Lansdowne Theatre

31 N. Lansdowne Avenue,
Lansdowne Borough, PA 19050

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Lansdowne Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Stanley-Warner Theatres

Architects: William Harold Lee

Styles: Spanish Baroque, Spanish Colonial

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Lansdowne Theatre

The Lansdowne Theatre opened in Lansdowne, a Delaware County suburb of Philadelphia, on June 7, 1927 with the movie “Knockout Reilly” starring Richard Dix and 1,381 seats. Originally operated by Stanley Warner Equity and Herbert Effinger, the theatre was designed by prolific Philadelphia-based architect William H. Lee and was decorated by Gibelli & Co. Nearby theatres designed by Lee that continue to show movies include the Anthony Wayne, Bryn Mawr, and Narberth, though each of their auditoriums have been divided into more than one theatre. Other nearby theatres designed by Lee have met varying fates, with one showplace, the State Theatre in Easton, reused for live shows.

The Lansdowne Theatre is an ornate movie palace inspired by romantic Spain. The lobby and foyer are Spanish Mission in style. The auditorium is influenced by Spanish Baroque, and has painted ceilings possibly based on Nero’s pleasure palace. The theatre was decorated by Harry Brodsky. While there are some less than sensitive attempts at redecorating and the damage due to lack of the climate control, the theatre retains much of its original appearance including light fixtures, stage curtains, seating, carpeting and plaster reliefs.

The original ‘blade’ sign and marquee were removed before 1941 possibly because it lacked space to list what was being shown at the theatre. On October 5, 2012, the marquee, restored with new ‘sparkling blue’ neon, was lit for the first time since 1987, and the first time the neon has been fully intact since the mid-1950’s.

The theatre’s Kimball 3Manual/8Rank organ faded with the silent era and was rediscovered in 1962 by the Theater Organ Society of the Delaware Valley, and restored. It was played regularly to at least 1975, by which time it was the only playable pipe organ in a Philadelphia area theatre. The organ was sold to raise funds to replace the air-conditioning system. It was later installed at a private residence in Mississippi, and sold again in 2003 to a collector in Arizona.

The Lansdowne Theatre closed July 8, 1987 as a dollar house, a last run theatre. Closure was due to the result of a fire in the electrical system under one of the retail spaces. “Beverly Hills Cop II” starring Eddie Murphy was the final film screened. In 1987, the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and featured in David Naylor’s 1987 book, the National Trust Guide ‘Great American Movie Theatres’.

It was purchased in late-2007 by the non-profit Historic Lansdowne Theatre Corporation. The restored building will host the performing arts including popular music concerts, theatre and dance. Film will also continue to play a major role in the building. On April 10, 2010, the Lansdowne Theatre hosted a performance by the nationally known acapella group ‘Straight No Chaser’ to a sold out performance. The theatre was featured in a series of commercials for 2010 AMC Fearfest, and served as the backdrop of the filming of ‘Mad Ron’s Prevues from Hell’ and in the 2012 film “Silver Linings Playbook”.

The Lansdowne Theatre is the grandest of all the theatres that are closed, yet intact, in the Philadelphia suburbs.

In July 2023, the nonprofit Lansdowne Theatre began an $18 Million restoration so it will reopen in Fall 2024 for entertainment, primarily popular concerts.

Contributed by George Quirk, Howard B. Haas. Matt Schultz

Recent comments (view all 59 comments)

HowardBHaas on September 6, 2015 at 7:09 am

Facebook plea for help in restoring 1,358 seats so that’s the current seat count.

mattschultz91 on May 16, 2016 at 10:37 am

Sorry that we haven’t updated for awhile. The outdoor lobby—– ticketbooth, pendant lights, poster cases and stucco have been restored. New poster cases that appear close to the cases in 1927 have been installed on the front façade.

With grants from the Commonwealth of PA, National Endowment for the Arts and National Trust for Historic Preservation, the project architect Mills + Schnoering is developing schematic design documents for the entire building. Contractor to be named in the near future.

HowardBHaas on May 16, 2016 at 11:52 am

Matt, I can have the above good work placed in the Intro above. Remind me please what year- perhaps 2015-16? that those exterior renovations were done?

DavidZornig on May 12, 2017 at 10:48 am

Here is the “Save The Lansdowne Theater” Facebook page. They are hosting a free concert on May 20th. Great Photos Section on the page too.

RickB on October 22, 2017 at 10:19 am

Hidden City Philadelphia updates the Lansdowne’s status, with current pictures and one vintage photo.

HowardBHaas on May 27, 2019 at 5:14 am

Video here, last part of show on WHYY called Movers & Makers –

DavidZornig on April 28, 2021 at 2:49 pm

2019 Abandoned America piece.

JRHagan on May 30, 2021 at 6:45 pm

The Video Mr. Haas provided a link for is worth the visit. The short portion about the Landsdowne leans a bit more towards the town and the people but is very nicely done

mattschultz91 on July 30, 2023 at 11:05 am

It’s Official! The Final Phase of the Historic Lansdowne Theater Restoration Has Begun.

Elected officials, donors, and sponsors celebrated today at the beloved regional theater.

July 24, 2023, (Lansdowne, PA)… In the fall of 2024, a beloved treasure will reopen its doors on North Lansdowne Avenue when the historic Lansdowne Theater reopens as a major regional concert venue. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1,280-seat theater operated from 1927 to 1987 as a single-screen movie theater. The $18 million construction project is anticipated to take one year to complete.

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) joined elected officials and leaders from the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation (HLTC) to herald a new beginning for the iconic, Delaware County landmark. In addition to performances by professional musicians, The Lansdowne will provide subsidized rental rates for non-profit performing arts organizations and school groups.

“I am proud and excited to support the restoration of the historic Lansdowne Theater, one of the last remaining great theaters from the Golden Age of Hollywood in our region,” said Rep. Scanlon. “Restoring this local jewel will breathe new life into our arts community and spur local economic growth, which is why I was proud to join Senator Casey in securing much-needed funding to make its reopening a reality. It is so exciting to be here today with everyone who worked so hard to reopen this beloved Delaware County landmark.”

“Reopening the Historic Lansdowne Theater will not only bring back a beloved institution but will also create jobs and boost Delco’s economy,” Senator Casey said. “I fought to fund this revitalization because an investment in Pennsylvania’s entertainment industry is an investment in our communities and our economy.”

Representative Scanlon was joined at the event by PA senators Tim Kearney; DELCO County Council Chair Monica Taylor; Lansdowne Mayor Magda Byrne; JNA President Ahsan Nasratullah; Reinvestment Fund Elizabeth Frantz; WSFS Senior Vice President Phil Hough; HLTC President Bob Jara and HLTC Executive Director Matt Schultz.

With the goal to preserve the architectural integrity of the theater, the historic lighting fixtures – including the grand chandelier – and finishes will be restored. New theater seats match the original 1927 design, and the building’s plush draperies and stage curtains will be manufactured and installed. New and expanded restrooms, a fire suppression system, a lobby bar, a 1,500-square-foot patron lounge, and a new state-of-the-art box office will be added. The entire roof, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems will be replaced. A building addition will be constructed at the rear of the historic theater to accommodate dressing and storage rooms, a kitchen, and temporary storage. The first floor of the theater and building addition will be fully ADA-compliant.

“The non-profit Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation responded to the desire of many residents of Delaware County who wanted The Lansdowne to be preserved and reopened as a venue for public entertainment,” said Bob Jara, president of the HLTC Board of Directors. “After a long battle to secure funding and approvals from a myriad of regulatory agencies, we are proud to join with our supporters to begin construction.”

HLTC will retain ownership of the building and lease the building to a leading regional independent concert promoter. Name to be released at a future date.

“We took on this project because we want to preserve this landmark building and recognized the potential of the project to spur economic development throughout the business district. We are excited to partner with a concert promoter to bring nationally and internationally known musicians to enliven not only the building but the surrounding neighborhood,” said Matt Schultz, executive director of the HLTC. “We don’t want to ever lose local ownership of the building again. The building had fallen into disrepair, and it is our charge to take care of The Lansdowne forever.”

Please note the Lansdowne Theater Kimball was long ago removed and sold. Neither that instrument nor a new organ will be installed in the building.

Mikeoaklandpark on July 30, 2023 at 3:13 pm

I hope they will also show movies.

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