Hiding in Plain Sight, The Ambassador Theater

From the first time we set foot in the Boyd-turned Sameric shortly before it closed, we’ve had a bit of an obsession with old movie theaters. Numerous beautiful cinemas once dotted the Philadelphia cityscape, but as the years have rolled along, many of those buildings have met the wrecking ball. A handful of survivors have been reborn through adaptive reuse, with examples including the Five Below on the 1500 block of Chestnut and the Bushfire Theatre Company at 52nd & Locust. Recently, someone brought another adaptive reuse of a former cinema to our attention, and now we bring it to you.

View from back in the day

The Ambassador Theater opened at 5542 Baltimore Ave. in 1921, according to Cinema Treasures. The theater had a seating capacity of roughly 1,000 and had a beautiful marquee that survived long past 1958, when the theater closed its doors. In the years after the picture shows stopped, the building was reused as a skating rink and also as a rock club and a disco, and then it sat vacant for most of the 1980s. In the early 1990s, Kennedy Printing expanded into the former theater from their space next door, and they continue to operate here to this day. The exterior of the old theater remains largely intact, aside from the missing marquee.

View on Baltimore Avenue
Closer look
Closer look

According to a Hidden City story that details the history of the building, some of the interior details of the theater remain as well, though those details are only visible to the people working the printing presses. For us, we’re just pleased that the outside of the building has remained in decent shape after all these years and tickled to have discovered a new old theater that has survived the ravages of time. Check it out in person some time, if you’re in the area- the stain glass windows were washed out in our photos and look very cool in person.