30 W. Broad Street,
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The Boyd Theatre (Official)
Previously operated by: Boyd Theater Circuit, Wilmer & Vincent Corp.
Architects: William Harold Lee
Firms: E.C. Horne & Sons
Styles: Streamline Moderne
Previous Names: Kurtz Theatre, Colonial Theatre
News About This Theater
- Jul 14, 2011 — Boyd Theatre to be closed the rest of year
Located on W. Broad Street, near Main Street. For over 85 years the Boyd Theatre brought great entertainment to the Lehigh Valley. The Boyd Theatre eventually became the Lehigh Valley’s only first run single screen cinema.
Originally opened in 1921 as the 1,626-seat Kurtz Theatre operated by Charles Kurt & John Kurt and was designed by architectural firm E.C. Horne & Sons of New York. The theatre featured vaudeville opening acts prior to silent film screenings. The gala opening featured a seven piece orchestra (under the direction of John Hepple Sheppard) and a massive 3 manual Estey pipe organ. Opening attractions at the theatre included Shubert Advanced Vaudeville Acts of ‘The Ziegler Sisters’, ‘Jolly Johnny Jones Company’, a minstrel show with ‘Harper and Blank’, and female impersonator ‘Francis Renault’. The silent film “The Great Moment” starring Gloria Swanson followed the vaudeville opening acts. The Kurtz Theatre was closed in July 1924.
In 1924, the theatre was purchased by the Wilmer & Vincent circuit and renamed Colonial Theatre, as they were also the owners of the Colonial Theatre, Allentown, PA. In 1925 it was remodeled to the plans of architect William Harold Lee.
A.R. Boyd Enterprises of Philadelphia purchased the theatre in 1934, and it was renamed Boyd Theatre. The new owners had several other theatres including the Boyd (Allentown), Boyd (Easton), Boyd (Philadelphia) and Globe (Bethlehem). On December 27, 1966 a fire broke out in the theatre, destroying the lobby and some of the retail spaces in the front of the building. The lobby was rebuilt and the Boyd Theatre reopened in early-1968.
In 1970 a local family purchased the Boyd Theatre. They continued to operate the Boyd Theatre as a single screen first run theatre, but closing off access to the balcony and using t500-seats in the orchestra seating area only. In 1999, a brand new state-of-the-art Dolby Digital Surround EX sound system was installed to accommodate the showing of “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace”. It remained one of the best surround sound systems in the area.
The Boyd Theatre was closed in May 2011 due to damage from heavy rainstorms. The owners asserted it would reopen. In February 2019 plans were announced to convert the building into apartments. In March 2022 it was announced that it would be demolished in May 2022.
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Recent comments (view all 47 comments)
Yesterday’s Morning Call (12/13/14—ha!) reported sale of the Boyd to Moravian College, which plans to restore the Boyd for its theater program. This is good news! As a former production house, the Boyd has an ample stage house, dressing rooms, orchestra pit (to be uncovered?), etc. One drawback is the tiny lobby, which is scarcely a lobby at all, but rather an extension of the entrance foyer (corridor). We’ll see how extensively they plan to restore the interior features, which have been covered by curtains for years, probably due to deterioration from leakage. I think that there are box seats behind the curtains. Also, at present the AC machinery occupies a substantial area on stage! This will have to be moved, of course. Let’s hope that the College does it right and returns this venerable old treasure to its former state of restrained dignity (it’s not an elaborately fancy “movie palace” by any means).
Today’s Express-Times says that Moravian has backed away from the sale. Bethlehem hopes that it will proceed with the other investor, but he says he is only interested if Moravian is in the deal.
WOW! The morning papers are reporting Joyce Hecht has sold the Boyd (with 4 stores, office space and a basement used as a club) to an undisclosed limited partnership for $1.35 million. Heydt is said to be “thrilled” with the new developer. The realtor that handled the deal says showing movies has not been ruled out but described plans for an “arts center.” Moravian College, which made an attempt to purchase the property earlier, has already said they look forward to talking with the new owners. WOW! The realtor says the new owner “has the funds to do everything he needs to do.” and “I think it’s going to be pretty spectacular.” WOW! I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but WOW!
Very big news indeed! This is the only movie theater remaining in downtown Bethlehem. Allentown lost its last one when the Colonial was demolished (still has Symphony Hall a/k/a Lyric of old), and Easton has the State. Under all the later trappings in the Boyd there is a real vintage house that will be a treasure again if the restoration is properly handled. Let’s hope so!
sold to developer Charles C Johnson, no promise it will be a theater again-
It’s Charles Jefferson, not Johnson. Sounds like a guy who gets things done; let’s hope his “thing” is preservation/restoration! Great if movies return, but the important thing is keeping it as a theater!
I would be nice to see classic movies there during the holidays and also have appearances by up coming celebrities. Hate to see this building go to waste.
Bad news today https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/bethlehem/2019/02/22m-apartment-project-to-be-the-next-act-for-bethlehems-beloved-boyd-theatre-report-says.html
Sadly, the Boyd is being demolished over the next 60 days. The signage will be incorporated into the new apartment building that is to be built on the site although the sign itself is not historically significant. I saw all three Back to the Future films here. The theater has a nicely pitched auditorium floor which followed the contour of the hill on which is was built.
Unfortunately, the deed is now done, and the Boyd is gone. growing up in Bethlehem in the late 90s/ early 2000s, had some great memories of this place– it was the first area theater to get Dolby, and retained a policy of not selling tickets until an hour or so before showtimes, so it was a great place to sneak into a big premiere.
It seemed lke it always did decent enough business, but a huge 2011 storm shut it down (storm in late august/early september IIRC, knocked out power for a few days), and badly damaged the roof, and management couldn’t address it in time, so the whether damage just got worse and worse until it was unrepairable… the balconies were shut down my entire life too, so I think the upper levels were weaker to begin with.
I remember a historic banner/sign that was always up front, that commemorated some big premiers back in the 30s, some movie stars and Mickey Mouse were on it… any pics of that?
Anyway, at least the master plan for this of apartment buildings is now set to incorporate the old signage and name:
Nice overview from a local library https://www.bapl.org/a-farewell-to-the-boyd-theater/