Rally To Save The Boyd Tuesday

 

Boyd Theater auditorium, 2013 | Photo: Chandra Lampreich

Boyd Theater auditorium, 2013 | Photo: Chandra Lampreich

The advocacy group Friends of the Boyd turns to the public once more in the long fight to save Center City’s last movie palace, the Boyd Theater at 19th and Chestnut Streets. As Hidden City’s Christopher Mote reported in October, a Florida-based theater chain, iPic Entertainment, in partnership with Philadelphia developer Neal Rodin, has proposed to bring a multiplex luxury cinema to the Boyd, a plan that would restore the art deco façade but destroy the sumptuous auditorium. The rally will take place at the Boyd, 1910 Chestnut Street, Tuesday, December 10, 11:30AM-1PM.

“Our prior Save the Boyd rallies got the attention of City officials and played a key role in convincing a prior owner of the Boyd to not demolish our last movie palace,” says Howard Haas, president of the Friends group. “Friends of the Boyd needs now to send a message to iPic that many people will be upset if they insist on destroying our historic movie palace, and a message to the City officials that we need their help!”

The exterior of the Boyd and the structure that contains the auditorium are protected under the City’s historic preservation statute. iPic will need a hardship exemption–a ruling from the Historical Commission that says it’s economically impossible to develop the Boyd without demolishing the auditorium–in order to proceed with its plan.

Haas will be joined at the rally by Caroline Boyce, executive director of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. Boyce will unveil the Alliance’s 2013 Endangered Properties List, which will include the Boyd.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is also senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine.



19 Comments


  1. Great ti include that photograph. Few people know what the stunning interior of the Boyd looks like – all one sees is the sadly neglected and vastly less interesting façade on Chestnut Street. If the public knew how marvelous the interior was there would be more support to save this theatre.

    • exactly, though. you can’t see the inside. i’m sorry, it’s an eyesore and NEEDS to go.

      • Are you saying that anything that has been neglected should be destroyed rather than restored? If that were the case, we would have very few historic or beautiful buildings left.

  2. It’s looking as though it’s got a date with a wrecking ball. Hate to see the place go but I forgot about the long-closed balcony even when the theater was still in operation. It’s a horrible idea to keep the facade and destroy the actual auditorium as the new owners would like to do. Keeping my fingers crossed that someone, somewhere will pump the needed funds into saving this landmark before these nitwit developers wreck our last-standing CC palace.

  3. I remember seeing a movie at the Boyd about 40-45 years ago. The theatre is magnificent. It is a pity that one of the performing arts groups in the city can’t use it. Higher education institutions like Penn and Drexel have all the money these days – what about one of them?

  4. Philadelphia is not New York or Los Angeles or even Seattle. There are no magical benefactors showing up at the last minute to “save” this theater. It is time to realize that the residents of this city–myself included–want economic revitalization for the area and a place to go to the movies, once again, on Chestnut Street.

  5. My issue is that I can find no support for Mr. Haas ever doing anything that actually resulted in his groups saving anything. To be frank, this all appears to be one big scam for his group to collect donations for unknown purposes. He appears to have no relationship with the owners of the actual premises and yet he somehow has access to it (through several owners).

    This current effort seems entirely dubious. He’s trying to save the Boyd from being redeveloped as a THEATER! Are you joking? Look at iPic’s other theaters on their website. They’re showplaces. I’d like to have this around the corner. Instead, Haas wants everyone to hold out on a plan that seems entirely unrealistic and that wouldn’t likely be financially viable.

    • I love how people who disagree with something have to go to such great lengths to make the thing they disagree with out to be ridiculous. Showplaces don’t exist anymore, let alone from a company out of Florida. The Boyd is the last of its kind. You can’t compare the last great showplace of that era to the crap that passes for a movie theatre these days.

      • Yes, you can.

        There are other such places still around, like the theater in Bala, that are struggling because they just can’t compete and are falling apart as a result.

        Prince Music Theater went under and is now back but they’re already making marketing moves that underscore they’re finding the road to be a difficult one.

        So, would I want the equivalent of the Bala theater at 19th and Chestnut? No. To what end? It would just continue to be fraction of its original glory.

        Again, I ask some basic questions. Mr. Haas is collecting funds from sincere people but where are those funds going? He claimed to have been involved in other fights. How did those turn out? If they were successful I believe that would be trumpeted all over the Friends of the Boyd site. It’s not because those fights weren’t successful.

        Based on what I’m seeing Mr. Haas is collecting money on behalf of a cause but it’s not a transparent situation. Where is that money going?

        Is it not fair consider that, perhaps, Mr. Haas is motivated to keep going no matter what? Think about it: What are the odds of someone picking up this location and turning it into the one venue he claims is acceptable? It’s almost off the charts low. Thus, his organization can keep collecting funds for a fight that will never be won. For me, the chief piece of evidence here is that now he’s fighting to keep the facility from being developed into the closest possible solution possible!

        Having a posh, upscale 8-theater movie house with totally up-to-date, cutting edge equipment, at that location, could be a major boon to the area. Instead, he’s fighting to have another Prince Music Theater put up there just 4 blocks away. How on Earth does that make any sense?

        Meanwhile, the donations keep flowing in and the eyesore continues to degrade.

        Forgive the skepticism but it’s clearly warranted.

        • Actually, you can’t. Not even a little bit.

          See, that’s the funny thing. It’s not about what just you want. It’s about what’s best.

          And again, maybe it’s not his job to answer your questions. You can draw whatever conclusions you like.

          Maybe there are more important things than what you personally are seeing. Maybe you’re just seeing

          There’s no such thing as a posh, upscale modern movie house. You can make them as upscale as you like but they will never be posh or classy or better than what the Boyd could be. Do continue to construct a straw man though.

          If you seriously think that awful idea of iPic’s is the “closest possible solution possible” then maybe you should take off your rose-colored glasses. It is nowhere close to the best use or close to what the Boyd could be. It’s not even in the same stratosphere. It’s a suburban style multiplex in the 5th largest city that would replace its last grand movie palace.

          Right, eyesore. Really I think you’ve never actually lived in a neighborhood with actual eyesores. It’s too small and too isolated to be an eyesore or a blight.

          It’s not skepticism. It’s bias. There’s a major difference. It’s “skepticism” like yours that sees to it that our history and important historical places continues to be eroded and destroyed in a short-sighted, narrow view of “progress” that in reality destroys the very things that make this city unique and great.

          • This has NOTHING to do with what “I” want. The theater failed for reasons and it continued to languish there for reasons.

            And, I’m in the film industry. I can assure you there are absolutely posh, upscale movie theaters.

            The bottom line is that none of your arguments stand up to scrutiny and now you’ve decided to respond with personal attacks, which speaks volumes for your position. Philadelphia HAD a “grand movie palace” and the people spoke — by not frequenting it any longer or demanding a replacement in the years it’s been gone in any significant numbers.

            And, please stop telling me what I know and don’t know. I grew up in Camden. Would you like to tell me I don’t know about eyesores again??? That theater is a mess right now. The facade is a mess on a very nice section of Chestnut. It sticks out terribly and has for YEARS now.

            Again, you speak of bias but provide nothing but rhetoric in your post. I now wonder who “nobody” actually is and if you might not be a bit too close to this situation than you’re willing to admit publicly. Sorry, but it’s your post that’s clearly heavy on bias.

            I offered direct rebuttal to your comments and you tried (and failed) to side-step all of them with distractions that don’t speak to any of the points.

            The Prince is four blocks away (and struggling). It handles many of the events you suggested for the Boyd. The Kimmel is around the corner and it’s a beautiful building that also handles the events you mention. We have student centers that handle the student events you mentioned — with ease and wonderful facilities.

            So please look up the definition of bias because your post is rife with it. I’m simply telling you what everyone else understands is obvious. The Boyd is dead. It’s going to stay that way. It’s been gutted and Mr. Haas has done NOTHING to substantively impact that. I again ask you, where is the money going and why does this man have access to a building he doesn’t have any ownership in?

  6. I’m sure if this site were not available to them, they would find somewhere else to put it.

  7. Penn is busy destroying its own historic buildings. But new leadership at Drexel may see the potential as they “build a bridge to center city” through aggressive development. They acquired the ailing Academy of Natural Sciences. Maybe they see the value of a 2400 seat art deco auditorium for their student use, and commercial use in between to make money.

    I attended the Boyd Rally today, along with several dozen others concerned about the theater. I don’t think the fight to save it should stop by wringing our hands, wishing for a white knight, or hoping “somebody” will “do something”. WE are the somebodies and we owe it to future Philadelphians to preserve the movie palace experience in a city that practically launched the movie business altogether. Many of the earliest films were made here.

    Built in 1928, the Boyd survived the Great Depression. It should also be able to survive the Great Recession.

  8. I have been following the situation with the Boyd closely, and I’m finally saying something because it looks like this is going to be a hard-fought battle by everybody who wants to see the Boyd saved. It is an absolute travesty that a city with the cultural history and cultural assets that Philadelphia has sees nothing wrong with demolishing its last movie palace after demolishing places like the 200+ foot Fox building and theatre in Center City, among others.

    On one side Mr. Haas’s group is saying to restore the Boyd fully and use it for mixed events. On the other, the movie chain who owns the Boyd now is saying they need to go with a multiplex. I don’t see why they can’t do both. Assuming they have the same land that Hal Wheeler owned for his hotel idea, I would think they could build a multiplex around and connected to the Boyd and use the Boyd auditorium as their showplace theatre. I do not know of a single city in this country that has that combination. It would make Philadelphia their flagship location and would easily be majorly profitable because there are no major theatres in Center City, let alone any that can accommodate such large audiences. It would have to be a multi-story multiplex but honestly I think it’s time Philadelphia gets one of those, especially in Center City. If they include a restaurant like they should given that they have them in other cities, then I would think this idea could be profitable. Auditoriums that big usually don’t work for movies, sure, but it would be pretty much the only theatre in Center City and one of few in the city, so there is no reason they couldn’t at least get the auditorium 3/4 full fairly often. It would simply be the theatre that gets the best, most in-demand movies every single time it’s used.

    As for the Boyd, on top of being the showplace theatre, there are all kinds of uses for an auditorium like that. One idea off the top of my head is that the local universities or the city can give kids in the city or college students an opportunity to showcase their plays or other written pieces on a big, prestigious stage like the Boyd, a yearly contest sort of thing. Not only could it give kids in the city or in the universities an opportunity to get their stuff out there on a big stage but it could help with the costs of keeping the auditorium running and even maintained by getting the groups and sponsors using it for whatever event that evening to pay their share. There could be local concerts, meetings, lectures, really any kind of event without even getting into national musical acts. This is the perfect time for a place like the Boyd because not only are theatres bigger again (have you seen the theatres they build now, with multiple levels?) but people aren’t stuck in that backwards “newer is always better” mindset that saw so many of these places rot or be torn down to begin with.

    If I were the Friends of the Boyd I’d be doing my best to help out with at least a chunk of the cost. I’d hold fundraisers, get a kickstarter page, hold concerts to help raise the money…. Just use whatever resources I could to help with the restoration, including my own sweat and volunteers to help with the work for free, maybe even school kids whether they’re from the universities or from the high schools. I’d be doing everything I could to show people I could do it.

    Anyway, this is just my .02. I think it’s a crime that such short-sightedness and shoot-yourself-in-the-foot mentality is not only allowed but encouraged in this day and age.

    • Go see a movie at Bala. That’s the experience you’re suggesting could be a centerpiece of a multi-million dollar multiplex. A screen descending from a stage set far back from the first seats with a huge ceiling that’s horrible for acoustics and seating that’s hardly up to current demands (stadium). No thank you.

      As I pointed out, just FOUR blocks away you have the Prince Music Theater with a venue that can host the same events you suggest could only be hosted at a rejuvenated Boyd. Then, Penn, Drexel and others have their own venues that house these types of events already and are within easy reach of downtown. Students have the Annenberg theater and the Kimmel Center, Academy and others are options that are already more than viable.

      We already have local concerts, meetings, lectures and everything you already mention.

      Lastly, you mention how FoB can help out. Again, my question is, where is Mr. Haas to suggest how they can help there? He hasn’t offered any such assistance. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? The only thing I’ve seen is his doing just enough to keep people talking and driving people to his site where people are pitched to make a donation that seems to go into the ether.

      Old theaters fail and they fail for a reason. Tastes change. Today consumers want clean bathrooms, comfortable seats with great views of the screen, cutting edge tech, lots of options and not a musty, crumbling venue that isn’t well suited for anything other than the 1930s mindset it was built to address.

      • Actually no, that’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting a classic single-screen theatre with modern amenities. If you have a problem with the screen then make a bigger one. Put it in the very front in front of the stage (which would both be the perfect view for everybody in the theatre and would be a very large screen). If you have a problem with the seats then see what you can do about that. If you have a problem with the acoustics then install modern speakers. The demand for a theatre that seats that many people is there, whether you agree or not. They’re building theatres now that are much more like the ones from back then than the crap that replaced them. There’s more seating and two separate levels.

        Yes, and your point? If the Boyd is being used as the showplace theatre where they only show the movies that are most in demand every single day or night then it won’t have all that many dates free in the first place. The whole point of my saying to use it for those different ideas that were off the top of my head is so that those groups using it can share the costs. If pressed I could come up with many more ideas, by the way.

        Again, and your point? It’s a city of 1.5 million and a metro of over 6 million so it doesn’t matter what is already there. People can always use space for a meeting or to put on a show or anything else. What we mostly have are either theatres of the play sort or places for concerts.

        You know, the funny thing about what you see is that what you see isn’t necessarily what is. I don’t think you understand that given the fact that your entire comments have been filled with “I want, I don’t want, I see, I don’t see” and with passing off your opinions as if they’re consensus or fact. Given that I’m merely a commenter throwing out suggestions and commenting on this, it doesn’t really matter to me what somebody has or hasn’t done yet. It matters to me what is possible.

        Funny because plenty of cities across the world would beg to differ with you on that. Also, I find it funny how the only way you can refute me is by assuming what I’m suggesting wouldn’t be as good or better than the monotonous, cold multiplex theatres they build today. What I’m suggesting is actually superior to that because it takes a classic theatre and makes it every bit as modern as the boxes they build now. 1930s mindset huh? And what would that be, exactly?

        If you let this company build that ugly, soulless box of a multiplex, you’ll attract those types your crowd is always trying to avoid, but if you do this idea instead and if you do it right then you’d actually have a multiplex, first-run theatre in Center City that caters to adults and discourages behavior that ruins the movie for others. But hey, your idea promotes “progress” for that “neighborhood” and gets rid of “blight”, right?

        • Once again your post is full of attacks and no substance. I again am left to call into question your motivation here. I’ve pointed out that other theaters, like what you suggest, already exist and they’re hardly staying afloat. You suggest that something similar (and, for the sake of argument, perhaps a bit better) with nearby, direct, significant competition, will somehow buck all the trends and examples, and thrive! Please, enlighten us all on why these other venues are doing so poorly and why your vision will be so successful?

          Consumers have issues with old-style seating and the drafty feel of buildings from that era and the cramped, dated amenities that go with them. That’s why those buildings fall by the wayside, replaced by newer venues. I happen to personally agree with this. The Academy of Music is one of the most classic venues in North America. Yet, year-in and year-out the top complaints from patrons include the cramped seating. Hmm.

          So you want the Boyd but we can put in reclining padded seats and refit it all for stadium seating? How exactly will that happen without destroying the existing setup? It can’t, but we’re just ignoring facts here apparently.

          Regarding acoustics, modern speakers have LITTLE to do with it. That theater is not designed to provide an acceptable (let alone optimal) audio experience, which is also a major issue at Bala and elsewhere. You can’t have it all with the current setup. Just not possible. If you do not understand how acoustics work please don’t comment on it.

          Regarding ideas for other uses, go ahead, but the point remains: So far those that you suggested do nothing to support your cause as they’re all already well provided for all throughout the city. Top movies? Covered. Art-house movies? Covered. Musicals? Covered. Opera? Covered. Ballet? Covered. Student events? Covered. Covered. Covered and covered.

          Your argument that the competing venues don’t matter is just ridiculous. Competition is absolutely germain to the discussion. You continue to just ignore the reality I’ve presented to repeat the same tired refrain that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The Boyd can just “use the space for a meeting”… Why? Why would this happen when other similar venues already provide such benefits to the point where no one is having ANY problem finding a venue for them.? Somehow having a meeting at a rejuvenated Boyd is going to be something ….. different? Come on.

          You also mentioned that my comments are “filled with…” and then you provided terms. Only one of those terms appears just once in any of my comments while one of those terms appears in your comments. Hmm…. If you’re going to comment on things, please don’t just make things up when the data is right there for anyone to see. I also am confident that anyone reading this thread can read both our posts and can easily see that yours are the ones loaded down with singular opinion and sparse on any connection to any facts whatsoever.

          What I’m debating with you, regarding your OPINION, is that it clearly stands in stark contrast to financial history. We have living, breathing and dead examples of what you’re suggesting and you’ve yet to point out a single one that’s thriving the way you envision. You eschew the “monotonous, cold multiplex theaters” that have replaced your beloved theaters of old. Again, I ask you, why do you think that is???? Why is it that, all over America, the “classic” theaters are disappearing and are being replaced by theaters you despise? Could it be that, perhaps, it’s you that’s out of step with the rest of the industry?

          Regarding your comment, “you’ll attack those types your crowd is always trying to avoid”, again, you don’t know me, you don’t know my type and you have no idea what I’m trying to avoid.

          If you’re talking about people using cellphones — I hate to break it to you but this same issue is happening at The Academy of Music! However, if you’ve ever been to an Alamo Draft House theater, this doesn’t happen there and that’s a design very much like iPic’s proposed plan. It’s in the management and the messaging.

          So, please try to resist the urge to make this personal as you have so deeply in the last two posts. I’ve asked you for direct responses to direct questions. Do you have any answers or just more personal attacks?

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  10. I wish I had seen this BEFORE the rally took place. Jay Farr and I were the key people, among many others, who were out on the sidewalk daily, gathering thousands of signatures to save the Boyd Theater from demolition, long before Howard Haas created his organization to monopolize the movement to save the theater. Neither of us were ever invited to serve on the board, at least I was not. I view Haas’s efforts with some disdain, both for grandstanding, and for supporting the Wheeler plan that would also have effectively destroyed the theater by removing the stagehouse.
    What people have to realize is that a theater like this cannot be built anew, and even if we cannot redevelop it now, which I do not believe, we must at least preserve it until it can be done. But the fact is, Live Nation could have restored the theater when they bought it. The financial loss they are now prepared to take is greater than the cost of fixing it. It is all shenanigans. As it is, the new developer could divide the balcony into two additional screening rooms, and cough up some dough to buy the lot next door and put multiple small screening rooms up there without destroying the main auditorium. These are just greedy, destructive pigs who will do anything in the name of maximizing profit, including lying, cheating, stealing, deception and any other dirty play in their book that they can think of. This new guy is the worst kind of potential owner.

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