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Anthony Wayne Theater - Wayne, PA
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 40° 02.654 W 075° 23.305
18T E 466866 N 4432738
Quick Description: This beautiful, art deco theater from 1928 has been added to the newly formed Wayne Historic District as a contributing structure. The colorful terra cotta details make this one of a kind building really pop & a jewel of the Lincoln Highway.
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 12/25/2012 9:54:58 PM
Waymark Code: WMFZZ4
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member kbarhow
Views: 1

Long Description:

There are a string of these antique theaters located along this stretch of the Lincoln Highway. The Anthony Wayne Theater with its Art Deco architecture and grand marquee continues to operate as a movie theater in this very small town. The building is absolutely gorgeous with numerous art deco components. The theater has an old city-style theater exterior but the inside belies the exterior with its modern appearance. The ticket booth is of course prominent on the outside like other similar theaters of this age.

Cinema Treasures, a really cool site for old theaters, provided me with a pretty decent description from their SITE:

The Anthony Wayne Theatre opened June 20, 1928 with the movie “Old San Francisco”, in the Philadelphia suburb of Wayne in Delaware County. The theater was not originally intended to haev sound but that was immediately added. The theatre was built and operated by local theatre owner Harry Fried. Because the theatre was on the edge of the suburbs, the opening of such a grand movie palace was then locally referred to as ‘Fried’s Folly’. Architect William Harold Lee chose colorful terra cotta details manufactured by the Conkling-Armstrong Terra Cotta Company, Philadelphia.

Upon the theatre’s opening, a mirrored entrance led to a spacious foyer. On each side of the foyer was an artificial fountain, in green tile. There was a goldfish pond in a lobby alcove, which was decorated by a tile mosaic. The auditorium opened with 1,600 seats, all on one main floor and had fake windows on the side-walls. The Anthony Wayne Theatre is listed in the 1941 edition of Film Daily Yearbook with a seating capacity of 1,318.

From 1940 until 1972, the Anthony Wayne was operated by the Philadelphia movie operator William Goldman. In 1965, the original marquee was removed and several original exterior terra cotta ornamentations were also taken off. The theatre since has had a beautiful wrap-around, curved marquee.

In 1972, Budco, another Philadelphia movie theatre operator, took over, as Goldman sold all his theatres. In 1982 or 1983, the auditorium was divided in two. Original decor in the auditorium was no longer visible. By the mid-1990’s, each auditorium had about 370 seats configured by 23 or 24 rows of 15 or 16 seats. The movie screens were decently sized, about 25 to 30 feet wide.

In 1987, Budco sold its theatres to AMC, which then operated the theatre until September 1997. By the end of the 1990’s, false walls and lowered ceilings characterized the lobbies. In 1995, Friends of the Anthony Wayne Theatre organized to save the theatre when local residents learned the building was for sale.

In 1997, local entrepreneur Stephen W. Bajus purchased the building with intent to keep it operating as a first run movie theatre. When AMC vacated shortly thereafter, Bajus actively recruited several operators, and considered himself fortunate to find interest by Clearview Cinemas. Bajus' company began much needed renovations and extensive restoration to the facade, roof and all external portions of the building. Once Clearview had signed to a long term lease, extensive interior renovations were performed jointly by Bajus & Clearview. Much of the plaster ornamentation adorning the entryway and lobby walls was uncovered and restored. The original auditorium was divided into five auditoriums, including a screen in the former stagehouse. One auditorium had 200 seats, and the others had 100 to 200 seats, for a total of 750 seats overall. Clearview Cinemas began a 30 year lease on July 2, 1998. The theatre was reopened in December, 1998.

In April, 2007, the theatre was briefly closed for new auditorium seating, new carpets, and other spiffying up. Clearview takes great pride in operating neighborhood movie houses, and in redecorating its theatres, including repainting. At the Anthony Wayne, Clearview shows mainstream and arthouse films.

I was also fortunate to uncover another blurb form the local historical society which really focuses in on the architect. The SITE has a sketch or rendering of what the building was supposed to originally look like. The man who signed the sketch was Louis I. Kahn. The article reads:

The Anthony Wayne Theatre, one of Wayne's defining landmarks, was built in 1928 for local theatre magnate Harry Fried. Fried had operated a theatre on North Wayne Avenue in a converted 1880s house, but with the growing popularity of movies and the dawn of the "talkie," it was clear that Wayne would need a more modern movie house.

The result was the Anthony Wayne, considered by some at first to be a futile attempt at a grand gesture that would never recoup its investment, and thus the nickname "Fried's Folly" was attached to it. The success of the theatre is evident in the fact that movies still play there 84 years later.

Fried hired the preeminent theatre architect of the time, William Harold Lee, to design the Anthony Wayne. Lee also designed the Seville in Bryn Mawr (another Fried venture; now the Bryn Mawr Film Institute), the theatre in Suburban Square, Ardmore (now the American Eagle store), and many others including the Sedgwick in Philadelphia.

The original drawing shows how the theatre was intended to look, and the finished product was executed rather faithfully. However, it was not Lee who signed this rendering. Another name is just barely visible in the lower right: Louis I. Kahn. This is the same Louis Kahn who would become one of the most famous designers of mid-20th century modern architecture, known for the Salk Institute, the Kimbell Art Museum and numerous other highly-regarded works. He was also the subject of the 2003 documentary "My Architect." In 1928 Kahn was in his 20's, and evidently worked either for W.H. Lee's firm or independently to create compositions such as this.

- Greg Prichard, Radnor Historical Society

Americana: Theater/Drive In

Significant Interest: Roadside Art

Web Site Address: [Web Link]

Address of Icon:
109 West Lancaster Avenue
Wayne, PA USA

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