closed in October 1973.
It was renovated and reopened in February 1974 as the Academy Screening Room, presenting arthouse and revival movies and closing in 1976. It became a nightclub named Club Hippo which was damaged in an arson attack.
The Roxy Theater opened in May 1982 as a single screen seating 120 and programs Art House/Independent movies. A second screen has now been added.
In 1984, Ray Murray and Claire Brown took over the Roxy Theater, offering new releases.
In 1994, theatre owner Max Raab filed an antitrust suit against Miramax Films, alleging the studio allowed only Center City Philadelphia’s Ritz theatres to show first run movies. In October, 1994, the Roxy Theater closed. Two nearby movie theatres also closed in 1994 - the Eric Rittenhouse 3, which was demolished and Sam’s Place I & II, which became a CVS Pharmacy.
Bernard Nearey purchased the theatre in October, 1996 so moviegoers would have more another choice. On February 7, 1997, the Roxy Theater was reopened with “Secrets and Lies” and “Hype”. The Roxy Theater shows arthouse, classics, and mainstream films.
In September, 2012, the Roxy Theater closed, as the landlord terminated Nearey’s lease. The Philadelphia Film Society signed a 16-year lease, to show more art films, and refurbished including new screens, seats, surround sound and digital projection in addition to 35mm projection. The Roxy Theater reopened December 20, 2013 with “Saving Mr. Banks” on one screen and “The Wolf of Wall Street” to start the following week.
Closed in March 2020 due to the Covie-19 pandemic, it was announced in April 2021 that the Philadelphia Film Society would permanently vacate the Roxy Theater and would instead reopen the 5-screen Ritz at the Bourse in Center City, which Landmark Theatres had vacated.
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