For the first time since the last of the big Center City chain movie houses closed in 2002 (the United Artists Sam-Eric), a Chestnut Street marquee is boasting first-run studio fare: Starting this Friday, the Prince Music Theater on Chestnut near Broad will be screening Toy Story 3, the new Pixar-Disney release starring Buzz Lightyear (vocal cords of Tim Allen), Woody the cowboy (Tom Hanks) and their CG-animated pals.
“There are 160,000 people who live from river to river, from Girard Avenue to Washington Avenue., and first run movie options in that neighborhood include the Roxy and the Ritz Theaters and that’s it,” says Marjorie Samoff, president of the Prince. “The chance to get these movies, both to offer the opportunity for the audience and to generate life and vitality in our neighborhood — all those things make it a really exciting.... We’ve been working hard at this.”
Samoff plans to screen films day and night through the summer months – both in the main theater, equipped with a 35mm projection right now, but with a digital system on order, and in the small upstairs theater (for indie and repertory titles). Live music and movie tie-in events are also planned. Other than Toy Story 3, the only title locked onto the summer slate thus far is Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the supernatural Nicolas Cage family adventure inspired by the Mickey Mouse-and-the-replicating-broomsticks sequence in the classic Fantasia. That opens July 14.
The Prince is a non-profit theatrical producing organization, founded in 1984 as the American Music Theater Festival. It opened in its Chestnut Street digs in 1999, in the former Midtown Theater (rechristened in honor of Harold Prince, the Broadway producer and director). In recent years, however, the Prince has been in an epic legal battle with its mortgage lender, TD Bank. Samoff says that the revenues from the first-run films should help put the Prince on sounder financial footing.
“We’re still here, and we intend to do absolutely everything to keep the Prince a non-profit serving the community,” she says. “We want to catapult our film program into the future.”
The Prince is at 1412 Chestnut Street. Phone is 215-972-1000.