Booker Theatre

1028-32 Fairmount Avenue,
Philadelphia, PA 19123

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Additional Info

Architects: E.B. Medoff, David Supowitz

Styles: Streamline Moderne

Previous Names: Lorraine Theatre

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This property in the 19th Century all the way to 1925 very much appears to be a combination 30-stall reduced to 15-stall livery stable (1028-1032 Fairmount) and attached dwelling (1026 Fairmount). The footprint of the livery stable became the Lorraine Theatre to the plans of architect E.B. Medoff opening, likely, in January of 1926 for an M and P Amusement Co. likely on a 30-year lease. It had a Kimball organ at its launch.

In 1929, the Lorraine Theatre was wired for sound and became the first installation of the Master Talking Picture Reproducer, a Warner Bros.’ approved Vitaphone-based disc sound system. However, the venue went into receivership in 1932 after a rent lockout. A new operator was identified who appears to be David E. Milgrim who sells off the theatre to Lorraine Entertainment in 1934. It likely became part of Milgrim’s Affiliated Theatres Circuit.

The Lorraine Theatre continued until 1941 as a double-feature, second-run neighborhood house. At the halfway point of its leasing period in 1941, the Loraine Theatre joined the Strand Theatre, Gem Theatre, Rajah Theatre, Hamilton Theatre, Overbrook Theatre, and Breeze Theatre as getting similar Streamline Moderne style makeovers to the plans of architect David Supowitz. The theatre appears to have reopened after the refresh as the Booker Theatre which – for the final half of its lease – would change to an African-American Theatre. It was named in honor of the African-American educational leader, Booker T. Washington.

The Booker Theatre has the showmanship spirit at Halloween shows complete with live actors coming in as Frankenstein, The Mummy, et al and scaring the kid patrons to memorable effect. Likely that showmanship carries through the War as the venue receives no daily coverage from the mainstream press in the movie listings or upcoming features (that was a choice made by many publishers in explaining their lack of coverage of African-American exclusive theatre operations).

Attendance at the Booker Theatre took a turn in the 1950’s with multiple managers and documented cases of small crowds. The theatre gets a final refresh which may have included widescreen projection and a seat count of 437. However, the final years appear riddled with robberies and robbery attempts. This was likely a neighborhood in transition.

The Booker Theatre appears to close in 1956 at the expiry of its lease. The Booker Theatre is offered for sale and, after finding no takers, it was finally auctioned off early in 1958. It became the Temple of Deliverance, a house of worship, in 1960. That building was eventually vacated and was razed likely as part of an urban redevelopment plan. The land is listed as belonging to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority as of the 2020’s.

Contributed by dallasmovietheaters
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