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As Paul Klieman, who operated Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s last independent movie theater, and who passed away recently, put it so well:
“"You see all this narcotics, it’s a result of boredom… . Even with cable and VCRs and all that stuff, you get claustrophobic in the same room in the same apartment. The movies are a means of getting away. It’s recreation.”
And as a Philadelphia resident I can attest to the fact that parts of this city where well-run movie theaters once existed but that exist no more have become very dismal, boring places to reside in or pay a visit to as a result. Meaning that there’s more to movie theaters than their simply having large screens, although that certainly remains a huge plus. And to be sure, Philadelphia is now all the poorer for its recent loss of Paul Klieman and the theaters he ran so masterfully.
But other parts of the U.S. are very lucky. For instance, jnjeisen, who posted a comment earlier on this page, appears to be doing a fabulous job running the Orpheum Theatre in Hillsboro, Illinois. And equally impressive is how well the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (which was recently fully restored) is currently being run. And the trick is in running a movie theater as an art form, as an extension of the movie itself, rather than merely as a business. For this artistry — which not just anyone can do — there most definitely should be awards and full Academy recognition for.
Being the eternal optimist, at least they didn’t knock down the Mayfair Theatre building completely.
Meantime, onto more encouraging news, the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania over the past several months has just undergone a wonderful restoration, it’s having achieved this goal by aligning itself with Gettysburg College, which purchased the building in 1992 as part of its ongoing commitment to revitalize downtown Gettysburg. In other words, rather than try to restore and reopen the Majestic as business, they went in the direction of restoring it as a great art form instead. And wow, is that theater ever looking beautiful now as a result of it!
If there was greater appreciation of the arts here in Northeast Philadelphia, particularly among its politicians, I have no doubt the same thing could have been done with the Mayfair Theatre building as well, and for that matter, still could.
For long term, at least, I can’t see the bank that’s taking over that building now faring all that well. Not when there’s several other banks right in that same vicinity.
Meantime, the Devon Theatre not all that far from the Mayfair Theatre building is continuing on its course to reopen eventually as a live performing arts theater. And if the Devon proves successful, it could maybe make for a good case why the Mayfair building should become a theater again as well — that is, the Devon being for live performances, and the Mayfair for movies.
So on the road ahead, much will hinge on how well the Devon does when it reopens, and what the story on the bank will be once its honeymoon period is over.
Though I don’t have the heart to go see it first hand, from what I’ve been told, most if not all the Mayfair Theatre building’s marquee has been fully removed. And if you think this sort of destructivity is limited just to Mayfair, just wait till gambling takes full hold in this state. For I saw how that worked when gambling became legal in Atlantic City, NJ. So many operations throughout New Jersey that were not gambling related, and that were doing very well up until that point, literally just curled up and died overnight. And New Jersey’s movie theaters, among other things, topped the list. So I guess it’s just as well that the Mayfair Theatre building is one of the first casualties on the path of what’s to be coming next throughout our entire state.
I thought the Mayfair Theatre building had a chance there for a moment to come back as a classy neighborhood theater. But, “one swallow doesn’t make a summer” as they say.
I hope I’m not the only citizen throughout this entire state of Pennsylvania who’s catching onto this, but if you ask me all efforts are underway to make this whole state of ours as crappy as possible. And with Philadelphia’s former mayor and now-governor Ed Rendell, in combination with Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House John Perzel, leading the way in taking it in this downhill direction. And the piece d' resistance of this, of course, will all come once gambling gets underway in this state full force.
For I vividly remember how it was when gambling became legal in neighboring New Jersey. In that case gambling was made legal in Atlantic City only. But oh, did that whole state ever suffer for it! So it’s just to say the loss of the Victoria Theatre in Shamokin, Pennsylvania is just a mere foothill to what’s to come next. For in many ways our state at this moment is like the Titanic here. There’s a somewhat calm at this moment, but it’s not a realistic calm. The loss of the Victoria Theatre should serve as a harbinger of what’s to come next. And how prepared are any of us for that? Not at all from what I can tell. And right now it’s all looking very eerie to me. For we’re letting the best that Pennsylvania has slip away at the mercy of a governor, and a house speaker, in exhange for what will amount to absolutely nothing positive and worthwhile in return.
Paul Klieman, who owned and operated the Capital Theatre up to the time of its closing in 1992, passed away on Friday, April 7, 2006 at age 90. Here’s the obituary that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer Saturday, April 8, 2006:
Paul Klieman, 90, movie theater operator
By Sally A. Downey
Inquirer Staff Writer
Paul Klieman, 90, of Wynnewood, who operated the last independent movie theater in Philadelphia and helped found the Philadelphia Police Athletic League, died yesterday at home.
At 17, Mr. Klieman started working as a bookkeeper at Pearl Theater in North Philadelphia and eventually became theater manager. He then managed a chain of theaters, mostly in North Philadelphia, and in 1955 he became part owner of the Cambria in North Philadelphia.
He purchased the Leader and Capital theaters in West Philadelphia in 1960. He later donated the Leader building to the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia, which opened a recreation center there in 1971 dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr. Klieman continued to operate the Capital until it closed in 1992. He was there seven days a week, his daughter Susan Klieman said. The 800-seat single-screen theater opened at noon and closed at midnight. Operating a theater, he told a reporter in 1990, means fighting with film distributors about price, availability of first-run films, and paying attention to myriad details like scraping chewing gum off seats.
He lamented the loss of neighborhood theaters. “You see all this narcotics,” he said, “it’s a result of boredom… . Even with cable and VCRs and all that stuff, you get claustrophobic in the same room in the same apartment. The movies are a means of getting away. It’s recreation.”
While working in the film business, he met Howard Hughes, his daughter said, and became friends with Ossie Davis. Because of his involvement with the Police Athletic League, she said, he met Coretta Scott King, and was on a first-name basis with many local politicians.
In the 1940s, Mr. Klieman helped found the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia to help curb juvenile delinquency by offering youth recreation programs. He served as a PAL officer for many years and was former chairman of the board.
PAL now has 23 centers in Philadelphia providing programs for 27,000 boys and girls. Mr. Klieman was also active with the Variety Club.
His community commitment earned him invitations to the White House from Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, his daughter said.
Mr. Klieman grew up in North Philadelphia and was a graduate of Northeast High School.
His wife of 55 years, Harriet Lean Klieman, died in 1991. He married Miriam Toretch in 1992.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Klieman is survived by daughters Judith Stein and Carol Lowe; a son, Charles; a brother and sister; five grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
Howard Haas is right on target when he says that uniquely large screens can only work with certain cinema formats geared specifically for this purpose. Which, of course, is not all movies. While it is not clear as of yet to what degree the advent of digital will revolutionize this. Certain films, because of their nature, and regardless of resolution, it would seem rather out of place to see on an unusually large screen, while with others an unusually large screen is an absolute must. But when we’re talking about the Boyd, which is Philadelphia’s last, and one and only, movie palace, it’s understood that when movies are shown there it’s not just to be any movie. Meaning that when movies are exhibited there it should only be those specifically made to be seen on an unusually large screen — both in terms of resolution and their very nature. Which is why I feel the Boyd’s adapting the LeFrak model remains a very good idea, if and when it can be done.
As for “Philly not being a movie city,” that at best can only be summed up as a statement of the moment. For despite all and any stereotypes, this city is always constantly in a state of change. And the fact that this city is dotted all throughout with movie theaters of the past — currently being used for other purposes — lays testimony to the fact that its not being a movie city wasn’t always the case. And only a total fool would try to predict that it will never become a movie city again. At the present moment Philadelphia is swept up in all sorts of varying cross-currents, with a small but perhaps growing number coming to it saying, “Hey, where are the movie theaters?” And if the demand for this grows strong enough, there will be movie theaters all throughout this city once more I can fully assure you. And what will spur that demand will be movie theaters run in the right way. Which is why I’m all eager to see the Boyd restored in the best possible way.
To the degree that it aspires to be like it was when it was at its absolute height — which was when it was in its Boyd days — I have no doubt it will be very successful. On the other hand, if it attempts to replicate the Sameric era, history will just repeat itself. The Boyd by its very nature, special location and so on, demands to be a premiere theater. And at this moment there’s no other theater anywhere in this city, in its surrounding suburbs, or even in this entire tri-state area for that matter, that can claim that same stature. And you can’t just go ahead and build something like that fresh and new out in King of Prussia or wherever. Anything such as that would only be makeshift and temporary while awaiting the Boyd to make its big comeback.
Revelations on what the latest is with the Devon Theatre can be seen at the following link:
But whether any of it will pan out to be true is yet to be seen, of course.
Hmmm… My having not been back to Ocean City, NJ other than a mere three days back in the summer of 1995 — and oh, did it ever look totally hopeless at that time! — is it so awful now that there’s just no way the Strand Theatre could ever be brought back to be better than ever before? It’s very easy to list the many ways it could be a very beautiful theater by today’s 21st century standards. But in today’s Ocean City are there the Roy Gillians and John Barattas and Mark Soiffers and Tony Frank Jrs and Harris Bermans and U.S. Rep. Hughes and F.C. Kerbecks and Tim Richards and James Penlands others such as that who would all fiercely team up — motivated by their innate jealousies, their total shortfalls as human beings — to make damned sure it could never happen?
I agree. In fact, I look forward to the day when any grim news we hear just turns out to be just one big April Fool’s joke….as opposed to the grim news we hear being quite real and many finding it to be funny. Particularly those in power and their fiercely loyal following.
The big giveaway to me that it was a joke was when the one who posted it said: “This sale is a direct response to President Bushâ€™s ideas, a man I hold in high regard!”
But what isn’t funny is the hard truth of current U.S.-Chinese relations exposed at the following link: View link
I would love to acquire and properly restore a classic old movie theater in a neighborhood I’m 4th generation to, but have been fought at every turn by others collectively determined that it become a Dollar Tree Store instead. Which, of course, will be selling all “Made in China” (slave-produced) products when all is said and done. And it does make you really wonder who’s really running America now. And EdSolero, if that isn’t concern with important socio-economic issues in addition to my passionate discourses — if perhaps among others you were referring to me — I’d sure as heck like to know what is!
In 1928 movies weren’t far enough along yet for it to make sense for the Boyd to be a movie palace exclusively. So it had to be able to provide for live entertainment as well. I’m just surprised it didn’t do more live entertainment during that earliest stretch, for it is quite amazing to learn that its orchestra pit was possibly used only once. On the other hand I presume that exhibiting movies as they progressed further was the theater’s ultimate aim from the onset, and it did arise to meet that challenge very well in the years that followed.
BTW, at what point do we begin placing motion picture exhibition in the category of “legit theater”? Wasn’t that mile stone reached when Ben Hur premiered there in ‘59? For live performances are very nice to be sure. BUT, when it comes to presenting fiery sea battles and breathtaking, edge-of-the-seat chariot races in the absolutely best possible way, live stage presentations, er, are a bit limited. When it comes to putting across material such as that, or the burning of Atlanta, or the dramatic sinking of the Titanic, or the raiding of Europe by the Mongel hordes, or the parting of the Red Sea, or the Martians invading our planet in flying saucers, or Godzilla terrorizing Tokyo or what have you, clearly motion pictures are the far higher art form. It would be totally laughable to try to put such material across through live performances. And to be sure, those whose specialty is live performances have every good reason to feel totally jealous. But that’s not any of us, is it? Which is why I say becoming a world class movie theater once more is the Boyd’s highest calling. That Philadelphia needs. The rest we already have plenty of.
Jack, going by the billboard atop the theater building to the Cottman Avenue side, which shows an artist’s computerized rendering of what the completed First Republic Bank will look like, the classic marquee indeed will be missing. Futhermore, the whole entire building when transformed will be totally gray — bound to uplift the spirits of the folks of Mayfair on those stretches of gray rainy days that seem to go on and on forever. Before on days such as that people had the great theater to offset this. Now it’s to be a bank, and by the way, unlike how hdtv267 tried to make it sound, just a bank like any other — and in an area that is oversaturated with banks as it is, not to mention immediately across Cottman Avenue. And to those who have that Beneficial Bank right across Cottman Avenue from the Mayfair I wonder what that feels like? For the idea of this new bank is to fully displace the old one, isn’t it? And needless to say, the people of Mayfair themselves were never even asked what they would like to see the Mayfair Theatre building become. Rather, they’re simply being told by the 1984-ish billboard to the Cottman Ave/Beneficial Bank side: “This is what it’s going to become next, and you all are going to like it.” It’s like the aliens are moving in and displacing all that remains of before. All told, pretty creepy, huh?
The great information that veyoung puts forth above regarding the screen at the NY Museum of Natural History Lefrak Auditorium, etc., certainly takes most if not all the guesswork out of what the Boyd Theatre can and should do so as to have the best of both worlds, that is, to become a great venue to see live performances, as well as its re-becoming the best movie theater in the tri-state area to see epics at their absolute best.
Ed, I could not possibly be in more agreement with you in all these suggestions you’ve put across. And particularly in terms of what is needed for protecting historic movie theaters, which many higher ups still do not recognize as ranking high architecturally.
In looking back to the past and what theaters have been demolished so far, it’s hard to believe that the architectural beauty of many of them totally failed to be recognized, and simply because they held “movie theater” status, which many still place in the category of being as a “business type building” only, no more privileged than any other business building.
A lot of it I feel centers on the fact that movies themselves are regarded as being only a temporary art form, and thus the structures that showcase them must be temporary also. Such appears to have been the thinking up until now. And when we argue that classic movie theaters are “historic,” many wonder if they’re truly that or merely of sentimental or nostalgic value. For example, we can say the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. is clearly historic because Lincoln was assassinated there. And the same of the movie theater up in Chicago where Dillenger was gunned down as he was coming out from. But with many theaters it is their architectural rather than historic value that is of greatest importance. Not to mention the important role they once played and still are capable of playing in our lives in many many instances, if only permitted to and not interfered with.
And the greatest interference comes, of course, when higher ups look upon movie theaters as being businesses only, even though as such they might be architectural marvels also. And it is hard to make the case that classic movie theaters are of great value right now when the movies they’re designed to present are dated, no longer existent in good print form, or it’s the case that Hollywood is not turning out the quality movies it once did.
But, the advance of digital technology holds the potential to revolutionize that to a great degree. For once a movie is in digital form it will always be fresh. But will it be in time to prevent the wrecking ball from knocking down the last still standing classic movie theater?
For it appears that for a building just to be architecturally valuable in and of itself is not enough. It has to have some functional role, whether it be that it is historic, or an alive and well venue for the arts, or what have you. For as the old architectural mantra goes, form follows function.
I fully agree with you that the mobile screen to be in front of the proscenium could not go upward as there’s absolutely no way that this could be possible while preserving that beautifully ornate ceiling at the same time. It would have to come up from below floor level therefore. And to be sure, the cost of this wouldn’t come cheap.
One possible way of meeting this cost, though, would be if the Boyd were to consent to go digital. For as I’m sure you’re aware there are several digital equipment manufacturers at this moment who are offering to fully finance both new projection plus screen costs, while at the same time there’s not a single digital theater anywhere in all Philadelphia — a major east coast U.S. city — at this moment. And the major reason why seems to be that because there’s several variations of digital, and which are not compatible, nobody knows yet which one will prevail or fall by the wayside. While no doubt, given how the Boyd is Philadelphia’s one and only movie palace to speak of, and in a choice location at that, all the digital equipment manufacturers would be falling all over one another to be the one chosen to equip the Boyd. At least as it all stands right now.
At the same time I need not have to tell you that Philadelphia at the present moment is home to many live performance venues as it is. Meaning that the Boyd’s one big advantage in addition to its being this is that it is a world class movie palace, and again I must emphasize, Philadelphia’s ONLY one. And as such it must be able to live up to this to the fullest degree. It cannot risk being second to anyone in terms of its over all screen size and so on.
On the other hand, as a live performance theater the Boyd has to be unique in relation to Philadelphia’s other live performance venues now in existence. Hence the invaluableness of its lavish architecture that many of those other competing live performance venues could not even aspire to begin to have, whether it be the Kimell Center, the Tower Theater, the Trocadero and so on. In brief, there are some types of live performances or special Philadelphia showings for which only the Boyd’s beautiful interior decor will do — the same as it is when it comes to certain films.
And how to position the Boyd to best handle both of course is the big challenge. For in the end it must be able to do both. And needless to say the two goals must not be in conflict with one another. At all times the transitions must be smooth and totally professional.
It truly isn’t fair that historic theaters such as this must be at the mercy of politicians as to whether they should receive landmark status or not. For this really is something that is above and beyond what elected officials should have the power to decide upon. And when they rule against historic buildings such as this there’s a very clearcut predjudice going on here obviously. I refer to it as an architectural genocide, which really is just a step away from going after people themselves in this regard when you seriously stop to think about it, given how historic buildings such as this do play a very important part in peoples' lives. For what does become of us once such buildings like this are gone?
Howard, to give credit to William Harold Lee, when he made certain changes to the Boyd Theatre’s interior, he took special care not to destroy the theater’s original proscenium arch designed by Paul G. Henon, and which you think so highly of. Rather, he chose to place the wide Cinerama screen in front of it, as I’m sure he felt it would have been beneath him to destroy the work of a fellow master architect.
Now with that said, in your April 19, 2005 post above you spoke of the possibility of introducing a fly-up screen, in the instance you cited within the proscenium arch. But many are saying that for a theater that size a movie screen within the proscenium arch would be too small. And clearly W.H. Lee felt this way when he made the decision to place the screen in front of the proscenium arch so that narrowness wouldn’t be a problem. So what I’m suggesting is, why not have a fly up screen that, when it’s brought down, is to be brought down in front of, rather than within, the proscenium arch? For that way you’ll have the best of both worlds — the full visability of the beautiful proscenium arch when live performances are held there, plus the proscenium arch not playing a restrictive role when movies are exhibited there.
For the way I see it, these days especially, epics don’t come along very often, while I feel it would belittle the Boyd for it to exhibit less than that. So it makes perfect sense for the Boyd to present live performances as well as it now heads into the future. And the beauty of its proscenium arch will certainly play well to that. At the same time Philadelphia needs to have a movie palace in place for when the epics do come along. And the Boyd, of course, IS the only movie palace left. So with that, I hope you will give some thought to the fly up screen in front of the proscenium arch idea. Also, it’s rather obvious that you’re never going to be exhibiting movies plus having live performances in the course of the same day. So it’s not like you’ll ever have to switch from a live performance set-up to a movie exhibition set-up while the audience is sitting there watching. Which, in turn, opens the way to all sorts of possibilities regarding what it would take to go from the one set-up to the other.
Yes, but since 1971 the Boyd has never seen a repeat anywhere near as successful as Ben Hur, meaning that the number one reason why people come out to movie theaters is to see the movie, not the architecture, however beautiful it might well be. And as much as I fully agree with you that the Boyd Theatre’s original proscenium arch is beautiful, I’m just stating the simple straightforward, and sad to say, unchangeable fact. People do want the theater’s architecture to be beautiful, on a subsconscious level at least, if not the conscious. But not to the point that it stands in the way of enjoying the movie itself. And whether you and I agree on that or not is not going to change how it is.
And up to a certain extent, if they’re designed especially well, movie palaces DO stand proudly on their own. Which, of course, is true of all great architecture. The Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, which had been built over a hundred years before the birth of Alexander the Great and more than three-hundred years before the birth of Christ, stood perfectly intact straight up until the time the Turks used it for storing gunpowder in the 1700s during the Ottoman Empire occupation. And in more recent times we can see a mark of great architecture quite similar in the Holme/Pennypack Theatre designed by William Harold Lee in Northeast Philadelphia that, despite its many many years of various abuses, has held up very strong, and continues to despite the abuses it’s still suffering today. Like the enlightened ancient Greek architects, William H. Lee was gifted with the rich understanding of “built to last” and incorporated it into his work. And leave it only to fickle man to be able to undo it. As was the case when one of his masterpieces, the Victoria Theatre in his hometown of Shamokin, Pennsylvania was torn down to be replaced by, of all things, a Rite Aide. Can you imagine?!
But let it be said that wherever W.H. Lee’s work still remains, the owners of such are extremely lucky and should regard it with the utmost respect. For W.H. Lee’s work is such that it will return the favor in kind — as was proven with the Boyd Theatre when Ben Hur fared so well there.
As for your saying that movie palaces don’t “ape their neighbors,” surely you’re not trying to tell me they should stand out like sore thumbs! For what I was saying is that Center City Philadelphia is home to much great architecture, not simply the Boyd, and that the Boyd should league itself with this as much as possible. Which doesn’t mean imitation, per se, but it does require harmonization. In an orchestra the oboe is a totally different instrument than the violin, but it doesn’t mean the two should clash therefore. For if the two do, the audience will just get up and walk out, all demanding their money back as they do. Need I say more?
W.H. Lee designed both Center City Philadelphia’s Goldman Theater (in combination with David Supowitz) and the Palace, which, though not as large as the Boyd, would qualify as being movie palaces if they were still standing today. Sadly, both were demolished, being viewed strictly as businesses at the time of their closing and unable to keep pace as such.
Meantime, as for the Boyd and its long and evolutionary history, to the best of my knowledge its highest peak came with the showing of Ben Hur not that long after W.H. Lee made various changes to it. And most who attended Ben Hur at the Boyd at that time (including me) came away with strong memories of the theater as well as the film. And would it have been the same if not for Lee’s several major alterations?
The theater’s original proscenium arch, while no doubt architecturally impressive, was not designed with the foresight of wide-screen Cinerama, which must be taken into account when looking at a theater as a whole by today’s standards and more innovations yet to come. A theater’s architecture by all means should enhance the movie going experience, but not to the degree that it gets in the way of it. The thing that patrons come to a theater first and foremost for is to see a movie in the best possible way. And it’s a clearcut case where the larger and wider the screen the better. I doubt if there’s many theater patrons who would dispute that.
Had it not been W.H. Lee’s alterations I would probably be saying that the Boyd Theatre’s original proscenium arch should be preserved at all costs. But since that alteration was made, and it proved to work out well, little sense would it make to bring the theater back to what it originally was now, at least in terms of how its screen should be.
As for the circular marquee that W.H. Lee introduced to the Boyd’s exterior and whether that should have been kept intact or the theater’s original marquee reintroduced, that decision should be based totally on the architectural trends taking place all around the Boyd Theatre at this point in time. Particularly the architectural trends occurring around the Boyd Theatre at this point in time most likely to endure. The theater must be able to harmoniously and complementarily blend with all that surrounds it rather than clash and appear confrontational. And if what most if not all that surrounds it is residential, or trending more and more in this direction, then it should lean towards being an artistic complement to that, and look as little business-like as possible.
I know I’m going to really get shot down for my saying this, but on a smaller scale I feel there’s a core to the Boyd Theatre that ranks every bit as much as “high art” as does Notre Dame Cathedral. But it’s hard to see that clearly in that throughout its history it has had to function as a business. Without motion pictures having the full recognition of being art, it had no other choice but to exist and function as such. And imagine if you will, what Notre Dame Cathedral would look like if the only way it could exist was as a business. For such is what the Boyd Theatre was put through all these many years.
And not to condemn anybody too much for this mistreatment, I think a lot of it had to do with many seeing film itself as not being something of permanence. For many years film was seen as a “disposable medium” in league with paper towels and tin cans and candy wrappers and so on, as something that cannot keep for very long, and therefore it must be worth not trying to keep. So how much could a building that is specifically designed to exhibit films be worth therefore? For that is pretty much how many looked upon theaters all throughout that period.
However, motion picture technology has come a long long way since then, and the digital revolution needless to say is fast transforming the art of filmmaking into a very permanent medium indeed! Which I feel should put movie theaters in a whole new light now, but full awareness of this has not caught on just yet. We’re still thinking of movie theaters the same old way we once did, as buildings that exhibit temporary things. But now that there’s digital technology, what motion picture is there that cannot be classified as a work of permanence provided it’s in digital form?
And I feel that the advent of digital should revolutionize the spirit that goes into motion picture creation as well. For it’s now possible to make a movie that we can know for sure will look and sound the same a thousand years from now as it does now. As media goes, it is now a more immortal medium than say sculpture, or painting or great architecture itself. And many have not quite caught onto that yet.
As for the Boyd Theatre, it went through many various stages of evolution. In the beginning, it was viewed as little more than a large-sized nickelodeon. In fact, the man who it was named for didn’t even think all that much of it and didn’t hold onto it for very long. But later, master architect William Harold Lee greatly reworked it, completely transforming it into the magnificent movie palace we so fondly remember today. But with film itself not seen as all that permanent a medium, I’m sure many “experts” thought this extravagant addition was overblown. Thus in the Sameric years it was watered down a bit and brought more in line just to be a business once more. And was run strictly as such. And like I say, we can’t fully condemn the “experts” at the time for this mistreatment, since it was during a stretch of time when it was very difficult, and costly, to keep motion pictures a thing of permanence. And what good is a movie theater in itself if not for that which it exhibits? (Just as what good is an art museum in itself if not for the paintings and sculptures it displays?)
Up until now it seems that whenever we applied the term “movie palace” we were only speaking figuratively, not seriously meaning that a movie palace is up there with Versailles, Buckingham and so on. But now that the digital revolution is starting to transfer the motion picture medium into a thing of permanence why can’t we start to say, “Why not?”
I am not in disagreement with you in the least in how you say the big studios view their output. What you say is both true and a sad commentary on the big studios. But this is not to say that a great deal of movies do not fall in the category of being art, or that those who direct them and all else to help bring them about on the creativity end of things do not see them as being art. Call it the other reality, for lack of a better way of putting it. But please don’t say that this or that movie is not art because the big studios don’t see it that way and are blind to this fact. That is, don’t give the big studios far more power to dictate what is reality than what they rightfully deserve. It’s bad enough that too often they act as filters in exchange for what it takes to get a film produced and distributed, very oftentimes ruining what would have been art otherwise. But what is very beautiful about certain films is how they made it through the big studio filtering process with that which is art still fully intact, movies that have a timelessness especially. And rather than what is timeless being subjective, only time itself can determine what is timeless, of course. And the same with regard to what is majestic, or credible or accurate.
When it comes to business, all business is just for the moment only. The big studios who fortunately failed to get their way, wanted to cast Shirley Temple as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz because she was the hottest child star at that moment. And the big studios of today are no different regardless of what that almost blunder taught. And had it not been for a business technicality, Temple would’ve gotten the part, and the movie The Wizard of Oz would be relatively worthless today. But little can business recognize this, or appreciate it, since it does exist just for the moment.
As for science fiction films taking on a timelessness, it has happened, but it’s extremely rare. I can list certain sci-fi films of the past that have certain scenes that are timeless — The Fly, War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still, etc. — but not necessarily consistently timeless throughout.
But in contrast, when you take a film like Ben Hur, what elements can you find in that movie that would only have made sense back in the late 1950s when it was released but that totally fail to connect with today’s audience in terms of their making much sense now?
Now in all fairness, we don’t always know what’s going to hold up as an epic over time at the time it’s first released. And certain films of the past that are being promoted as epics today, such as Star Wars, are only being propped up by the big studios to seem as such. For take that propping up away and I feel it would be revealed just how very dated and stale they are as opposed to being “timeless.” For there has to be the true underlying artistry to make a film timeless, and that’s not something that can be bought. Rather, this is something beyond the studio’s control and on a far higher plane of reality. The big studios can block the release of what is art, but they can’t dictate what is and isn’t art.
And the Boyd Theatre, despite the rough times it suffered when it was the Sameric, survives as art. As I see it, it is a great work of art that was simply put to bad use for a time, totally due to business for the moment. But business for the moment comes and goes. But art, if it’s true art, endures because it exists on a much higher and far more solid plane of reality. And because the Boyd Theatre IS the last movie palace still standing in Philadelphia, I feel it deserves now to move up many notches in terms of its being recognized art for all times sake, rather than just a business of the moment.
All of the above named movies were good movies in and of themselves, but very few merited being exhibited at the Boyd. And to be sure, the Boyd Theatre’s importance as a movie palace was very much undermined when they were shown there. With Ben Hur having proven itself as having been the perfect type of movie for the Boyd, it should have also set the stage for what type of movie should, and should not, be shown there. But in the years following Ben Hur, the Boyd Theatre was classified too much as a “business” for this to have been possible. Imagine, for instance, how much the Philadelphia Museum of Art would have to compromise if it were categorized as a “business.” It wouldn’t be long in coming that it would become a total mess. Which is exactly what did happen in the Boyd Theatre’s case following Ben Hur.
There has to be certain criteria that determines what film is an epic, and what isn’t, with Ben Hur having been a clearcut example of what is. And the number one criterium is a timelessness. For instance, if done properly, Ben Hur could be shown at the Boyd Theatre today with all the power and impact it had when it premiered there in 1959. But we could hardly say this of The Rose, Quest For Fire and so on seen on the immediately above list. Next, the movie in question should have a certain majesty to it. For instance, It’s a Wonderful Life may well have a timeless quality to it, but as films go it is hardly “majestic.” Third, although it heavily ties in with timelessness, the movie must have an historically accurate credibility. In the case of Return of the Jedi as a good example, not only did it totally lack historic credibility at the time it premiered, but it was doubtful that any who watched it at the time of its premiere seriously believed it was an accurate insight into what the future would hold, given how that was what was being depicted.
Needless to say, it isn’t very often that the true epic comes along. But when it does, there should be the special theater in place just for it. And here in Philadelphia the Boyd is that theater. But to be sure, the Boyd Theatre cannot possibly live up to that challenge if it’s classified just as a “business.” It tried to following Ben Hur, but it wasn’t able to do it. But heading into the future it can accomplish this goal if it acquires a much higher status than simply being a business. Businesses are just for the here and now. But movie palaces, if they’re run properly, are for all eternity. And such, the Boyd Theatre proved with the showing of Ben Hur, it has it in it to provide.
Reviewing the above posted comments all the way back to the beginning, we can see that the rumors of the AMC Orleans 8 closing have been going on since September 26, 2004, and with Eddie Jacobs being the originator — and perpetuator — of them. And now the AMC Orleans 8’s closing is starting to look like just another one of those urban legends. For I was just over at the Orleans last Thursday (March 23, 2006) and no one I spoke with had any knowledge that it was soon to be closing, if ever.
As for the Pep Boys that’s near to there, I did get it confirmed — by the Pep Boys people directly — that it’s going to be expanding soon. But out in the direction of its large parking lot in back, not in a direction that will overtake any businesses right near to it. No need to.
As for the Hollywood Bistro right next to the Orleans, at worst it simply looked like it was closed while I was there and could do well to replace some of the missing letters on its “HOLLYWOOD” sign on top.
And why the marquee over the Orleans' main theater entryway remains blank I have no idea, but it’s been that way for many months now, and ultimately probably means nothing at all. Or anything sinister at least.
So what I myself can only conclude is that the AMC Orleans is an is and likely will remain as such.
Given how the Strand Theatre was mistakenly converted into a multiplex, it’s amazing it stayed open as a theater for as long as it had. A far more intelligent decision would have been to keep it as a single screen theater but to upgrade it from how it had been designed originally. For like Ocean City’s Music Pier and its Flanders Hotel building, this is yet another of Ocean City’s last few original structures still left that should be immune to development pressures of any sort, that should be above being treated as “just a business like any other.”
And if the Strand Theatre could be recognized in that way, and then restored to be a single screen theater in the best possible way accordingly, I believe it could go a long way in bringing Ocean City back up again, though obviously a lot more will be needed then just that theater’s restoration alone to bring that onetime wonderful resort fully back to life once more. A lot of people responsible for Ocean City’s demise have still yet to be convicted, which, of course, continues to put a dampener on that NJ seaside town’s being able to get back on its feet once more. But maybe one or two good things can be done there until this finally happens.
Just to go one step further, not only did I see the billboard Hdtv267 is referring to, but I also got photos of it, along with how the theater building looks now. From the looks of things, if this bank follows through with its proposal, it will alter the Mayfair Theatre building’s exterior very little from how it is now.
Meantime, going by the kinds of people I saw around the Mayfair Theatre building today, which were very varied, it would be very tricky trying to come up with what the happiest medium would be if it were to be restored to be a movie theater here and now. Not impossible, mind you, but tricky. A theater, no matter where it is located, or the clientele it will most likely serve, should appeal to and evoke peoples' highest aspirations, no matter what they might be. And we haven’t really been pushed to that point just yet; to that level of commonality that Churchill aluded to in his “Finest Hour” speech. Which means there’s time for now to think in terms of how this building could be best restored as a theater, even though it might not be the right time to actually do it as of yet.