Lessons from Detroit

posted by Ross Melnick on February 7, 2011 at 7:59 am

The following message was sent to members of Friends of the Boyd in Philadelphia and is certainly worth posting here:

“(1) Yesterday’s Super Bowl featured a commercial from Chrysler set in Detroit. The commercial states that Detroit "has been to Hell and back.” The Big Finish of this commercial, which became the favorite Super Bowl commercial on Facebook, is the fabulous marquee and interior of one of Detroit’s restored movie palaces, the FOX Theatre. (See video above.)

Detroit can indeed boast that the US auto industry is rebounding. And, like almost every city in the US, Detroit can take pride in its restored movie palaces. When will Philadelphia join Detroit and the rest of the nation and restore and reopen our surviving movie palaces, the historic Boyd and Uptown theaters?

(2) For those of you new to our cause, here is a May 22, 2008 video (below). Fox TV News came out to a rally marking our inclusion by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places.

You’re watching Effort To Save Boyd Theatre Continues. See the Web’s top videos on AOL Video

I’ve linked it on my own Facebook page with the below message, and hope you will too.

Please help Friends of the Boyd, www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org increase their support to ensure the restoration and reopening of Philadelphia’s last surviving downtown movie palace!!!!!!!

Howard B. Haas

Theaters in this post

Comments (11)

moviebuff82 on February 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I’ve seen this ad. There have been Super Bowl ads before that show some of the greatest movie palaces to hundreds of millions of fans in America and even abroad. The Chrysler Big Finish ad proved that the preservation of these cinema treasures is important to American and world culture.

DonSolosan on February 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I have a couple of quibbles with this article.

1) “one of Detroit’s restored movie palaces” — as far as I know, this is Detroit’s only “restored” movie palace; admittedly, I have not lived in the area for quite a while. It’s not like the city has a great reputation for preserving its theaters (see the Michigan for what happens when a theater runs into the need to park cars! cars! cars!).

2) “When will Philadelphia join Detroit and the rest of the nation and restore and reopen our surviving movie palaces” — to be fair, the Fox was restored way back in the 1980s when the economy was a whole lot stronger.

HowardBHaas on February 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I’m not an expert on Detroit, but some of these marked Open here
View link

As to the 1980s assertion, movie palaces nationwide are restored & reopened regularly.

CSWalczak on February 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

While it is certainly and sadly true that many of Detroit’s grand movie palaces are gone or probably beyond restoration, there are at least two other survivors in downtown Detroit: 1) the Broadway Capitol/Paramount/Grand Circus which was magnificently restored as the Detroit Opera House in 1996; 2) the Music Hall (born as the Wilson and the long-time home of Cinerama in Detroit; restored in the 1970’s). I think you would also have to include Orchestra Hall which was for several years a movie theater which got a full restoration in 1989, and of course the Fisher, which has recently been spruced up. I and others had hopes for the still standing but seriously decayed United Artists, but now I do not think it will be saved, due to years of apathy, Detroit’s extremely poor economic condition, and lack of effective leadership at the municipal level.

DonSolosan on February 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm

@CWalczak: thanks for the info, most of those theaters you listed I only knew as live venues. I remember seeing Leonard Nimoy play Sherlock Holmes at the Fisher back in the 1970s.

@Howard: part of the vibe I got from that piece was “see what Detroit managed to do, and you know what bad shape they’re in.” Well, they didn’t do it recently.

Yes, theaters get restored, but it’s tough going if you don’t have a pizza-empire millionaire footing the bill. Here in California, the new governor is talking about closing down the CRA to help reduce the budget deficit, which would probably put an end to plans to restore the Westlake and the Leimert.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on February 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Just about every day on TV we see a commercial which was filmed in or outside of a classic movie house or theater.

And now, with the constantly vanishing theatrical palaces across America, and businesses who want to shoot their film in or around these historic facilities, then my idea and strong suggestion to theater owners is to charge a substantial fee for the filming rights.

This will certainly help keep these struggling houses restored and open for all to enjoy. What say you?

HowardBHaas on February 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Don, you got the vibe right. But didn’t your “new” governor as mayor of Oakland revive the Fox there? He knows the value of reopening closed movie palace. And, there are other projects proceeding such as the Loews Kings in Brooklyn, with much government help.

That said, kindly send pizza-empire millionaires to visit Philadelphia. We will would like to meet with them.

DonSolosan on February 8, 2011 at 12:39 am

@Simon: that’s how a number of LA’s old movie houses stay profitable, as filming locations. Some get 10-15k per day. Even if your commercial features just the outside of a building, you’d better pay the owner or you’re likely to get sued.

@Howard: yes, you’re right about Brown’s involvement with the Fox. But I don’t know anything about where the money came from or how the deal was put together. If Brown’s relying on private money to save more theaters, then we all need lots of pizza-empire millionaires.

And I’ve also heard that CRA money tends to be badly spent. The theaters that I’ve seen with the best economic life are the ones with a strong individual with substantial financial resources to make things happen.

alps on February 8, 2011 at 7:05 pm

This going on 10 years since this theatre has been closed. How much longer can this stand? I hate seeing the tagging and other damage to this building. Soon the homeless will get in there and start setting fires, then it will become an eyesore, think Shibe Park/ Connie Mack St.

HowardBHaas on February 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Less than 8 years.
Friends of the Boyd, our all volunteer organization, has been fundraising for years, and for the last 2 years have been retaining an overnight security company to protect the Boyd and keep OUT intruders.
Many historic Philadelphia buildings were closed for years before being wonderfully restored & reopened. Many movie palaces nationwide were closed for far longer before being restored & reopened.
Better, more optimistic thoughts & wishe, Al!
Howard B. Haas, (volunteer) President, Friends of the Boyd, Inc.

alps on February 13, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Ok, I will be more optimistic. The Royal down on South Street has been closed after “A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die” played there in the late 60’s. I don’t believe the neighbors want a theater over there. I believed that we lost a good thing when they kept the Ritz from being built on 19th and Walnut. I admire what Friends of the Boyd are doing. This was the second Center City theater I attended back in 1967, first being the Stanton. I had always been a special place for me. My last memories of it was sad, dying cinema. I will look forward to the day I can walk through it’s doors again.

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