When we last visited the Sameric at 1908 Chestnut St. back in late 2001 to see Ocean’s Eleven, it required considerable effort to tear our feet off the incredibly sticky floor at the end of the movie. Though the old cinema was worse for the wear by that time, it still retained many of the original features that made it a destination during its heyday. Like, you know, air conditioning.
Only a few months later, the Sameric (nee The Boyd) shut its doors and it’s been closed ever since. Several possible plans have emerged over the years to demolish or preserve the old building, including a plan for a performing arts space from Clear Channel that we really thought was going to happen. Alas, the building has simply languished for over a decade, though the efforts of the Friends of the Boyd have at least kept fears at bay that the building would be lost to the wrecking ball.
Earlier, a reader tipped us off to a story from the Sacramento Bee that suggests that a new group has stepped forward with a plan to reopen the Boyd, with its historic use as a movie theater. Florida-based iPic Theaters has signed a lease for the space and intends to create an eight-screen cinema along with Tanzy, an Italian-themed bar-restaurant.
The experience will be far more luxurious than anything we’re accustomed to in Philadelphia. The theaters will be small, with the largest topping out at 120 seats. Seats will have a reclining feature, with pillows and blankets available. Guests will also be able to press a button to summon a server to bring food or drink options from the snack bar or the real bar. Reserved seating will also be used, adding to the exclusive feel of the place.
You might think that everyone hearing about this new plan would be enthusiastic in their support for it. After all, a long-vacant building in Center City would be coming back to life, so what could be bad? But according to Michael Klein, the Friends of the Boyd are not at all pleased with the plan from iPic Theaters. While the facade of the building would be preserved by iPic, the interior of the building, including the once-gorgeous auditorium, would be demolished. President of the Friends group Howard Haas wants to see iPic choose another location for their project.
What do you think? Is it appropriate to demolish the auditorium here and preserve the facade so that the building can come back to active use? Or should we be willing to wait for another party to come into the picture that’s willing to spend the money to renovate the auditorium? Will that day ever come? Ah, if only our crystal ball wasn’t on the fritz.
If they get their approvals, iPic is shooting to open in 2015. Just in time for Ocean’s Fourteen, we hope!