Renel Theatre

7238 Ogontz Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA 19138

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: A.M. Ellis Theaters Co,

Architects: J.A. Nolan

Functions: Church

Styles: Streamline Moderne

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The Renel Theatre opened October 30, 1936 with second run pictures. By 1950 it was operated by the A.M. Ellis Theaters Co. chain. This theatre had a very large (working) fireplace in the inner lobby. The interior had glass bricks, modern murals, recessed lighting. A nice neighborhood theatre. Great Saturday matinees.

The Renel Theatre was closed as a regular movie theatre on September 12, 1970 and it went over to screening adult movies and was closed in 1976. It now operates as a church.

Contributed by ray

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

HowardBHaas on February 16, 2009 at 7:46 am

If you google search EXACTLY “Boxoffice May 29, 1937” and when the issue appears, type “Philadelphia” in the search box then after enough clicks, you will eventually see a photo of the glass block fireplace & mural above it! (next to a photo of a giant Hollywood vertical sign).

Does the fireplace & mural survive?

raymondgordonsears on February 16, 2009 at 8:49 am

The next time I come home from work that way I will stop in and check it out. rg

teegee on March 18, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Thanks, Howard, for the link to the Renel’s fireplace. I remember those chairs very well, although I never sat in them. When I was going to the Renel in the late 50’s and early 60’s the lounge always seemed to be very dimly lit and creepy to this young boy. I was very quick in going to the boys room (I think to the left of the fireplace, girls to the right) and did not want to linger in the lounge at all.

kencmcintyre on August 18, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Here is a better view of the 1969 photo. The photo is from the Irvin Glazer theater collection:

mlittle on March 24, 2013 at 9:32 am

I was an usher in the Renel Theatre in 1952 or 1953 (I was 15 years old). At that time, my responsibilities were to usher patrons to their seats by holding a flashlight behind me and focusing is on the patrons feet, to clean the theatre after performances (a formidable task after Saturday matinees), and to clean the restrooms. I also had to change the marquee on a very high ladder (in poor condition) with new performances. I got to know the projectionist quite well and he would invite me into the upstairs booth to watch while he switched from one projector to the next. When he needed to splice broken film he would give me a few 35 mm frames from films. I had frames from “Young Bess,” “Stalag 17” and others. Most of the films shown I would watch 15-20 times, and it was after “The Juggler” played that I taught myself to juggle. My most vivid memory was when we converted to 3-D. I worked until 3:00am while the screen was painted silver and a device was added to the two projectors for coordinated projection. Films that we had during this period were “Bwana Devil” and the “Wax Museum.” The Renel was a “2nd Run” theatre so most of the films that were presented were several weeks or months old by the time they arrived at the theatre. Several years later, my sister worked at the Renel in the ticket booth selling tickets.

guyoweston on December 14, 2016 at 8:20 am

I thought I remembered seeing To Sir With Love there in 1968, so I questioned the 1967 closing date. This picture shows the theater apparently still open with a 1969 Pontiac in the foreground. Maybe 1967 should be 1976? That’s the year a church purchased and repurposed the building.

RickB on December 14, 2016 at 3:49 pm

The last day of advertising for the Renel in the Inquirer looks like September 12, 1970, with “Cry of the Banshee” and “Kiss and Kill” as the features. A November 28, 1971 story about neighbors protesting the XXX policy calls the house simply the Adult Theater, while a Daily News story from February 8, 1972 about a robbery of the place calls it the Consenting Adult Theater. The adult operation does not appear to have advertised in either of those papers.

dallasmovietheaters on December 20, 2017 at 5:26 am

Grand opening was October 30, 1936 by Erney and Nolen with the mayor in attendance.

HowardBHaas on August 23, 2019 at 5:22 am

Google street view shows the former theater is Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church

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