Boyd Theatre

Photo: After the Final Curtain, copyright: Matt Lambros 2013

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.


Links:

Friends of the Boyd (Facebook page)
After the Final Curtain (photo gallery)

Live Nation/iPic hardship application

 

Media coverage of the Boyd Theater:

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