7209-7211 Rising Sun Avenue,
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Previously operated by: Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.
Architects: William Ellis Groben
Styles: Spanish Colonial
The Oxford Theatre opened on Sunday evening, January 1, 1928, seating 1,964 on one floor. The theatre was built in the Philadelphia district of Burholme, on Rising Sun Avenue at Cottman Street, near St. Vincent Street, not far from Oxford Avenue. The opening day program had photos and described the theatre. Opening prices ranged from 15 cents for children for matinees to 35 cents for adults at evening shows. The theatre opened with a soda fountain and a candy department that included local Whitman candy.
The theatre was designed by Philadelphia architect William Ellis Groben, who also designed Philadelphia’s Carman Theatre, and redesigned the Hiway Theatre in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania during the 1930’s. During construction, underground springs were encountered, and rock had to be blasted. The building included seven apartments and stores, as well as a back stage and dressing rooms. For budget reasons, the exterior was a simple brick facade, with a marquee. The roof sign was sixteen by twenty-four feet and had seventeen hundred bulbs with the effect of being gold.
A two story vestibule was decorated in plaster with Spanish Mission style colors and walls of a combed tapestry texture of stucco in pink with a brown top and at the bottom a gray background with a lavender top, a multicolored tile floor, marble wainscoting, and wrought iron balconies at the windows.
The vestibule led to a lobby with mirrors and frames on each side. The lobby was decorated with stucco in colors of cream and lavender in a sponge swirl and trowel effect. Irregular flagstones in the lobby gave the effect of a Spanish court or palazzo. The lobby led to the auditorium foyer.
The foyer was decorated with stucco of a Spanish swirl of ivory, tan, green, and rose. Drinking fountains were of polychrome Spanish terra cotta and tile.
At opposite ends of the foyer were two grand staircases that led to a mezzanine with a furnished men’s lounge and smoking room, and ladies parlors. The ladies lounge had furniture, a large fireplace and mirrors. The ladies lounge had grilled windows with a view of the vestibule and the main entrance. The stage could be seen from either lounge. The middle portion of the mezzanine held offices and the projection room.
The stage had a 50 foot wide proscenium opening. An orchestra was retained, and a Kimball three manual pipe organ installed. The auditorium had an elaborate plaster ceiling grille. The ceiling, main dome and four smaller domes, proscenium, borders and supporting columns were finished in two main color combinations. “Dull gold on dull red and bronzed green” dominated. The open ceiling was ivory. The organ chambers and the grille work of the portion of the ceiling towards the stage was plaster in style of faux wood. The domes were rendered in silver, light sky blues, and pink with polychrome borders. The outer edges and connecting sections to the smaller domes were in reddish brown and speckled marble. In the foyer and auditorium, stucco of a Spanish texture of brown yellow and chocolate prevailed.
Harry Brodsky was the theatre decorator. For carpet, artists from Hardwick and Magee of Philadelphia, designed an original Spanish style pattern. A Philadelphia manufacturer custom made furniture for the theatre. Collaborating with the decorator and carpet manufacturers, the furniture maker created upholstery such as might be found in a Spanish villa. Philadelphia’s Voigt Company supplied light fixtures to confirm with the Spanish decor. The lanterns in the auditorium and outer lobby and the lanterns outside (in style of old Spain) were finished in black and old gold, and fitted with mica. Philadelphia’s Vermont Marble Company supplied Northern Ivory marble for the ticket booth and radiators and Verdi antique for the base in the two lobbies and the foyer.
The Oxford Theatre opened for motion pictures and vaudeville. Bob Hope and Red Skelton appreared on on the stage. During the 1930’s live shows were reduced, eventually in that decade to Thursday evening amateur shows. By 1941 the Oxford Theatre was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp.
The Oxford Theatre closed in 1975. The theatre was gutted in 1976 and converted into an atrium apartment house with 52 apartments. The dressing rooms were made into efficiency apartments. Entrance to the apartment house is through the former stage house. No longer present, but when closed, the roof sign board still proclaimed Oxford Photoplays.
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