Thursday May 22, 2008 at 5:30 PM: Illustrated Lecture
At the new AIA Center for Architecture (1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia) from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM, there's a free event, no registration needed, hosted by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia for Preservation Month.
Center City Philadelphia's last movie palace, the Boyd Theatre, remains unoccupied, for sale, and threatened with the possibility of demolition. Built in 1928, to designs of the Hoffman-Henon Company, one of Philadelphia's most prolific theater architects, and seating over two thousand, the Boyd was a centerpiece of moviegoing in Center City. Against all odds, the Friends of the Boyd fended off a demolition attempt in 2002, and remains dedicated to seeing this Art Deco masterpiece restored. In this joint presentation, Shawn Evans, AIA of Atkin Olshin Schade Architects and Adrian Scott Fine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation will present the significance and the plight of this movie palace and place it in the context of a national preservation struggle.
Hershey Theatre Tour, December 2, 2006
On Saturday, December 2, 2006, Friends of the Boyd traveled by coach bus to Hershey, PA for an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the magnificently restored 1933 Hershey Theatre. We saw the Auditorium's stunning Venetian interior, atmospheric ceiling and heard the organ played by a professional organist. We learned of the theater's restoration and of the many musicals, classic films, and educational tours of the theater. See a photo of the Friends of the Boyd group in the Lobby. See more Hershey Theatre photos here.
Then, Friends enjoyed a sumptuous buffet lunch in the renowned Circular Dining Room at one of America's great landmark hotels, the Spanish-style Hotel Hershey. After lunch, we explored the beautiful public rooms of the hotel and its majestic gardens.
"Blow Out" on May 12, 2006
The Friends of the Boyd presented Brian De Palma's movie thriller "Blow Out" (1981) on Friday, May 12, 2006 at International House. An original 35 mm scope (wide screen) print was shown. Starring John Travolta, Blow Out's filmed in Philadelphia scenes include interiors of 30th Street Station and the Reading Terminal, as well as the Mummurs and exteriors of John Wanamaker's, South Street, and Penn's Landing.
See photos of TV Channel 6 Action News' Dave Roberts, actor Tom McCarthy, and FM radio personality Michael Tearson at the VIP wine and buffet reception. All spoke about their cameo roles in "Blow Out" and the making of the film.
View a photo in the auditorium of Philadelphia entertainers Chumley and Carlota, who performed a skit, followed by Q & A with Tom McCarthy and Dave Roberts, before the film. Our slide show of the Boyd's history was also shown.
DJ Chatty Cathy spun the best of 1980's music at the reception and After-Party. Refreshment donors included Darling's Coffeehouse & Cheesecake Cafe, Sue's Produce Market, Whole Foods Market, Yards Brewing Co. Proceeds will ensure a more authentic restoration and a program at the Boyd of film, organ concerts, tours, and exhibits of the Boyd's history.
February 2006: Ongoing Work to Prepare the Boyd for its Future
Clear Channel bought the Boyd Theatre in 2005, but has spun off its theaters including the Boyd into an independent, new company called Live Nation.
The Friends of the Boyd continue to meet with Live Nation officials to accomplish our following goals:
- Achieve a comprehensive and authentic restoration. We are fundraising to ensure that Art Deco features return and we continue to research the Boyd's restoration needs. Let us know if you have historic photos of the Boyd, as the details seen in the photos can help!
- Ensure film equipment and an electronic organ is accommodated, so that there will be films (classics, festivals, and premieres) and a theater organ.
- Provide public tours
- Host exhibits of the Boyd's history. Let us know if you have items for exhibit.
We welcome sponsors and volunteers. To receive our weekly email update, to volunteer, and to donate, see the options at the top of this page. For further information, email info@FriendsOfTheBoyd.org or telephone 215-567-2970.
Preliminary work is progressing inside the Boyd, by the owner, Live Nation, including the following:
- Chairs that were non original were given to chair manufacturers for use elsewhere. Original chairs were dismantled for reuse in the Boyd of the ornate ends and possibly of the armrests
- All original light fixtures were retrieved for refurbishment by a professional light fixture restoration company.
- Old insulation materials were removed, to prepare for the replacement of all electric wiring, and much of the plumbing.
- Carpets are being removed, so that Art Deco carpets patterned after the originals can replace them.
- A paint study uncovered original Art Deco paint patterns. Paint experts are starting a Mock Up of proposed repainting as the paint that was discovered is faded, and appropriate shades of color need be determined.
- From the historic photos and documents we provided, the owner's architects have drafted meticulous drawings of long gone features such as the 1928 marquee and ticket booth so they can be recreated.
- Exploratory work to discover other original features continues. Decorative limestone in the front of the theater that was long covered has been revealed. Above dropped ceilings, original decorative ceilings of the Grand Lobby and Ticket Lobby were found.
- Vulnerable original material is being covered up for protection during construction, such as the outdoor terrazzo floor, Art Deco glasswork, and marble.
- Heating and air conditioning are being designed to provide the best climate, while minimizing noise. The old system leaked in the auditorium, damaging the plaster mural around the central chandelier.
- Restroom expansion is being planned.
- Passenger elevators and other measures are being reviewed to comply with ADA
Major construction will begin later and include demolition of the existing small stagehouse, and replacing it with a huge stagehouse that can host Touring Broadway musicals and concerts. Demolition of the stagehouse will not affect the historic Art Deco features of the Boyd. Reopening of the theater is expected in 2007.
April 2005: Restoration Begins & Many Discoveries at the Boyd
In late March, 2005, Clear Channel took ownership of the Boyd and armed with research provided by the Friends of the Boyd, immediately began exploratory work in the movie palace. The following items were accomplished:
- Partition walls that had taken away the downstairs Lounge in the 1980's were removed, bringing back the Lounge.
- The original Fire Curtain, which wasn't seen by the public in decades, was lowered, revealing an Art Deco geometric pattern with colors matching the Mural and Proscenium Arch.
- Plaster was removed in niches in the auditorium, revealing for the 1st time since 1953 Monel metal silhouettes of woman from around the world, cacti, and parrots.
- The main carpet from 1928 was discovered under the candy counter upstairs
- Wall fabric from 1928 was discovered, a plant pattern in a blue color, from shiny metallic thread.
- Original terrazzo was uncovered in the Ticket Lobby.
- The concession stand in the Grand Lobby was removed, restoring the Lobby's atmosphere. The Auditorium's orchestra level projection booth was also removed, as film projection can return to the original upstairs booth.
The Friends of the Boyd retrieved the front of the backstage's historic Lighting Control Panel for future exhibit. We also retrieved movie projectors & sound equipment from the demolished booth, for future film projection. And, we took a S from the marquee as the Sam Eric script from 1971 was removed, revealing the Boyd script from 1953.
January 5, 2005: Boyd Theatre Project to Move Forward
Inside the Foyer of the Boyd (Sameric) Mayor Street and David Anderson of Clear Channel announced that Clear Channel will restore and reopen the Boyd in late 2006. Friends of the Boyd leader Howard B. Haas stated that the Friends will continue to fundraise for restoration of Art Deco features, and to assist with a film program, public tours, and exhibits of the theater's history.
"Rocky" on May 6, 2005
The Friends of the Boyd presented a new looking 35 MM print of the 1976 Academy Award Best Picture "Rocky" at International House on Friday, May 6. Sylvester Stallone became famous as Rocky Balboa in the quintessential Philadelphia movie. "Rocky" earned 10 Oscar nominations including acting nominations for Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire, and Burt Young.
Before the film, an updated Boyd Theatre slide show was shown, including discoveries at the movie palace in April 2005 of the Fabulous Fire Curtain, the Monel Metal figures of women from around the world, and original wall fabric.
Andreas Fuchs, co-author of Cinema Treasures, A New Look at Classic Movie Theaters, spoke at the VIP reception. Thanks to Gallo's MacMurray Ranch for the wine and Yards for the beer. Both pre and post film receptions enjoyed 1970's music from DJ Chatty Cathy and Italian food. Donated by MGM, a Rocky DVD set was raffled off. Many authentic Sameric marquee letters were sold. The proceeds will be applied for Boyd restoration and a film program.
May 3, 2005: Friends of the Boyd Leader Haas Receives Award
Heritage Collaborative, Inc., South Jersey's preservation advocacy organization, choose Howard B. Haas, founding chairman and president of the Friends of the Boyd, as a 2005 recipient of the Whitman Preservation Award. Haas was chosen for the Emerging Project Award for "exemplary leadership in saving the Boyd Theatre, and serving as an example to South Jersey preservation efforts to save our historic theatres."
Read about the May 3 award ceremony.
Philadelphia's Lost Movie Palaces Exhibit December 2004
The Friends of the Boyd were pleased to co-sponsor a free exhibit of historic photos of Philadelphia's Lost Movie Palaces, at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 219 South Sixth Street, from December 6 to Friday December 10, 2004. Displayed were images of Center City's Boyd, Earle, Fox, Mastbaum, and Stanley Theatres, and of North Philadelphia's Uptown. Only the Boyd and the Uptown survive, and in 2004 received the Landmark Building Award from the Philadelphia chapter of the AIA. A Powerpoint slide show and lecture by Bruce Laverty, Curator of Architecture at the Athenaeum, concluded the week long exhibit.
"The Happiest Millionaire" on October 1, 2004
The Friends of the Boyd presented the Disney classic film "The Happiest Millionaire" at International House on Friday, October 1. The 1967 musical comedy is based on the true stories set in 1916-17 of eccentric Philadelphia millionaire Anthony J. Drexel Biddle. Starring Fred MacMurray, Greer Garson, Lesley Ann Warren, and Geraldine Page, the film was shown at Internatuonal House in the original 2 and a half hour 35 MM "Premiere" version. After the public premieres, including one at the Boyd in 1967, the film was cut down to 2 hours to be shown in moviehouses worldwide, so this was a unique experience! The original Technicolor print was obtained from the Disney vault.
Crossword mystery author Cordelia Biddle spoke at the VIP reception
about the story the movie is based upon, and the Biddle family.
Thanks to Gallo's MacMurray Ranch for
the wine served at the VIP reception. DJ Jay Schwartz of Secret Cinema spun
Swinging 1960's music at the After-Party, at which people enjoyed Yards beer,
and food from Whole Foods and Trader Joes. The proceeds will ensure an authentic
restoration and a film program at the Boyd.
Grace Kelly Tribute "The Swan" April 16, 2004
As part of the Philadelphia Film Festival, at International House on April 16, 2004, our 1st fundraiser of the year showcased a beautiful color print of "The Swan" (1956), MGM's light hearted romp. Philadelphia's own Grace Kelly, about to become a princess in real life, is supposed to marry Alec Guinness but falls for her tutor, Louis Jourdan.
See a photo of Grace Kelly's niece Meg Packer at our VIP wine & buffet reception. Meg spoke of serving as a flower girl at Grace's overseas royal wedding on April 19, 1956. Original movie posters were displayed, brought by Ed Drumm. TV host Gene London also spoke, stressing the importance of saving the Boyd. He said the idea for his "Children Corners" show came from the movies.
In the auditorium, the vastly expanded Boyd Theatre slide show was shown, along with the 9 minute 1953 film "The Miracle on the Delaware" which included the Boyd exterior in color! See a photo of Gene London introducing "The Swan." See photos of costumes he brought that Grace Kelly wore, including from "The Swan" and "To Catch a Thief" worn here by a volunteer model.
An After-Party was enjoyed by all.1950's music was spun by WBCB radio's Smilin Lou Powers at both receptions. See a photo of a film fan holding a Boyd/Sameric marquee letter. Funds raised will be applied to the restoration of the Boyd.
Friends of the Boyd Leaders Met January 2004 with More Local Groups
Friends leaders Howard Haas, John Gallery and theater owner represenative Leslie Smallwood addressed the Design Advocacy Group (DAG) on January 8, 2004 and the Board of Rittenhouse Row on January 20, 2004. Both DAG and Rittenhouse Row expressed enthusiasm for the plans to reopen the Boyd Theatre.
"The Philadelphia Story" Holiday Film December 5, 2003
Many people braved the snowstorm to arrive at International House in Philadelphia for our Holiday Film Fundraiser on December 5, 2003. We presented a wonderful print of "The Philadelphia Story," the 1940 sparkling romantic comedy from MGA nominated for 6 Oscars. The film showcases Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart in his Academy Award winning performance. The audience was first treated to our slide show of historic Boyd Theatre images put together by Shawn Evans, AIA. Evans spoke briefly, followed by a short speech by Friends leader Howard B. Haas.
Before the movie, Edmund Bacon, Philadelphia City Planner (1949-70) spoke at a well attended Light Supper & Wine reception. Friends leader Haas brought everybody up to date on our cause, and then Vice President John Gallery introduced Bacon. Bacon noted his own Philadelphia story, as his family arrived in our city in 1682. See a photo of Bacon holding 1960's Time magazine with his photo on the cover.
After the movie, everybody enjoyed a party where Jay Schwartz of Secret Cinema served as volunteer DJ spinning 1940's Big Band swing music.
For donations of food & drink to the reception and party, thanks to major donors Cabot Vermont, Whole Foods Market, and Yards Brewing Company, and also Trader Joes and Wawa, and many volunteers who home baked desserts.
City Commerce Director Lauds Sameric's Significance
On September 21, 2003, Philadelphia City Commerce director Jim Cuorato proclaimed on KYW radio that the Boyd (Sameric) "is a national historic landmark and a treasure." Actually, although the theater is part of a historic district, so eligible for federal tax credits for restoration, it is not individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The theater should be certified by the Philadelphia Historic Commission so it will be legally protected.
W.C. Fields' "International House" June 27, 2003
International House in Philadelphia hosted our Benefit Screening on June 27, 2003 of a beautiful print of "International House", a 1933 madcap comedy about the invention of television. Philadelphia's own W.C. Fields led an all star cast that also included Peggy Hopkins, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Bela Lugosi, Rudy Vallee, and Cab Calloway and his band. Before the movie, a cartoon with a W.C. Fields cameo was shown. George Stewart and Ted Wioncek, President of the W.C. Fields Fan Club, introduced the film. Ted also displayed W.C. Fields memorabilia.
Before the movie, world famous architect and urban planner Robert Venturi of Venturi Scott Brown and Associates of Philadelphia spoke at a reception. Venturi recalled the now lost Mastbaum, the Aldine, and "great memories" of the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, where he grew up. Venturi said the Boyd is "another kind of Academy of Music" and that the Boyd's 1928 "great sign and marquee will come back." Friends of the Boyd leader Howard B. Haas promised that the original vertical sign and marquee would indeed be restored. Friends Vice President John Gallery introduced Venturi. See photo of Robert Venturi.
After the movie, everybody enjoyed a party where Dan Buskirk donated his time spinning Jazz music.
For donations of food and drink to the reception and party, thanks to Beau Monde, Bucks County Coffee, J. Cabot Catering Company, Hope's Cookies, Singapore Restaurant, Sweet Treats, Yards Brewing Company, and many volunteers who home baked desserts.
Community Action Award on May 15, 2003
At luncheon ceremony on May 15, 2003 attended in part by Mayor Street, at the Ballroom of the Bellevue in Philadelphia, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia presented the Community Action Award to "The Committee to Save the Sameric, Howard B. Haas, Chairman." The brochure proclaimed that:
The Committee to Save the Sameric was formed in June 2002 following the issuance of a demolition permit for historic Boyd Theater in Philadelphia. Dedicated members of the film community, film buffs, and preservationists were brought together by Howard B. Haas, a Center City lawyer, to create a grass-roots campaign to preserve the theater. Media support and petitions signed by 5000 individuals eventually led to Mayor Street's endorsement for preservation. Although the future of the theater is still in question, the efforts of hundreds of volunteers-coordinated by a leadership group consisting of Haas, Shawn Evans, AIA, Michael Norris, Jay Farrell, Rob Bender, Andrew Repasky McElhinney, Adrian Scott Fine, and John Andrew Gallery - have demonstrated the effectiveness of grass-roots preservation action and given hope that the Boyd will be returned to its Art Deco splendor.
"Illustrated Lecture" May 13, 2003 for Preservation Month
For Preservation Month, the Preservation Alliance hosted a free event on March 13, 2003 from 6 PM to 8 PM at the beautiful theater in the ornate Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce St, Philadelphia.† A packed room of more than 90 people including a high school class of 20 were inspired by our Illustrated Lecture with slides. Adrian Scott Fine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Shawn Evans, AIA, of Atkin Olshin Lawson-Bell presented a Powerpoint slide show "Historic Movie Palaces & the Boyd Theater", an overview of the fate and preservation of movie palaces throughout the U.S. including those lost, saved, and in limbo, as well as Philadelphia's Center City movie palaces, highlighting the Boyd. Fine, Evans, Friends Board members Gallery, Haas, and Norris then answered questions from the audience. Many commented afterwards they were inspired by the presentation.
Thanks to the Preservation Alliance for hosting the event and for AVA for allowing us to use their gorgeous theater. The theater has carved wood beams in the ceiling, paintings, and other decorative touches which are being restored.
The Show-Off Movie Fundraiser, March 21, 2003
An overflow crowd filling more than the usual maximum of 450 seats enjoyed The Show-Off, 8 PM, March 21, 2003, Benefit Screening at Philadelphia's International House. A beautiful print was shown of the 1926 silent romantic comedy starring Louise Brooks and Ford Sterling. Inquirer movie critic Carrie Rickey introduced the film and Don Kinnier magically played the piano to accompany the film. The Show-Off was filmed in Philadelphia with scenes of Swann Fountain, City Hall, and old Pennsylvania Railroad Broad Street Station. Each ticket cost only $15 and included reception afterwards with food donated from White Dog Cafe, beer donated from Yards Brewing Co., and 1920's music from radio D.J. Dan Buskirk who volunteered his record spinning.
The Friends of the Boyd hosted its first film to raise funds for business and architectural studies to restore the Sameric.
"How Movie Palaces are Saved" presented March 5, 2003
The public filled every seat in the ornate Auditorium of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia on March 5, 2003, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM for a free program by the Friends of the Boyd. Adrian Scott Fine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation presented a Powerpoint slide show "Saving Historic Theaters: Examples from Across the U.S., A Presentation Highlighting Successful Efforts, Strategies and Partnerships" followed by our own Powerpoint show of the history of Center City movie palaces including the Sameric, presented by our architect, Shawn Evans, AIA. We realized Philadelphians could benefit from knowing how movie palaces have been saved nationwide. Fine, Evans, Friends Board members Gallery, Haas, and Norris then took questions from a crowd enthusiastic on saving the Sameric.
Many people enjoyed the free 5:30 PM tour of the special exhibit "On the Edge of Your Seat: Popular Theater and Film in Early Twentieth-Century Art" covering 1890 to 1930. The exhibit runs from Feb. 8 to April 20, 2003 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Thanks to PAFA for providing the tour and the opportunity for the Friends to use their auditorium.
Saving Sameric Leaders Addressed Neighborhood
The William Penn House is the large residential building on Chestnut Street across the street from the Sameric. On January 27, 2003, Friends leaders Howard Haas, Michael Norris, and Shawn Evans, AIA, joined theater owner representative Leslie Smallwood in speaking to a packed lobby of more than 150 residents. Evans presented our Powerpoint slide show. The residents expressed an interest in the theater being saved. On October 27, 2003, Friends leaders Haas and John Gallery again joined Smallwood in addressing the William Penn House residents, and presented current plans.
Haas and Evans appeared before the Preservation Committee of the Center City Residents Association (CCRA) on October 24, 2002. Haas, Evans, and Norris, appeared before the Board of the CCRA on February 11, 2003, and presented our Powerpoint slide show. The Board of CCRA endorsed in principle the saving of the Sameric by our group. Both the Board and the committee appeared very enthusiastic about the need to restore and reuse the theater.
74th Birthday Celebration for Sameric held on Christmas Day 2002
Together with the theater's owner, The Goldenberg Group, Inc. of Blue Bell, we hosted a sidewalk 74th birthday party for the Sameric theater on Christmas Day, 2002, under the theater's marquee. In commemoration of the theater's December 25, 1928 opening, Jayfar's PhilaDeco commissioned a spectacular cake from Petit 4 Pastry Studio.
Grants Awarded For Business Planner and Architects
By letter of March 5, 2003, the City of Philadelphia authorized $25,000 so Friends of the Boyd, Inc. can obtain business and architectural studies. On March 21, 2003, the Board of the Fels Foundation voted to approve the Friends full request for $7500, and that evening a substantial amount of money was raised by the sold-out benefit screening of The Show-Off.
The Friends of the Boyd, Inc. retained Dulcie Gilmore for the preparation of a marketing and business plan for the reuse of the Sameric theater as a mixed use theater for films and performing arts. Gilmore has managed several major theaters, including movie palaces, and is a nationally recognized specialist for preparation of theater business plans.
The Friends of the Boyd retained Atkin Olshin Lawson-Bell, Architects, of Philadelphia, for an architectural feasibility study. Specialists at restoration and new construction, Atkin Olshin employs Shawns Evans, A.I.A., who has served in a volunteer capacity since our formation as one of our most enthusiastic leaders. Shawn put together a team of our nation's best theatre consultants, engineers, construction experts, and accousticians, for the study.
National Trust For Historic Preservation Awards Grant To The Committee To Save The Sameric
The National Trust for Historical Preservation granted $2500 to us for retention of real estate and tax experts to assist in the acquisition of the Sameric theater from the property owner. This grant was a matching grant, and our supporters promptly matched it with $2500. At our October 23, 2002, meeting with Ken Goldenberg, we presented him with various ways to transfer the property to us.
Despite Strong Rally Turnout, L&I Board Re-affirms Demolition Permit
Over 100 people turned out for our August 6, 2002 rally at 1515 Arch St. Committee Chairman Howard B Haas delivered a moving speech to the crowd. Unfortunately, the L & I Review Board declined to revoke the demolition permit and refused to hear testimony from witnesses regarding the demolition permit. The Board stated they were limited to hearing about issues such as physical harm to adjoining properties and believed they could not consider the public interest of keeping Philadelphia's last movie palace. Samuel C. Stretton, Esq. volunteered his time to represent us at the proceeding.
Mayor John Street Toured Sameric on July 31, 2002
Mayor Street joined Ken Goldenberg, Howard B. Haas, and the media on July 31, 2002, for a tour of the Sameric Theater. Mayor Street asked the Goldenberg Group for the tour because he was interested in seeing the building and understanding the issues related to the possible preservation of the facility. At the theater, the Mayor promised to ask our U.S. Senators and Ed Rendell, who is running for Governor, for support in saving the theater.
Boyd Theatre Designated One of Pennsylvania's Top Ten Endangered Historic Properties
Preservation Pennsylvania on July 19, 2002 released Pennsylvania At Risk 2002 designating the Boyd Theater as one of Pennsylvania's ten most endangered historic properties. In addition to increasing awareness, the designation makes properties eligible for special consideration in applying for funding through the Keystone Grant Program, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.