If the Boyd Theater wasn’t enough for you, our next staff-pick yields yet ANOTHER abandoned theater in Philadelphia: the Royal Theater on South Street West.
Architect: Frank E. Hahn, Neo-Georgian style
Interior designer: William H. Lee, 1925 Art Deco
The Royal Theater, called “American’s Finest Colored Photoplay House”, upon its 1920 opening, was the first black-run theater in the city. The theater became a beacon for the African-American entertainment sector on South Street. Patrons regularly filled the theater’s 1,200 seats to see acts like Fats Waller and Bessie Smith. Patrons also loved the films at the Royal, which included films shot at local Colored Pictures Film Corporation. The first staff of the theater went on to become the nucleus of the Negro Motion Pictures Operators Union. The community was closely tied to the theater. Neighborhood residents were the Royal’s most loyal patrons and participated in talent shows and radio broadcasts. Business owners received increased foot traffic after Royal shows. But by the 1960s, the threat of the construction of an expressway in the neighborhood (that never materialized) and Civil rights legislation, which allowed blacks to move freely and patronized other entertainment venues, decimated the Royal’s neighborhood and attendance. The Royal closed its doors in 1970.
Here it is in 2008:
(description from Hidden City Philadelphia.)
see a neat set of interior photos from lblanchard’s flicker photostream! also included are photos of a June 11, 2009 performance inside the dilapidated theater!