The Anthony Wayne Theatre

The Anthony Wayne was not, as some think, Wayne’s first movie theatre. The first movies to be shown in Wayne were at the Opera House just across Wayne avenue. George C. and Lawrence Allen ran the movies at the Opera House, which caught fire in 1914. The Allens lost their silver screen and a piano, yet the projection unit was salvaged. The movie film from the time was indeed very flammable, yet this was probably not the cause of the fire. The movie showings were then relocated to St. Katherine’s Hall.

A new theatre was built shortly after at 116 North Wayne Ave. by E. E. Trout. This building resembled a three-story house, and was located approximately where Reader’s Forum bookstore later established itself. It held movies and vaudeville shows for charity. Some charities included the Radnorite, the Radnor High School paper, and the Radnor Fire Company.

The need for a new theatre grew in the 1920s, and Philip DeMarse, a longtime Wayne barber, sold land on Lancaster Ave. to Harry Fried of Fried Enterprises. A new theatre, designed by noted local theatre designer William Howard Lee, was built there in either 1928 or 1929. Lee was a native of Shamokin, PA, where he designed the recently demolished Victoria Theatre. It is little known that Lee designed the Anthony Wayne, and before the discovery of the Terra Cotta advertisement seen below, the architect of the theatre was unknown. Lee also designed the Majestic Theatre in Pottstown, redesigned the interior of the Walnut Theatre (the oldest in America) and designed the Frankford Elevated Railroad.

The architect chose colorful terra cotta details made by the Conkling-Armstrong Terra Cotta Company, Philadelphia. At the time it was the only theatre on the whole Main Line to be equipped with sound. The theatre was a unique art deco design, featuring a main theatre segment in the center and two storefronts (with offices on top) on either side. Stores which operated here include Wayne Jewelers, The Anthony Wayne Sweet Shoppe, Joel’s Men’s Store, and most recently Larmon Photo and Color Me Mine.

In order to keep customers during the Great Depression, Harry Fried joined forces with the Wayne Business Association and gave away tickets at movie showings. In a display that sounds like something from a Jean Shepherd story, all the tickets were put in a big drum, and after turning it, a winner’s ticket was chosen.

The Theatre has undergone some changes. In 1965 the original marquee was replaced by a curved one. Around this time some other details from the top area of the building were removed. The theatre originally had just one screen, then was split to two, and now has around five.

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The first movies at Wayne were shown at the Opera House until the fire, seen here.
Radnor Historical Society Collection

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Wayne’s first real movie theatre was this building, located on North Wayne Ave. You can see movie posters on either side of the main doorway.
GP Collection

vaudevilleticket

An advertisement for a Radnor Fire Company benefit at the North Wayne Ave. theatre. Keep in mind that fifty cents was a large amount of money in 1918.
Collection of Jake Lofton

backstage

Some interesting details were still visible backstage when Main Line Life took this picture, mid-1990′s.
Click on the image for a larger version.
“Main Line Life” photo; Radnor Historical Society Collection

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An unusually large banner hung outside the Theatre when this 1930s postcard was photographed. A Betty Boop cartoon was showing.
Private Collection

lincolnhighway copy

A 1950s postcard showing the “Lincoln Highway,” and the front of the theatre.
GP Collection

 

oldtheatrefront
The theatre in 1976. Click on it to see a larger version..
Radnor School District Archives

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The Theatre in 1994. At this time Larmon Photo was located in the right storefront of the Theatre. It later relocated to the other side.