1529 Chestnut Street,
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Firms: Henon & Boyle
Styles: French Renaissance
News About This Theater
- May 6, 2009 — Historic downtown Philadelphia cinemas added or revised
The Arcadia Theatre was on the north side of Chestnut Street between 15th Street and 16th Street. Alexander R. Boyd built the theatre. The two story façade was brick with white terra cotta. The main lobby had a cove lit ceiling, polished brown marble columns with gold Corinthinan caps and marbled and mirrored walls. The auditorium was decorated in a French Renaissance style and had a Kimball 3 manual 20 ranks theatre organ.
The Arcadia Theatre opened April 24, 1915 as a first run movie theatre with the movie “The High Road” and prices of 15c for matinee and 25c for evening shows. The April 25, 1915 Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the theatre had an air-conditioning system. and that the overall design was part of a shift towards more elaborate exhibition spaces such as picture palaces.
The Arcadia Theatre was sold to the Stanley Corporation. In the 1920’s it was sold to the Sablosky Corporation which operated other movie theatres throughout the region. It was remodeled twice in the 1920’s.
By 1943, a newer, circular or curved marquee was present. In 1967, the façade was remodeled and a newer marquee (which fronts the current store) was installed. The main ornate lobby was gutted, and expanded into what had been the store to the west that was built with the theatre. A basement lounge and more restrooms were added. The décor of the auditorium was also made plainer. The Arcadia Theatre advertised ‘a giant new screen’.
From its opening, the Arcadia Theatre showed movies that catered to an upscale Chestnut Street audience. Among the classic films that had their first runs here were: “Tales of Hoffmann”(1951), “The Bad and the Beautiful”(1952), Marlon Brando in “Julius Caesar”(1953), Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”(1954), “Blackboard Jungle”(1955), “High Society”(1956), “Imitation of Life”(1959), Hitchcock’s “Psycho”(1960), “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”(1961), “Darling”(1965), “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”(1967), “Rosemary’s Baby”(1968), “Harold and Maude(1971), "Tommy”(1975), and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”(1975).
The Arcadia Theatre closed in 1978 and was converted into a fast food restaurant, Gino’s, which became Roy Rogers when that chain purchased Gino’s. Sad as it was to lose the theatre, it was the most interesting fast food place in town. It retained the slope of the theatre, with a ramp to the former stage where the food was sold. The seating was in tiers in the former audience area.
By the 1990’s, the restaurant had closed, and after years of being boarded up, the main floor became a women’s clothing store. Posted on the building in 2004 were photos of the upper portion of the former auditorium, now a second floor, showing that it retained ornate décor including the upper portion of the proscenium arch and a ceiling dome, and was available for rent. From 2009, or earlier, until 2013, the upstairs was the Chestnut Club at the Arcadia Theatre, a catering and event facility. In 2015, Mandees, the women’s clothing store had gone, and the building was being redone to be the 2-story flagship store for Five Below, which offers goods for $5 and below.
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