Bushfire Theatre

224 S. 52nd Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19139

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Related Websites

Bushfire Theatre Of Performing Arts (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Nixon-Nirdlinger Theaters

Architects: Maurice M. Sloan, F. Russell Stuckert

Firms: Stuckert & Sloan

Functions: Performing Arts

Styles: Beaux-Arts

Previous Names: Locust Theatre

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 215.747.9230

Nearby Theaters


Opened in 1914 as the Locust Theatre with a seating capacity of 1,400. It was a vaudeville and motion picture house in West Philadelphia. It was equipped with a Kimball organ. In 1924 the original Kimball organ was replaced by a larger Kimball organ. By the 1930’s The Locust Theatre was showing movies only. It was closed in the early-1970’s.

In 1977, the Bushfire Performing Arts Group acquired the Locust Theatre, and renamed it the Bushfire Theatre. It reopened in May 1980, but the project failed within a year. The theatre was still closed in 1986. It now operates as a performing arts space catering for the African-American community.

Contributed by Michael R. Rambo Jr.

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

veyoung52 on January 21, 2005 at 9:01 pm

As the Locust, it was operated by Henry Sley, a parking lot magnate who had also acquired the downtown Aldine and renamed it the Viking. In 1961 the Locust got embroiled in an interesting legal tangle with United Artists. This was back when double-features were still around, and Mr. Sley managed to book, you won’t believe this, both “Gone With The Wind” and “By Love Possessed” (115 minutes) on the same bill. United Artists balked. Can you blame them? One could have spent an entire afternoon there!

airgrabber on January 6, 2011 at 9:23 am

Does anyone have any pictures of this when it was the Locust?

lonixcap on September 2, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Hey Veyoung52 I spent many an afternoon at the Locust during the mid to late 1960’s. On Saturdays they had 3 features for the price of one. The first movie they would only show once, then there was the regular double feature. But the first movie was always something like The Great Escape or Guns of Navarone or some other big blockbuster of the time. The Locust didn’t do those cheapie horror flicks and spaghetti westerns on Saturdays like the Nixon and Capitol did, it was always the big hollywood action flick, and i was totally into it.

TheALAN on January 25, 2014 at 5:08 pm

The Locust opened with 1,400 seats. As the Bushfire Theatre, it now has 428 seats. No mention as to the discrepancy. Does anyone know?

Ssc48 on October 10, 2022 at 9:51 pm

What does the interior of the theatre look like restored?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 25, 2024 at 10:47 pm

The partnership of architects F. Russell Stuckert and Maurice M. Sloan only lasted a bit over five years, from 1909 to 1915, but was quite productive. Much of their work was for the Horn & Hardart restaurant chain, both in Philadelphia and New York City. Sloan appears to have retired to Atlantic City when the firm was dissolved in 1915, but his partner continued to practice after changing the firm name to Stuckert & Co., remaining in Philadelphia until 1930 and removing the office to New York for the last five years of its operation.

Neither partner appears to have designed any theaters on their own, but as partners they designed not only the four currently attributed to them at Cinema Treasures, but perhaps three other neighborhood houses in Philadelphia. One was a 1913 project for Kahn and Greenburg, located on North Broad Street near W. Thompson Street. Bids were being taken in September, 1913, but I’ve been unable to find any later notices about the project, so can’t be sure it was carried out.

A 350-seat house called the Tivoli was built for Jacob Weinreich and Bros. in 1913, at 1131 Fairmont Avenue.

The third project was a house on E. Lehigh Avenue for the Felt brothers, original owners of the Locust. Contracts were let in December, 1913, but I’ve been unable to discover the name of the house. Some notices say it was on Lehigh near Richmond Street, but one says Lehigh near Salmon Street. Most of the area between Richmond and Salmon is now occupied by an elevated highway, so chances of this one’s survival are slim to none.

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