We've had a thing for old theaters since we first walked into the Boyd-turned-Sameric a decade and a half ago. At one time, our fine city was full of old movie houses, but for the most part they've been systematically demolished to make way for much less enduring buildings. A handful have survived the years and been reused though, with the Five Below on Chestnut Street, originally the Arcadia Theater, standing as a fine and recent example. We'd like to think we have a pretty good bead on the former theaters in the neighborhoods in and around Center City, but earlier today we happened upon one we never knew about in South Philly.
This building at 2304 Snyder Ave. was constructed in 1936 as the President Theater, according to Cinema Treasures. The theater only lasted until the mid-1970s, eventually becoming a banquet hall and then a church. Interesting trivia, it was used as a location in the 1995 Al Pacino film Two Bits, with the studio attempting to fix up the building to look as it did in the 1930s. Sadly we couldn't find any images of this on the internet and exactly seven people saw the movie so we may never see what they did with our own eyes.
Looking at some recent photos it seems that Yesha Fellowship Hall occupied the building until very recently, but the fact that the marquee lacks signage right now gives us an indication that the church is no longer using the building. The church continues to own the property, according to public record, so perhaps it will soon get listed for sale. Or else they're just getting new signs right now.
Compared to a number of other surviving theaters or even the school next door, the former President is no prize architecturally. But when we consider the number of former theaters that have been lost over the years, the mere fact that this building has remained for eighty years is impressive in and of itself. Sure, it's unlikely that this building will ever be a stop on any architectural tour of South Philadelphia, but we're nevertheless glad it's survived, and we're hopeful that it'll stick around for many years to come.