Letters Extra: Boyd renovation offers a last hope

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The Art Deco interior of the Boyd Theater , which first opened as a silent movie house in 1928. Developers propose gutting the interiors of the Boyd and Royal theaters. AP

I have been a fan of Inga Saffron’s fiery support of historic preservation during all of the years for which I have held a position of leadership in this community. I value her opinion, but cannot overlook my own in the case of the Boyd Theater’s slow death on and to Chestnut Street.

After all, I grew up in the William Penn House. I watched movies there as a tot with my family. And I was the leader decades ago in the fight to preserve the Boyd as the last movie palace in Philadelphia. But that was long before the Kimmel Center became the home to many of our greatest performing arts institutions, and long before elegant new and restored buildings took the place of the 1928 Boyd Theater, shuttered because its allure and its usability became obsolete.

As a lover and proponent of culture and architecture in our city, I have always cared deeply about historic preservation. In 1999, I was honored by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia with its “Public Service Award for Support of Historic Preservation in the Public Interest.” But the long shuttered and neglected Boyd Theater’s future is folly as a single stage venue. Center City residents are begging for a modern first class cinema experience. And Chestnut Street needs to develop westward— which is why I very much support iPic Entertainment’s proposal to bring the Boyd back to life.

iPic will restore the Boyd’s facade to its original, impressive state, as well as much of the facility’s head house. It will pay homage to the history of the Boyd by displaying artifacts and memorabilia for public viewing throughout the theater. Philadelphia film-lovers will flock. Chestnut Street West will see new life. And I’m convinced that most Philadelphians will be well served.

Preserving history is important, but embracing opportunity is important, too. The economics of a 2,300-seat theater for movies is obsolete. This plan is a modern-day movie palace and requires no public money. It will become an instant asset to Center City and to film lovers like me.

Sharon Pinkenson, executive director, Greater Philadelphia Film Office, sharon@film.org

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