Locust Street Theatre

1411 Locust Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Fox Circuit

Architects: Paul J. Henon, Jr., William H. Hoffman

Firms: Hoffman-Henon Co.

Functions: Restaurant

Styles: Gothic Revival

Previous Names: Fox-Locust Theatre, New Locust Theatre

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News About This Theater

Locust Street Theatre

The Fox-Locust Theatre was built as part of a 22 story office building. The exterior and interior were Gothic style in design. There were 1,580 seats (Orchestra 1,053, Loge 375, Balcony 152). There were organ chambers, but no organ was ever installed.

The Fox-Locust Theatre opened March 20, 1927 with the movie "What Price Glory" with the Fox Orchestra of 55 men (later expanded to 65 men), and vaudeville acts. The theatre showed "The Jazz Singer" for 10 weeks, sharing it with the Fox Theatre on Market Street. The October 29, 1929, Philadelphia Inquirer emphasized the novelty of sound in a movie, when reviewing the film “Sunny-Side Up” at the Fox Locust Theatre. As the movie district was concentrated on Market Street and Chestnut Street, movies did not bring in enough customers. The theatre closed and reopened October 17, 1931 as the Locust Street Theatre for legit shows.

The Locust Street Theatre again showed movies in the 1930’s. Alexander Boyd, having sold his namesake Philadelphia theatre, operated this theatre, as he did the Fox Theatre on Market Street, to show Fox movies. Boyd wanted to install a larger movie screen for the 1933 movie "Cavalcade" but was told the lens were insufficient to adequately project on the screen. Boyd inquired and found that a lens could be imported from Czechoslovakia to solve that problem, and so that’s what he did. The theatre was renovated for the reserved seat showing in November, 1937, of the movie "The Hurricane"

In 1958, William Goldman took over operations and for awhile the theatre was renamed the New Locust Theatre. Chandeliers from the demolished Mastbaum Theatre were installed in the lobby, foyer, and under the mezzanine. Throughout its life, the theatre never had air conditioning.

Stars appearing on stage from 1933 included Tallulah Bankhead, Frederich March, Milton Berle, John Gielgud, Paul Newman, Ethel Barrymore, Boris Karloff, James Earl Jones, Carol Channing, Richard Dreyfuss, Henry Fonda, Anne Bancroft, and Al Pacino.

The final show was "Rocky Horror Show" in 1980. Over objections of preservationists and the actors union, much of the auditorium was demolished in 1982 for construction of a parking garage. Remodeled, the remaining interior became a restaurant. A successor restaurant is still advertised on the Locust Street marquee. A theatre chandelier was reinstalled in the remodeled Broad Street entry. The rest of the furnishings were sold off. Some of the furnishings went to the main floor lobbies of the Plaza residential building on Rittenhouse Square.

Contributed by Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

HowardBHaas on January 13, 2008 at 10:42 am

Exterior photo of Locust Street marquee currently showing Greek restaurant Estia on marquee:
View link
Previously, an Italian restaurant was in the space and on the marquee.

Historic Exterior and interior photos here, but do not try to enlarge them without a subscription:
View link

For 1954 photo of exterior showing Locust and Broad Street views, type Locust Street Theater in here:

HowardBHaas on January 13, 2008 at 2:44 pm

After the Locust Street Theatre closed, DiLullo Centro was the 1st Italian restaurant in the space. Chef owner Joseph DiLullo died in 1994 of a heart attack at age 45. His widow Claire married in 1997 the restaurant’s manager, Antonio (Toto) Schiavone. In 2000, the restaurant was renamed Toto. 2003 photo of Toto on the marquee,
The current restaurant Estia opened in 2005.

HowardBHaas on May 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Here’s a few tidbits from the late 1930s from Box Office online:
11 April 1936 Box Office reported that Columbia had a trade showing of movie “Theodora Goes Wild” at the Fox-Locust.

10 April 1937 Box Office reported that the film “Two Wise Girls”, Republic’s newest feature, will open after “The Good Earth” closes.

12 Nov 1938 Box Office reported the theater was relighted recently after being completely redecorated including with carpets, sound equipment, interior decorating, seats

rivest266 on May 24, 2014 at 7:29 pm

March 20th, 1927 grand opening ad in photo section.

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