The Boyd Theatre

The Boyd Theatre Gets Bankrolled

An investment group that includes Stephen Starr, and Paul Martino will convert the art deco Boyd Theatre on Chestnut Street into the Bankroll Club.

Back in 2015, watching the partial demolition of Chestnut Street’s Boyd Theatre, and considering how the neighborhood Friends of the Boyd fought for over a decade to preserve the Art Deco movie palace – I’m still heartbroken. Opened on Christmas morning in 1928, and ultimately closed for good in 2002, the Boyd Theatre – also known to most people older than 35 as the Sameric Theatre, the last operating movie palace in downtown Philadelphia until the Fashion District appeared, this was among the first and the last great epic room that this city had to view film at its most cinema-scopic. In widescreen and Technicolor, I can remember seeing Lawrence of Arabia at the Boyd/Sameric as a kid kid – director David Lean’s white sands dotted by the footsteps of Peter O’Toole. Now, that was majestic movie-going magic. 

The Boyd Theatre
The Boyd Theatre, circa 1935.

A bit of history from the Cinema Treasures website includes that “the Boyd Theatre was built for Alexander R. Boyd and designed by Philadelphia theatre architectural firm Hoffman-Henon Co. Since acclaimed as an ‘Art Deco masterpiece’, the Boyd Theatre had a towering vertical sign that advertised the theatre a mile away, an outdoor retail promenade, an ornate ticket booth, and a huge colorful window with Art Deco style motifs. The grand lobby was lined with huge etched glass mirrors and had an area carpeted, which was imported from Czechoslovakia. The three level foyer had dazzling colorful mirrors two stories high. Equipped with an orchestra pit, a pipe organ (opened by organist Otto Beck), and a stage house, the auditorium had 2,450 seats (including one balcony) and perfect sightlines. The Opening Day program dedicated the Boyd Theatre to the theme of ‘The Triumph of the modern woman’ which was depicted in the proscenium mural by famed artist Alfred Tulk of the Rambusch Company. The opening movie was “Interference” starring Evelyn Brent, Doris Kenyon, Clive Brook & William Powell supported by short subjects starring Eddy Cantor and Ruth Etting, a Walt Disney cartoon “Steamboat Willie”, the cartoon “The Toy Shop” and “Movietone News”.

The back and forth of the emptied Boyd post-2015, which included turning it, lamely, into yet another condo complex, has been settled for good this morning now that a handful of investors including Philly restaubar owner Stephen Starr, and tech start-up icon Paul Martino have committed to turn the sainted landmark Boyd into an entertainment, culinary and sporting (betting/gaming) venue, the Bankroll Club.

The Boyd Theatre
Stephen Starr

Along with taking over the one-time Boyd Theatre address, the Bankroll Club will also (supposedly) also take up space in what was the adjoining Gap clothing store spot. The Bankroll’s landmass, then, is as wide as it is high. Back in the summer of 2020, much of this same team of entrepreneurs had considered the historic Drexel Building at Broad and Walnut for its Bankroll sports betting parlor/restaurant in a deal called the largest restaurant and sports betting parlor on the East Coast.

Stay tuned for more info. This one is going to be big, literally and figuratively.

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