Leader Theatre

4102 Lancaster Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.

Architects: John D. Allen, John Adolph Emil Eberson

Nearby Theaters

c 1929

The Leader Theatre opened on October 23, 1912, designed by architect John D. Allen with seating for 1,000. Originally a legitimate house, the Leader Theatre later became a movie house. In 1916 it was equipped with a Kimball organ. The theatre was remodeled in the early-1920’s. By 1931 it was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. and in 1935 they remodeled it to the plans of architect John Eberson.

The Leader Theatre closed on December 16, 1968 with Barbara Steele in “Terror-Creatures From the Grave”, Duane Jones in “Night of the Living Dead” & Mickey Hargitay in “Bloody Pit of Horror”. It later housed the Philadelphia Police Athletic League. It then served as a discount store for many years and from 1971 with metal cladding covering the façade. They had moved out by October 2019. As of September 2020, the cladding had been removed revealing the original façade. The new owner reportedly wishes to again use the building for performing arts.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

tpembleton on June 26, 2005 at 1:40 am

This building still stands, and if you view the buidling from the 41st side, it looks like it was once a movie theater. I was 4, or 5 when it was converted into PAL, but I can vagely remeber it showing animation of some type on Saturday. My parents grew up in the neighborhood, and my graandparents also lived in the neighborhood for many years. The Leader was an important part of the community.

Tony P.

kencmcintyre on September 15, 2007 at 7:32 pm

I went to college in West Philadelphia. I probably walked by this building numerous times, not realizing it was a theater at one time. That part of Lancaster Avenue wasn’t the best neighborhood in the early eighties. I don’t know what it’s like now.

alps on February 17, 2010 at 7:48 pm

I was there the last day it was open. A triple feature of Horror films. After the new sensation, Night of the Living Dead, a gang fight broke out. The last movie theater on Lancaster Ave was closed for good. Psycho, Jason and the argonaughts, Planet of the Apes, From Russia with Love and Thunderball. Bonnie and Clyde all seen on that giant screen.

TLSLOEWS on January 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Thanks Al for the story.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on January 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Thanks Al,Know you miss it.

westphillybob on October 23, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I used to live a block away on Preston Street. Went here many times in 40’s and 50’s. Remember seeing The Blackboard Jungle here and when Rock around the Clock came on, the kids got up and danced in the aisles. Saw live stage shows here, one thaT COMES TO MIND WAS fRANKIE lYMAN AND THE jUNIORS IN 1956. They used to run Looney Tune cartoon festivals on Saturday afternoons for 25 cents many hours of cartoons. Remember when admission price was 16 cents for kids under 12. Used to sneak up on the balcony as it was normally closed. At Halloween they would run a triple feature of Frankenstein…Dracula…The Wolfman all original Universal classics. Had good memories of the place. Went back recently. From the front you would never know it was once a movie theater, but if you go around on 41st street the original bldg stillstands as does the rear, complete with the emergency fire escapes at balcony level.

westphillybob on October 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm

In addition to the Leader during the 50’s when I was a kid growing up in West Philly we had the nearby Colonial at 42nd Lancaster; The Casino at 39th Haverford off Lancaster;The Unique at 36th Haverford;The Eureka at 39th Market St;The Fans between 40th and 41st Market;The Commodore at 43rd Walnut. And there was always 52nd street area with a lot of movie houses. Life was good, before TV.

dallasmovietheaters on May 1, 2022 at 5:06 am

The Leader Theatre closed for renovations after a triple-feature of “Terror-Creatures from the Grave,” “Night of the Living Dead” and “Bloody Pit of Horror” on December 17, 1968 promising to reopen on Christmas Day 1968. But Leader fans got a lump of coal as the theatre remained closed.

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