Royersford's Movie Theatre

A brief description of the history of Royersford's movie theater.

A story on the local newspaper dated June 27, 1896 told about the new opera house to be built on Main Street in Royersford right next to the Central Hotel. The hotel sat on the corner of 4th and Main Street and was built in the early 1890s.  The opera house at 368 Main Street was built by a Dr. Detwiler, a local veterarian.   It opened in February of 1987.

There were shows booked almost every night at the opera house. A whole array of vaudeville acts, small circus shows and other traveling exhibitions were all scheduled to appear at the theatre.

The original Uncle Tom's Cabin company was booked into the opera house for its opening show held on February 24, 1897. Numerous newpapers carried stories of the bloodhounds that were part of the troop and one dog weighed 203 pounds.  The dog was said to be the largest bloodhound in the country.

It was not uncommon for local high school classes to have their class play scheduled at the opera house. Many Royersford graduation ceremonies were held at the opera house. This practice continued until the new High School on Washington St. was built.   

Silent movies came in around 1904 when a movie called the "Great Train Robbery" first became popular. Advancements in technology were taking place in the moving picture feild but the audio was slow to keep pace in the beginning leading us into the silent movie era.  Although this new film industry was just getting started it only took a few short years until all of the live entertainment that once was booked into the opera house became a thing of the past. 

On  February 21, 1924 the old opera house, after extensive renovations, held a grand re-opening with a brand new name. It was now known as "The Penn Theatre" and the official welcoming of the new movie era to town had just taken place. The theatre had been completely done over. The entrance was now flush with street level, fireproofing material througout the building had been utilized. New rest rooms were installed on the second level, new drapes, new sound system and projectors were all part of the restoration. The ceilings were metal and the walls were plaster with scrolls and other decorative features in abundance. From opera house to first class movie theatre the transition was complete.

The new Penn Theatre at 368 Main St. continued to operate for some 30 years before the final show.  After it closed, Allen's candy and variety store moved its business to that location. The Royersford urban renewal project that had started back in 1971 finally reached the Penn Theatre. Allen moved his business down to the former Newberry store and the demolition of the building took place in January of 1976.  

Today the offices of Bercek and Smith sits at the spot where the old theatre once stood and next door is an empty grass lot where the Central Hotel once stood.



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Len Faulkner Jr August 29, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Bill... Great article on the Penn Theatre! As a young child growing up in Royersford I have a memory of going in there to watch movies. It was only twenty-five cents. Guess that had to be right before the end and I estimate it to be around 1954 -1957. Could that be possible? Thanks for the trip back in time.
Len Faulkner Jr August 29, 2012 at 10:29 AM
Bill... I must ad that I'm pretty sure the best movie at the time was a "Davy Crockett" adventure.
William C. Brunner August 29, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Len I didn't get into town until 1958 and I am sure it was closed by then. I just need to go over to the museum archives and do a little research to get the actual date. As for Davy Crockett, he was certainly a super star of the 50s era. I remember collecting all of the bubble gum cards. In 2001 when I retired, I sold all of them on e-Bay. It was amazing how much some of those cards were bringing back then. Since I scanned all the images, front and back, I was able to create a file and look at them whenever I want.
Royersfordmomwhocares August 29, 2012 at 03:46 PM
So much history and architecture destroyed in the 70's and 80's.....so sad it still continues today in the name of progress...most "progress" I've seen around here are empty store fronts.......
Brad Gubanich August 30, 2012 at 07:37 PM
I was only 7 y/o in 1976, but I'm curious as to urban renewal project's reason for demolition and as too why the current building was built in its place and an empty lot still sit on the corner. Never the less a great article, thank you.
William C. Brunner August 31, 2012 at 07:58 PM
First let me say that the Urnban Renewal Plan put forth by the Royersford government was a sincere and honest attempt to make Royersford a better place. The first step being to pinpoint property's that were in real need of development and secure funding to clear out the remaining structures, some abandoned, and others very unsightly. The process was slow and not all of the new development that was hoped for occured . That being said the grass lot remaining at 4th and Main is far less objectionable than the remains of the Central Hotel would be if it had been left to decay. The current drive down Main Street in Royersford is one that I have traveled for over 50 years. I can say with no reservation that it never looked any better than it does now. One additional fact that can be added to the Penn Theatre story is the actual date that it closed and I have been able to research this in the newspaper archives. The advertisements ended in July of 1956 with a short ad stating they would resume shows in September. That did not happen and I added a photo showing the final ads.


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