UPDATE MARCH 2013: Nearly a year after the Philadelphia Historical Commission approved the demolition of the Boyd Theatre for an iPic multiplex, a demolition permit has been issued and workers are beginning to mobilize on site. However, ultimate plans for the parcel are now uncertain following the theater’s sale to Pearl Properties in October 2014. Pearl has not confirmed whether or not a new movie theater will replace the Art Deco landmark, but have committed to honoring an agreement made between the Alliance, Friends of the Boyd, and the previous developers to preserve and document key interior features. Pearl has advised the Alliance that their new plans will save the historic façade, entry vestibule, the grand lobby and a rear portion of the main auditorium extending to Sansom Street [CLICK HERE for approved demolition plan]. This would preserve significantly more of the Boyd’s exceptional Art Deco interiors in place, though the demolition of the auditorium itself would still be a major loss.
UPDATE APRIL 2014: The Philadelphia Historical Commission voted to allow the demolition of the Boyd Theatre on March 14, 2014. By a vote of 9-1, the Commission ruled that the theater presented a financial hardship, despite that fact that Friends of the Boyd offered current owner Live Nation $4.5 million to purchase and preserve the property. On March 17, 2014, selective demolition of the interior commenced. CLICK HERE for executive director Caroline Boyce’s statement about the demolition and the Alliance’s efforts to preserve important interior features of the theater.
1910 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Hoffman-Henon Company, 1928
Significance: Center City’s last surviving motion picture palace is also one of Philadelphia’s preeminent examples of Art Deco architecture. Behind a diminutive Chestnut Street façade stand opulent lobbies and a soaring auditorium unmatched in the city. According to its opening program from Christmas Day 1928, the theater’s lavish and whimsical murals, mosaics, etched glass mirrors and bas relief sculpture celebrated the “Triumph of the Modern Woman.”
Threat: Though the theater’s interiors are remarkably intact, an application to demolish everything but the Chestnut Street façade was submitted to the Philadelphia Historical Commission in September 2013 by the theater’s owner, Live Nation Worldwide, Inc. In its place, the national theater chain iPic seeks to build an eight-screen luxury multiplex.
Recommendations: Philadelphia deserves a creative and forward-thinking restoration plan for the Boyd Theatre and its one-of-a-kind auditorium and lobbies. Any plan that proposes the complete demolition of these spaces is a shortsighted approach to one of Center City’s most potentially transformative sites. Demolition requires the approval of the Historical Commission, which must first conclude that the theater cannot be adapted for any other use. Numerous examples of successful theater conversions across the country can be studied for viable alternative reuse proposals that would preserve the Jazz Age splendor of the theater.
Media coverage of the Boyd Theater:
- “Is demo at the Boyd about to take place?,” Philadelphia Magazine, March 6, 2015
- “iPic didn’t come, so what next for the Boyd?,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 20, 2014
- “iPic expects to move forward soon on renovation of the Boyd,” Plan Philly, December 16, 2014
- “Effort to save Boyd interior ends with agreement,” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 5, 2014
- “Live Nation granted permit to gut Boyd Theater,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 16, 2014
- “Boyd a step closer to partial demolition,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 28, 2014
- “Historical Commission committee accepts Boyd hardship application,” PlanPhilly, February 27, 2014
- “11th-hour offer to buy Boyd Theatre,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 23, 2014
- “Complicated Boyd Theatre financial hardship hearing runs out of meeting minutes, will be continued,” PlanPhilly, January 28, 2014
- “Boyd Theater remains in limbo as hearing recesses without vote,” Philadelphia Inquirer, January 30, 2014
- “Things not looking good for Save the Boyd-ers,” Philadelphia City Paper, January 28, 2014
- “Effort to save the Boyd faces big battle this week,” Philadelphia Daily News, January 27, 2014
- “Hollywood ending for Boyd looks unlikely as case goes before hardship committee tomorrow,” Hidden City Daily, January 27, 2014
- “Friends of the Boyd brave harsh elements to save Philly’s last movie palace,” Weekly Press, December 18, 2013
- “Advocates rally for Boyd Theatre reuse,” Eyes on the Street, December 10, 2013
- “The future of Philadelphia’s historic Boyd Theater,” WHYY Radio Times, December 4, 2013
- “Theater owners seeking to gut their historical landmarks,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 23, 2013
- “Turn old Phila. theater into mod multiplex? Not so fast, say pals of Boyd,” Philadelphia Inquirer, November 22, 2013
- “Movie complex proposed for Boyd Theater would restore facade, destroy auditorium,” Hidden City Daily, October 6, 2013
- “Eight-screen movie theater and restaurant planned for old Boyd,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 2, 2013