Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who has owned the Boyd over time?
Alexander R. Boyd built the Boyd Theatre in 1928. The Stanley Warner company bought the theater after completion. In 1971, the Boyd was sold to the Sameric Corporation, which renamed the theater the "Sam Eric." In the 1980's, the Sameric Corporation added three smaller auditoriums to land west of the theater. In 1988, the Sameric Corporation sold their theaters to the United Artists Circuit. In 1998, the Goldenberg Group of Blue Bell purchased the Boyd from United Artists. In bankruptcy, United Artists broke the lease and the theater closed on May 2, 2002.
In 2005, Clear Channel, Inc. bought the Boyd Theatre from The Goldenberg Group. Clear Channel's theaters have now become an independent company called Live Nation.
Why did the Boyd close in 2002?
The Boyd was built for silent movies, and so had to be palatial to attract audiences, and needed many seats to pay for a live orchestra and shows. The theater opened with a talkie. The invention of talkies meant newer moviehouses were plainer and had fewer seats, and many were built in neighborhoods. Nevertheless, the lure of downtown showplaces like the Boyd was so strong that they thrived until television arrived in most people's homes in the 1950's, and then many movie palaces were demolished. The Boyd installed a giant movie screen and adapted with Cinerama and epics like Ben Hur.
By the mid 1970's, many people resided in the suburbs, so the practice of mainstream movies being first shown downtown ended. In the 1980s multiplexes were built throughout the region, and the Boyd's balcony closed. The three small auditoriums added in the 1980's helped keep the movie palace open, but by 2002, it was no longer possible to justify market rent to show movies in the historic auditorium that was built for 2400 seats.
What will the Boyd be reused for when it reopens?
Under Philadelphia developer Hal Wheeler's plan, the Boyd will be used for light entertainment such as concerts, lectures, and hotel events.
The Friends of the Boyd aim to bring a film series, an organ, public tours, and exhibits of the theater's history, but we need your help to accomplish these community program goals. Visit How to Help.
What will the 3 small auditoriums be used for?
That building is not historic. The space was gutted and became a Gap Outlet store.
Is the theater protected by a preservation law?
Yes. In 1980, after the Fox Theater at 16th & Market Streets was demolished, the Boyd Theater became the last surviving movie palace in Philadelphia. In 1987, by a vote of 7 to 1, the Philadelphia Historical Commission certified the Boyd Theatre as historic. Commission member David Brownlee argued for the designation, citing the design by the prominent Philadelphia architectural firm of Hoffman & Henon, and that the theater "has the most complete art-deco interior in the city."
The then owner, the Sameric Corp, challenged the historic preservation law, claiming legal protection of the Boyd amounted to an unconstitutional taking of private property "without just compensation" In 1991, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania threw out all preservation ordinances. Upon a request for review, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania found in 1993 that preservation law was constitutional, but that the City of Philadelphia had not authorized the protection of interiors.
In 2001, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia asked the Philadelphia Historical Commission to certify the Boyd, based on its exterior, but the Commission said no. In 2008, the Preservation Alliance, assisted by the Friends of the Boyd, again asked, and this time by a vote of 14 to 0, the Historical Commission added the Boyd Theatre to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, legally protecting the movie palace.
In 2008, City Councilman Bill Green introduced a proposed change to the law to allow the Philadelphia Historic Commission to protect landmark interiors.
Philadelphia Inquirer movie critic Carrie Rickey, in a 1990 article, citing the Boyd, suggested that "The argument might be framed this: If movies are artifacts to be cherished and preserved, they require a grand museum or symphony-hall setting."
Why preserve the Boyd?
The Boyd is the last great movie palace in Philadelphia. Most U.S. cities have saved at least one movie palace so that future generations can experience the kind of places where movies were seen from the 1920s through the 1970s with beautiful lobbies, foyers, a huge auditorium with a large screen, and a stage.
Movie premieres, and all sorts of films could be enjoyed in the Boyd, as could live performing arts events.
In addition, the Boyd is a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture, a style known popularly at the Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, and other landmarks from the 1920s through the 1940s.
I keep reading about books and photographs collected by Irvin Glazer. Who was he?
An accountant who served as President of the Theatre Historical Society of America and wrote 3 books: Philadelphia Theatres A-Z, Philadelphia Theaters, A Pictorial Architectural History, and Philadelphia Orchestra: The Search for a Home. There is a huge Irvin R. Glazer Collection at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Glazer was an outspoken advocate of reutilizing the Boyd. He passed away in 1996 at age 74.