34 W. Lancaster Avenue,
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Architects: Clarence Woolmington
Functions: Furniture Showroom
The Ardmore Theatre opened May 17, 1922, with Mae Murray in “Fascination”. It had 1,446-seats according to plans on record in Lower Merion Township. It was designed by architect Clarence Woolmington. An organ (make unknown) had been ordered but was not installed for the opening, instead, an orchestra made up by musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra accompanied the movie. The Ardmore Theatre was acquired by the Stanley Co. in 1926 and they were later taken over by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp Inc. In 1950, the marquee was redone to the round shape that survived for decades. It remained a popular movie house for over seven decades until it was closed by United Artists in 2000.
After closing, the theatre later appeared on the Lower Merion Conservancy’s 2001 top ten list of endangered historical buildings.
It was too late, however, and in a a move that mimics a growing national trend, the Beaux-Arts style Ardmore Theater was gutted and reopened as a fitness center in 2002.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Sports Clubs had its eye on the Ardmore Theatre ever since it was closed in August, 2000.
The gym’s parent company, Town Sports International studied closed and troubled historic movie theatres in the Philly area to determine which might be take-over targets. The company tried to acquire the Bryn Mawr Theatre, but it was saved for movies by being purchased by a non-profit organization.
Because of Town Sport’s renovation, the Ardmore Theater will never reopen as a theatre. The gymnasium was closed July 31, 2014. In April 2017, a furniture store opened in the former theatre, with an additional entry of a new glass door at the back.
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