Iris Theatre

3146 Kensington Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA 19134

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Stanley-Warner Theatres

Architects: M.J. Walsh

Functions: Retail

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Nearby Theaters

Iris Theatre

The Iris Theatre opened on December 12, 1910 on Kensington Avenue near E. Allegheny Avenue in the Harrowgate district to the northeast of Philadelphia. Beginning with vaudeville, movies were soon included in the program. It was renovated in 1916, reopening on December 25, 1916. It was operated by Stanley Theatres. It was further renovated in the 1930’s. Seating was provided in orchestra level and a small balcony.

It was located under the Frankford-Market el lines and when the train went by it was annoying. Because the theatre was mainly hidden by the el lines, the façade was mainly plan, with hardly any decoration. The Iris Theatre closed on May 8, 1965 with Ann-Margaret in “Bus Riley’s Back in Town” & Sean Connery in “Operation Snafu”(aka On the Fiddle). It was for many years a shop for woman’s clothing and is now a Rainbow dollar store.

Contributed by GEORGE MARINER

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

RickB on January 31, 2005 at 6:43 am

A Philadelphia Inquirer article in the ‘90s indicated that the auditorium may have still been largely intact at that time. Employees of the retail tenant said they had moved a drop ceiling panel in a back room, climbed up a ladder and took a peek; they said they were able to see seats and even exit signs that were still lit.

krolart on March 30, 2006 at 9:47 am

I remember the Iris. I had a few friends who worked there. It was not on the corner. It was small but I don’t think it was so small that it had only 600 seats like the Cameo on Frankford Avenue. The Iris had a sign in its box office window that servicemen in uniform were admitted for free. This was the policy until the theater closed.
Art S.

Coasterbear on April 30, 2007 at 7:02 pm

I remember as a child seeing this movie theater and although I never saw any movies there I do remember it’s existence. From the picture posted in the prior post , it looks as though the theater was built even before the Frankford El was built. I do remember it being about one third down the block from Allegheny and was literally spitting distance from the Midway on Allegheny Ave. And i did know from friends that it had a balcony in it. It became a department store before I ever had a chance to attend.

johnm001 on October 8, 2007 at 4:49 pm

I went to The Iris, many times. I would have said that it held more than 600 people. It wasn’t as large as The Kent or The Midway, but still, it has a balcony. Among others, I saw “The Cardinal” and “Gorgo” at The Iris.

kencmcintyre on August 9, 2009 at 1:08 am

Here is an expanded view of the photo posted on 1/28/05:

FWDpost on August 1, 2011 at 6:47 am

Worked there as an usher in 1955. It was towards the middle of the block, near the Woolworth’s, and had a balcony. I would lean towards 600 seats, since it had far lessseats that the Midway around the corner. Owner had a jaguar auto.

TheALAN on January 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm

3142-3148 Kensington Avenue is not a corner property. It is the sixth property from Allegheny Avenue — going towards G Street. There was only one Iris Theatre! The photo on the PAB site is not the same Iris Theatre. Also, the site that kencmcintyre references is not the same Iris Theatre either. There is no doubt that the present building is the original theater. A renovation occurred in 1916 but that was only six years after the theater opened. There are no visible clues from the outside as to what was done. Seating could have been reduced by the closing of the balcony but not by 807 seats. Since PAB still lists the theater with 1,407 seats, where did the 600 figure come from?

amby_moho on June 1, 2021 at 8:57 am

I will be taking updated photos of this location and posting soon

dallasmovietheaters on February 17, 2022 at 7:27 am

M.J. Walsh launched the Iris Theatre on December 12, 1910. The first night feature live vaudeville with the Lester Brothers and the Creighton Sisters. Photoplays were also in the first week of shows at the Iris. The Stanley Circuit took on the venue. The theatre installed sound to remain viable.

On April 29, 1953, the Iris installed a silver screen to present 3D films starting with “Bwana Devil.” In 1954, it installed widescreen technology to present CinemaScope films. The Iris closed May 8, 1965 with a double feature of “Bus Riley’s Back in Town” and “Operation SNAFU.”

RobHarp on October 30, 2023 at 1:27 am

I have a program from the Iris theater dated 1913, among others in my collection

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