With its creaky seats; its odd herringboned walls; a screen the size of a large plasma TV; permanently scuffed and dirty floors; and a dubious selection of films, the Roxy Theater on Sansom Street has always been an odd fit in a city now dominated by chain movie theaters. As one film blogger points out, "it's the closest thing our city has left to a 'Grindhouse' experience."
The Roxy wasn't always this way. There are those who remember the heyday of Center City moviegoing—when the CVS at 19th and Chestnut was Sam's Place, when the site of the PHS pop-up garden on 19th and Walnut was the Eric Rittenhouse Twin, when the Sameric was open for business, and there was a movie house at Mandee's and a United Artists where the Prince Theater is now.
At that time, the Roxy was Center City's arthouse cinema that could be relied upon to show films by artists like Louis Malle, Bergman, Krzysztof Kie?lowski and Peter Greenaway. Many films were even more subversive and sexually intense, the kind of stuff you'd see at TLA on South Street before it was a music venue and Temple Cinemateque repertory series (RIP). At some point along the way, the Roxy was unable to sustain this business model and turned its curatorial eye to the mainstream, which kept it alive but saddened cinephiles. If only it could go back to the way it used to be, such people would lament hopelessly...
Or was it? Center City denizens might once again be treated to arthouse films now that the current tenant, Bernard Neary, is getting the boot. The landlord is loooking for the Roxy to return to its roots, and obviously doesn't have confidence in Neary's vision.
But one man who inspires property owner John Ciccone is restaurateur Stephen Starr, who has been advocating for a downtown cineplex for some time now. From this article, it sounds like Starr has been discussions with the Roxy for several months. "It's something I'm very interested in," Starr told Victor Fiorillo of his plans for a Center City cinema eatery. "It's not an easy thing, but somebody's got to have the balls to do it."