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Seville Theater - Bryn Mawr, PA
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
N 40° 01.302 W 075° 19.131
18T E 472791 N 4430214
Quick Description: Another Lincoln Highway, vintage movie theater jewel from the twenties. The NRHP theater has been revived and redone over the years and it is a stunning testament to artistic integrity and the will of a single-minded community.
Location: Pennsylvania, United States
Date Posted: 12/26/2012 10:23:06 AM
Waymark Code: WMG01Y
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member kbarhow
Views: 4

Long Description:

This beau arts theater is part of a string of 1920s theaters constructed along this stretch of the Lincoln Highway. Like the other buildings, it was in danger of either being razed or closed and remodeled for other commercial purposes. The community banded together and saved the theater, renamed it, improved it and the rest is history. I loved the inside: a huge wide open space to greet visitors with a high ceiling and vintage movie ads on the walls. The building definitely stands out as I noticed right away when taking the long way home from York, PA. I screeched to a halt and had to find parking to visit this beauty. There is an NRHP marker on the front. The Seville was added to the register on December 28, 2005.

An inspection of the outside reveal strong community involvement. Off to the left there is a space between this building and the next. The alley way was 'repackaged' by a donor contribution and renamed in honor of the donor's husband or some other male family member. Now, it is called Ransom Way Alley. The small, copper marker on the left side of the building reads: Alley improvements made possible by a generous gift from Virginia Ford in honor of Ransom Ford - 2011 There is an actual painting on this side of the building as well (see gallery).

The Marquee was also redone and a similar plaque can be found out front on the black simulated marble facade adjacent to the ticket window. That plaque reads: THE HAMILTON MARQUEE Styled after the 1926 original, the marquee is a gift from the Dorrance H. Hamilton Charitable Trust - 2006 Similarly, the box office was also remade with a contribution, that marker reads: THE RUTKOWSKI BOX OFFICE A gift from Holly and Jack Rutkowski - 2010. It is clearly evident the recent efforts of an interested community played a critical role in bringing this theater back to its original glory, or darn close to it.

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

The Seville Theatre opened September 29, 1926, designed by Philadelphia theatre architect William H. Lee. Lee designed 200 theatres, including nearby theatres such as the Anthony Wayne, City Line Center, Lansdowne, Narberth, Norris (Norristown), and Suburban (Ardmore). Local theatre owner Harry Fried owned the Seville Theatre from its construction until 1946.

The Seville Theatre was constructed with a Neo-Classical facade and a Spanish Gothic style interior. An ornate, free-standing ticket booth (which survives) led to a spectacular two story glass vaulted atrium arcade lined with storefronts. The skylight atrium led to a foyer, which in turn opened into the auditorium. On each side of the stage, the auditorium had a decorated chamber for the organ pipes. Towards the stage, the front portion of the auditorium ceiling had what looked like wood beams, but were likely made of plaster. The remainder of the ceiling had intricate plaster patterns. The side walls had large draped arches. All seats were on one floor.

In 1946, Philadelphia theatre operator William Goldman took over from Fried, and by 1952 renamed it the Bryn Mawr Theatre. The original marquee was replaced by a more modern marquee with huge Bryn Mawr neon letters. The atrium skylight and second floor arcade were concealed by a dropped ceiling. The Gottfried pipe organ was removed in the 1950’s and the original decor of the auditorium was removed or covered up. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Bryn Mawr specialized in arthouse films. In 1978, local operator Budco twinned the auditorium by building a wall down the center.

In 1987, Budco sold their theatres to national theatre operator AMC. In 1996, AMC preferred to focus on multiplexes and did not renew the lease. United Artists Theatres took over. The United Artists (UA) regional manager at the time stated that ‘it would be a shame for such an historic theatre to close’. In bankruptcy, UA ceased operating the Bryn Mawr in 2000. Other Lower Merion theatres operated by UA ceased forever as movie theatres, the Wynnewood becoming a restaurant and the Ardmore being sold and gutted to be a gym. A gym also sought to obtain the Bryn Mawr. Fortunately, local government opposed that reuse. Local movie theatre operator Greg Wax took over the Bryn Mawr, and began a midnight classic series in addition to first run movies. Alarmed at the prospect that the building could still be sold as a gym, local businesswoman Juliet Goodfriend organized in 2002 a nonprofit organization, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and gathered much support from the Main Line business and civic leaders.

In December 2004, the Bryn Mawr Film Institute purchased the building. The theatre closed, and after a refurbishment, reopened March 12, 2005 with Sir Ben Kingsley cutting the ribbon. In 2005, the theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Voith Mactavish Architects of Philadelphia worked on renovations. John Toner, operator of other historic movie theatres which show arthouse films (the County of Doylestown, PA and the Ambler) became the movie operator. In March 2006, a new marquee, sympathetic to the original marquee, was installed. The marquee was made a little shorter than the original so it would not be hit by vehicles. In 2009, restoration of the lobby arcade was completed after a fundraising campaign to reinstall the 400 glass panes of the stunning skylight and restore the paint and plaster to original colors.

The finest arthouse films are shown. One auditorium has 350 seats, and the other has 310 seats. An elevator has been installed to the 2nd floor multimedia room used for film education classes, receptions and community events.

In June 2010, a fundraising campaign was announced to reconfigure the auditorium from twinned theatres to a triplex, however in April 2011, the current plan is to add two more auditoriums in the adjoining parking lot, and refurbish the existing auditoriums.

An even better history and description can be found HERE. The theater is also featured in two separate Wikipedia articles located HERE & HERE.

Americana: Theater/Drive In

Significant Interest: Other Icon

Web Site Address: [Web Link]

Address of Icon:
824 W. Lancaster Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA USA

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