The Royal Theater, Philadelphia's first Black-owned movie theater which opened in 1921, is a shambles. It's been a shambles as long as anyone can remember. Fire, vegetation, and the elements have all taken their toll on the structural integrity of the building, and yesterday, the South of South Neighbor's Association tweeted some historical context: they've been trying to get the place fixed up since 1998.
The study commissioned by the South of South Neighbors Association recommended that the Royal Theater be developed as an independent movie theater (for indie movies) or as a performance venue as part of a comprehensive redevelopment effort for the theater and the blocks surrounding it.
The scene on South Street in 1998 was quite different than it is today: where the area was struggling, it's now full of pricey real estate, and probably doesn't need a comprehensive redevelopment strategy. Still, the Royal Theater stands vacant, and even though two developers are in the running to effect their respective visions on the site, both of them are looking at substantial demolition of the Theater. At least one of the proposals mentions a specter raised in the 1998 report: surface parking.
· Demo or alteration of Royal Theater requires state preservation review [Eyes on the Street]
· Universal and Feibush Agree on One Thing: The Royal Theater is Ripe for Condo Conversion [Curbed Philly]
· From the SOSNA Library: "A New Hope for the Royal Theater" - 1998 [SOSNA]