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The Lansdowne Theater




According to the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corp., "The Stanley Warner Company and Herbert Effinger commissioned renowned and prolific theater architect William H. Lee to design a 1300-seat movie theater in the heart of Lansdowne’s Central Business District. Based in Philadelphia, Lee designed more than 80 movie houses one as far away as Hawaii. Designed in the popular Hollywood Moorish style, the $250,000 theater was opened just before the advent of the “talkies” and harkens to the days of romantic silent films. Visitors moved through the front doors, up an incline, and into a Moorish style courtyard with fountains at each end. Large lighting fixtures hung in the lobby, which opened to the grand auditorium. With its elaborately painted ceiling, grand chandelier,balconies, and large proscenium, the theater is a feast for the eyes.



The Lansdowne Theater opened on June 1, 1927, featuring the silent film “Knockout Riley” starring Richard Dix. The opening event was overseen by John J. McGuirk, president of the Stanley Company, the predecessor of Warner Brothers. Mr. McGuirk described The Lansdowne as “the best example of suburban theatre construction around Philadelphia.” Adding to the excitement of the day was an appearance by Miss Lansdowne, who flew over the theater in a biplane, dropping roses to the audience below. (That year Miss Lansdowne happened to be an exchange student from Sweden.) Films were shown Monday through Saturday at 2:30, 7:00, and 9:00 p.m. Ticket prices ranged from 15¢ to 35¢."



The theater was closed due to an electrical fire in the basement in 1987. Since purchasing the building in 2007, the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation has been working to return the building to use: "much-needed repairs to the roof have been made, a fire detection system has been installed throughout, obsolete and unused mechanical systems have been removed, second floor offices have been renovated, and retail stores have been brought into compliance with building codes."

If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Signed copies are available through my website, or you can find (unsigned) copies available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe.

Photographs and unattributed text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.