Saturday, October 12, 2013

iPic's Boyd Theater

A long fought preservation battle at The Boyd Theater near Rittenhouse Square may be coming to a close, with a pretty shitty compromise to history buffs. In The Boyd, Philadelphia has Center City's sole remaining historic movie palace. What's more shocking, this Art Deco masterpiece is nearly in tact and entirely usable.

iPic Theaters has pitched a proposal to tear down the luxurious and historic auditorium to build, well, what it calls a "luxury" auditorium.

Nice "luxurious" brick wall.

Sometimes I think that people who toss around words like "luxury" don't really understand what it means. To the tasteless cretins at Florida's iPic and the fat slobs cozying up to a 64oz soda at one of iPic's "successful" locations in - shocker - Scottsdale, Austin, and Phoenix, here's a tip: Philadelphia is not Scottsdale, Austin, or Phoenix. If you want to build that shit here, do it in New Jersey. Don't bulldoze Center City's one and only remaining, and functional, historic movie theater and then use the carcass to market yourself as iPic's Historic Boyd.

It's tacky.

Center City has room for one of iPic's theaters. There's plenty of vacant land, surface parking lots, and perfectly boring office buildings with room for a multiplex right around the corner.

Hello, Market East? Why The Boyd? Does iPic see itself as The Boyd's (misguided) salvation? Or do they view its marquee and prominence in historic circles as a jankey marketing ploy? Don't answer that, we all know the answer.

It's no surprise that a company from Florida knows nothing about Philadelphia's history or how we perceive it. But it seems as if a company that solely develops movie theaters knows absolutely nothing about cinematic history either.

The industry has changed, I understand that. Multiplexes are great things. Luxury multiplexes are even more amazing. Someday we may even be fighting to save The Bridge or The Pearl, both of which are beautiful works of modern architecture, someday as significant as The Boyd.

But single screen movie houses still serve a purpose as dollar theaters and boutique cinemas around the country that invented celluloid. The Boyd isn't just Philadelphia history, it's American history as important as anything on Society Hill.

Of course iPic will have no problem proving getting the Historic Commission to green light the demolition. Proving cost prohibitions to the commission has become as easy as getting free swag at the convention center: just show up.

It's a wonder Philadelphia even has an Historic Commission if its sole purpose isn't to protect the city's history. It's as if the consultants developers hire to prove their historic properties are lost causes are somehow...hired by the developers.

Wow, that seems fishy. I mean that's like hiring your brother to come to your personal injury suit to prove that your neck hurts. But that's exactly what iPic did. In fact, that's what every developer seeking a demolition permit does.

iPic themselves commissioned an EConsult report to prove that restoring the Boyd would cost between $41M and $44M. It's a far fetched notion based on little more than iPic's effort to prove it's damn expensive, but it's also complete bullshit.

$40M? I'll go to Home Depot and get some paint and spackle.

What does that $40M get you? If you wanted to show movies in the Boyd, you could simply open the door and tell people to bring a chair. Where's EConsult's estimate for a new screen, seats, and a fresh coat of paint?

EConsult's report for The Boyd's rehabilitation is an estimate for rebuilding The Boyd from the ground up. But more importantly, where is the Historic Commission's independent audit?

$40M is outrageous, on par with stabilizing the SS United States. Philadelphia's historical community, which perplexingly is in no way affiliated with the Historic Commission, has become so numb to these astronomical and subjective estimates that no one bothers to question these bloated claims.

Unfortunately, with no support for the commission charged with protecting the city's history, The Friends of the Boyd has had to tackle the preservation efforts with little more than a Facebook page and a website.

The Boyd is one of many examples of the commission's neglected duties, leaving every protected landmark in the hands of a few devoted volunteers who have to battle developers drafing their own cost prohibitions.

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