Lincoln Theatre

500 S. Broad Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19146

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Wax Circuit

Previous Names: Dunbar Theatre, Gibson Theatre, Gibson's New Dunbar Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Dunbar Theatre, Philadelphia PA in 1920 - Broad and Lombard Streets

The Dunbar Theatre was opened on December 29, 1919 as a ‘legit’ African American theatre. It presented musical comedy & road shows. It was screening movies from June 1, 1920. It was renamed Gibson Theatre in 1921. Live theatre presentations were still in the programing until 1924, usually presented by the Lafayette Players, a Harlem repertory company. Some movies were also screened. In 1925 it was equipped with a Wurlitzer 2 manual 7 ranks organ. The Gibson Theatre was closed in 1928. It was remodeled with a large vertical sign and modern marquee and reopened on September 24, 1928 as the Gibson’s New Dunbar Theatre, with movies and live acts. This was not successful and it was soon renamed Lincoln Theatre again with movies & stage shows. By February 1932 it was playing double-bill feature movies for an African-American audience. There were also Yiddish shows and finally back again to African-American stage shows. By the early-1940’s it was operated by the Wax Circuit.

The Lincoln Theatre was closed in 1955 and lay vacant for a while. It was purchased by the city for a neighborhood health center to be be built on the site.

Contributed by Dave Litterer

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

kencmcintyre on December 27, 2008 at 11:29 pm

This excerpt from the March 22, 1920 edition of the Hartford Courant suggests that the Dunbar was then a segregated theater:

G. Grant Williams, who for a number of years conducted in this city a barber shop for colored people, sends to “The Courant” some information about the Dunbar Theater in Philadelphia, of which he is manager. This theater was recently opened. It is the largest colored theater in this area.

kencmcintyre on May 8, 2009 at 5:26 pm

This is a 1927 photo of a theater at Broad and Lombard. The sign says Standard Theater, which makes me wonder if this was a different theater than the Lincoln.

kencmcintyre on May 8, 2009 at 6:20 pm

That is the Standard, then. The poster says South Street and 12th. Thanks.

CharmaineZoe on February 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm

According to the Motion Picture News for July 17 1920, the Dunbar was owned by Messrs.Stevens & Brown, who were bankers with their business opposite the theatre, which was located on the corner of Broad and Lombard Streets. It opened on Dec 29th 1919 as a legitimate theatre but reopened as a movie playhouse on June 1st 1920 after the owners purchased a booth, projectors and screen. These guys also purchased the Lincoln Theatre in Newport News, VA in 1920.

CharmaineZoe on February 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm

According to, the Dunbar went through 2 name changes, becoming the Gibson in 1921 after being sold by Stevens & Brown to John T.Gibson the same year, and around the beginning of the Great depression c1930 was sold on again when Gibson went bust, this time to white owners and became the Lincoln.In the 1930s and 1940s, it would continue to host many of the country’s top African-American entertainers, including Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and the Nicholas brothers, who had gotten their start dancing on the corners of South Street not three blocks away. Source:

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