212 Old York Road,
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Hiway Theatre, Inc. (Official)
Operated by: Renew Theaters, Inc
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Jenkintown Auditorium, Embassy Theatre, York Road Theatre, Hiway Theatre, Merlin Theatre, Chas III Theatre
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News About This Theater
- Aug 5, 2014 — Renewing the Princeton Garden
- May 27, 2014 — Historic Movie Theaters in Phila burbs still showing daily movies
- Jan 3, 2012 — Hiway Theatre celebrates its new neon tower
- Nov 21, 2003 — Today's Newsreel
Built in 1913 this was originally known as the Jenkintown Auditorium and was designed by architect Albert F. Schenck. In 1925 the theatre was remodeled by Philadelphia architect William H. Lee, it was outfitted to show silent films and renamed the Embassy Theatre.
In 1936, both the exterior and interior was remodeled to the plans of architect William E. Groben and it was renamed the York Road Theatre, with a seating capacity given as 600. In 1940, it was taken over by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. and was renamed the Hiway Theatre. By 1950, the seating capacity had been slightly reduced to 540.
In the 1960’s, local movie exhibitor William Goldman operated and refurbished the Hiway Theatre. By 1970 it was operated by A.M. Ellis Theaters Co. chain. In 1985, Irwin Merlin purchased the Hiway Theatere. He renamed it Merlin Theatre in 1988, when he remodeled the theatre. In 1999, Philadelphia attorney Charles Peruto Jr. purchased the theatre and renamed it after his son, the Chas III Theatre.
In 2003 it was purchased by local residents whose sole purpose was to preserve and protect this historic structure. It now operates as a non-profit showing first run, independent and foreign films.
Since November of 2003, the theater has once again been known as the Hiway Theater. About two million dollars worth of renovations and restorations were completed in 2006, which reduced the seating capacity in the auditorium from 540 down to 330. The movie screen is nicely sized at 28 feet wide for ‘scope films. On December 27, 2011, a 19 foot tall replica Art Moderne style vertical sign was installed, having been made by Bartush Signs. Replacing the original vertical sign that was in place from 1940 until the 1980’s, the new neon tower is burgundy with yellow letters, antique gold neon, and aluminium trim. On May 20, 2013, the nonprofit Renew Theatres (which manages nearby Ambler Theatre and Doylestown’s County Theatre) is taking over management, though the Hiway Theater will continue to have its own board of directors.
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