Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Live Nation Halts Boyd Renovation; City Officials Do Nothing

Since my story detailing Live Nation's decision to stop renovation work at the Boyd Theater appeared in Friday's Inquirer, I've gotten half a dozen anguished calls from theater people, preservationists and politicians asking what can be done to revive the project. Well, for starters, how about if Mayor Street and Gov. Rendell picked up the phone and offered Live Nation a little encouragement? If this were a troubled condo, office or even a garage project, you can bet our elected leaders would be working overtime to get it back on track. But during my interview with Duane Bumb, the city's deputy commerce director, he made it clear the Street Administration views the Boyd's problems as a strictly private business matter. "They need to go back and see how they can repackage this to make it financially feasible," Bumb said. When I suggested that a shuttered Boyd could undermine Chestnut Street's recent revival, he sniffed that the retail corridor was doing just fine without the Boyd, thank you.

It's true that the western end of Chestnut Street in Center City has made an impressive comeback since the dark days of 2002, when it looked like the Boyd might be demolished. Virtually every building on the 1900 block, where the Boyd is located, has been renovated for condos, restaurants and shops. Stephen Starr's Continental, on the corner of 19th Street, is the highest-grossing restaurant in his chain, according to Bumb.

Still, the city's passive attitude hurts Philadelphia more than its hurts Live Nation. Even though it has already invested close to $14 million to stabilize the glorious, 2,400-seat art deco theater, the media giant can afford to sit on the property as long as it wants. But Philadelphia's theater scene desperately needs a playhouse like the Boyd to accommodate big, traveling Broadway shows. Otherwise, Philly is going to lose its position as one of the industry's top try-out towns.

Sure, the Kimmel's Verizon Hall and the Academy of Music are just as big as the Boyd, but they already have too many demands on their space from the orchestra, ballet, opera and other resident companies. And Philly's other big theater space, the Merriam, can't provide the loading facilities, dressing rooms and other backstage amenities that road shows demand. Philly used to be the number one try-out town in the nation, the last stop before shows went to Broadway, and the first stop when hit shows went on the road. But sadly that's no longer the case. And, as movie maven Sharon Pinkenson, head of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, pointed out in a voice-mail message, the city desperately needs a big, deluxe space to host movie premiers, like the opening of Sylvester Stalone's new Rocky movie in December. "I can't think of another great city in America that doesn't have at least one great movie palace," she said. The Boyd, which was home to the Sameric movie theaters before they shut down, could do double duty as a live theater and occasional movie venue.

Live Nation, which took over the theater and concert arm of Clear Channel Communications in January, apparently pulled the plug on the renovation project because it felt that costs were getting out of hand. Few such theater projects are financed entirely with private money. Earlier in the Boyd saga, when it was still owned by the Goldenberg Group, Mayor Street proposed a tax-break for the theater, but he was too entangled in the pay-to-play scandal to make a credible case to City Council. Meanwhile, Gov. Rendell is so fixated on Broad Street as theater row - with the Kimmel and Academy as the city's theater flagships - that he can't understand the importance of a revived Boyd Theater.

The good news is that this won't be a repeat of 2002, when the Sameric closed its doors, and the Goldenberg Group immediately announced it would seek a demolition permit. There's too much at stake now for anyone to consider razing the theater. In fact, at this point, there may be too much as stake for Philadelphia to let Boyd sit dark.

33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What does the Commerce Department do anyway? If they can't (or won't) help the developer of such an important linchpin of Center City's commercial core become viable, why do we have such an office? It is a shame that the Boyd has experienced this stumbling block, but now the powers-that-be must do what they can to help the development move forward.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are the commercial stakeholders -- the neighborhood retail businesspeople, like Starr -- doing about this? Their's is the critical voice.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have officials and developers to grease, overstuffed pensions to pay. There simply isn't money in the kitty for unimportant irrelevant wasteful projects like restoration of the Boyd.

Look at the colossal waste of city,state, and private money wasted on the Ben Franklin Parkway, Independence Mall and Avenue of the Arts. It's not like those projects did anything for the city. They didn't help catapult Philadlephia from 27th in the nation in tourism to 11.

The increase in tourism obviously was due to the city's hands off approach at fabulous Market East and thriving Penns Landing.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to be hosting a foreign exchange student next month. He's eager to know what Philadelphia is all about. I guess I have to take him to 8th and Market. I'll be sure to include 1600 block Samson as well.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous ghostofwilliampenn said...

The Philadelphia City Government from century to century, generation to generation has passed along a defective gene.

I bow my head in utter bewilderment when Fox29 news scans a city council meeting. The dreadful condition of huge swaths of this city, It all makes sense when I get to view the faces and posture of the people who are running this city. They're old, they're outdated, they're uneducated and they are in way way over their heads.

Cities on the rise have young, bright, youthful people leading their cities. Thats just not the case here in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia the main goal of those in charge is to keep their power, everything else is secondary. The future direction of the city isn't even on the radar. The future direction of the city can be extremely compromised if it interferes with self interests of those in charge.

The Boyd is way way down on the list of priorities, a few notches below Penns Landing, Market East,and the Disney Hole. The city will wait this out forever or until University of Penn's wave or Rittenhouse Squares success gentrifies the Boyd Theater. The Boyd would remain a rusting hulk forever if it were left up to this godforsaken city. LiveNation isn't going to see a penny from this city, you can book that.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet Live Nation forgot to make their campaign contributions...

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You won't see anything from the Commerce Dept. Stephanie Naidoff, like Rendell, has reputation points invested in the Kimmel. They would rather drag the city down than face up to the expense/revenue miscalculation made on South Broad.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Friends of the Boyd can use more support, please visit www.FriendsOfTheBoyd.org

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I for one have been hesitant to give financial support. The more so now. Guidance towards a real, organized lobbying effort would be welcome.

5:54 PM  
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7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I would like to see the Boyd restored to its former grandeur, being that it is an important place in Philadelphia’s cultural history and hopefully its future, as well as a beautiful example of art deco architecture, I don’t think it should be publicly subsidized. Let’s face it, this project—if and when it comes to fruition—will be solely for Philadelphia’s elite, and that’s fine with me. Let’s be honest here—how many lower and middle income residents are going to see plays or be invited to exclusive movie premieres, never mind that places like this will almost certainly have a dress code that would serve to further its exclusivity. And on top of that, Live Nation is a giant corporation that shouldn’t need a government handout—that would be welfare at its worst. Not to mention that Live Nation isn’t even a local company, so all of the profits made are just going to go out of town. The bottom line is that public money for private profit is just bad policy. If Philadelphia’s elite want this bad enough, they can put their own money on the table.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps Comcast should buy it.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

instead of simply reading Inga's blog and pointing fingers, why would'nt the nice folks on here with the "right" ideas do something about all this, if even one small issue... stand up!

... and to Inga, I really think your writings are very one-sided and biased. I know it's simply your opinion, but you influence many people's thoughts everyday.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to see the Boyd restored, but I also think it should not be at public expense. 'Tis true -- as someone has already mentioned, that only the rich and the famous would ever see it on the inside or really enjoy it. When will Philly -- or any Big City for that matter -- let the common wage earner enjoy only the good things that a City can provide, without emptying their wallet? Look at the cost of playing miniture golf on Franklin Square for a family of 4 -- two adults with two budding "Tiger's" for children. It's $28 for a half hour of entertainment! Nothing to well paid rich folk, but many hours of work for the average paid worker. Add on $10 for the 3 minute Carousel Ride and $10 for Parking Authority Parking at 6th and Race --- that's $48 without having a pretzel to put your mustard on! Philadelphia doesn't need any gated communities -- its economics already make it that way and the "invisible fencing" is MONEY$$$$$.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't expect even a large company like Live Nation to make a huge investment in the Boyd if they can never make a rate of return on their money to justify that investment. LN already made this mistake in Boston, and that's specifally why they won't do it here even though their management for this region is based here. Now how much did the city and the state invest in sports stadiums? Here you actually have an amenity, a Broadway Theater and unique structure that would even further enhance the vitality of this city and increase the economic vitality of businesses (especially restaurants) in its proximity.
Moreover the more cultural choices make the city more vital. This project as well as the perpetually forestalled movie theaters on Walnut would help to further catalyse restaurant and retail development. What Philadelphia has always amazed me with is its lack of vision.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what you’re saying is that Live Nation can’t make money on this project or won’t invest unless the government (i.e. taxpayers) pays for it. Like I said in the post above (Anonymous, 7:31 pm), if Philadelphia’s elite wants this bad enough, they should put their own money on the table. The same goes for the stadiums or anything else that’s of a private interest.

I agree that a restored Boyd would be an amenity—but for whom? Well, metropolitan Philadelphia’s elite, that’s who. And that’s who should pay for it, with their own private money. And if Live Nation can’t make it work for them, maybe they should sell to someone who can. Welfare is not the answer.

1:59 AM  
Anonymous nanyika said...

There is no doubt that Broadway-style theater ticket prices are in the stratosphere; in my opinion theater should be subsidized, starting on the federal level. However, even with the current high prices, it is not true that only the wealthy "elite" attend Broadway plays. Broadway shows, much more than opera and orchestra concerts, are popular entertainment in this country. Often unions, church groups, and other organizations buy blocks of tickets for their members. It is important that Philadelphia maximize its theater facilities, if it is to continue to progress as a tourist destination, as well as a culturally diversified location for all its residents.
Of course, the Forest Theater, the city's other "off-Broad St." large house, is often dark nowadays. But the Boyd has advantages over the Forest -- more seats, (to my understanding) more flexibility backstage and for loading, movie-projection facilities, and its setting in the lively Rittenhouse Sq. neighborhood. The blockbuster musicals would probably come to the Boyd or the Academy, leaving less elaborate productions for the Forest or Merriam.

2:05 AM  
Anonymous michael bloomberg said...

Alot of shortsighted views here. This isn't about Philadelphia's elite having another toy to play with.To me The Boyd is a key civic treasure that would pay off tenfold if it were brought back to life, especially for center city.

Added vibrancy, added street life, added jobs, added tax revenue. It's a big piece of bringing Center City back to its glory days. It's another carrot to lure millionaires from the suburbs into the city. IMO the city and state need to take that into serious consideration.

Simple overused phrase but
you have to spend money to make money. Thats a concept that is foreign to this city. For example Penns landing, Market east, vacant bombed out industrialized waterfronts.







--------------------------
anonymous 1:59 am
So what you’re saying is that Live Nation can’t make money on this project or won’t invest unless the government (i.e. taxpayers) pays for it. Like I said in the post above (Anonymous, 7:31 pm), if Philadelphia’s elite wants this bad enough, they should put their own money on the table. The same goes for the stadiums or anything else that’s of a private interest.

I agree that a restored Boyd would be an amenity—but for whom? Well, metropolitan Philadelphia’s elite, that’s who. And that’s who should pay for it, with their own private money. And if Live Nation can’t make it work for them, maybe they should sell to someone who can. Welfare is not the answer.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reasoning behind taxpayer support of commercial ventures is that they provide income to citizens of all economic levels, not an amenity to a distinct social class. Directly, through employment by the recipient of the tax relief, and indirectly, by encouraging other enterprises -- in this case construction, retail, restaurant, etc. All this is supposed to result in eventual tax benefit to the municipality, as well.

If this is the foreseeable outcome with the Boyd, the case is made.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:27 am What Philadelphia has always amazed me with is its lack of vision.

Yes, I’m sorry, you’re right. What was I thinking? Companies can’t make money unless they’re publicly subsidized. Here, I thought running a company took innovation, risk and willpower, but thank god that we have visionaries like you to show us the way.

nanyika said... it is not true that only the wealthy "elite" attend Broadway plays. Broadway shows, much more than opera and orchestra concerts, are popular entertainment in this country. Often unions, church groups, and other organizations buy blocks of tickets for their members.

Are you kidding me? Unions? That’s a little hard to believe, but I’ll take your word for it. And as far as church groups and organizations like retirement homes go, yes that’s true, but in reality, if we’re going to be honest about it, this will be for the elite first and foremost, so that they can revel in the knowledge that they’re cultural visionaries, and how people in this city don’t appreciate what they’re doing for us, like spreading the virtues of exclusivity.

michael bloomberg said... Alot of shortsighted views here. This isn't about Philadelphia's elite having another toy to play with.To me The Boyd is a key civic treasure that would pay off tenfold if it were brought back to life, especially for center city.

The question is who would it pay off for? That’s right—wealthy business owners, shareholders, developers, luxury property owners and politicians. The businesses that would be helped—who do they cater to? That’s right—Philadelphia’s elite. Honestly, this is the neighborhood that flipped its lid when Quiznos wanted to locate there. What a bunch of pretentious snobs. The jobs you speak of, how much are they going to pay? I mean, outside of the initial construction jobs and a handful of management positions, what, $7/hour, maybe, if they’re lucky, $10/hour. Give me a break. As for Market East, ah yes—the place that Center City elites loathe the most. God forbid lower and middle income residents have a stake in Center City. But when you’re an elitist, exclusivity is key.

Anonymous 11:39 am The reasoning behind taxpayer support of commercial ventures is that they provide income to citizens of all economic levels

Well, first off, as far as it being taxpayer support, that’s a bunch of b.s. unless there’s some sort of ballot initiative. Talk about short sighted views or a lack of vision, as two of the previous posters commented. Yes, I am well aware of this method of economic development, and it’s flawed. For starters, it’s anti-competitive. How can you expect a business to compete or want to set up shop if the one down the street is getting government subsidies? Not only that, this is one reason there’s so much corruption in this city. Pay to play comes to mind. On top of that, it stifles innovation and creativity. Not to mention that every other city, town, etc. across the country uses this same flawed logic. It’s insidiously anti-business and fosters corruption and upholds monopolies. If Live Nation is an innovative company, they’ll find a way to make it work without taxpayer money. If not, they should write it off as a loss and sell it to a company/developer that can.

The amazing thing here is that the only solution people are willing to accept is a government/taxpayer handout. They don’t want to put their own money into it or hold fundraisers. Why not, for example, get Stephen Starr and the city’s well-to-do folks together and have a $2000 a plate dinner-and-a-movie fundraiser? If the support is there, it’ll be successful. If not, then it won’t, and that should be the end of it.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For starters, 120 stagehand jobs MAKING VERY VERY VERY GOOD MONEY.

As to "elites" and "dress codes" mentioned above, what nonsense. At the opera at the Academy of Music, at the orchestra at Kimmel, and even on Broadway, ordinary folks wearing blue jeans enjoy shows.

Plus, the Friends of the Boyd keep saying they will bring classic films, film festivals, and public tours, so the masses for whom the movie palace was built for will be able to enjoy the place!

Everything in America life gets taxpayer funding. Might as well provide the TIF and Commonwealth funding to restore the last movie palace- just as cities nationwide have done!

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 7:38 pm
you are absolutely right running a company takes innovation, risk and willpower...that's why LiveNation is the largest live entertainment company in the world. They are leaving the Boyd for what they beleive are sound business reasons,however, that decision may lead to the end of Theater in Philadelphia...a decision that will affect far more than the "elite".

you clearly have no idea who Live Nation is..at the present time, they own or operate the TLA, Tower Theater, Electric Factory Concerts, E Center and the list goes on.....the last time I checked these venues are not occupied by the elite. They also promote the shows at the Merriam Theater which if you pay attention to the show lists include interracial, gospel, family, comedy, dance and magic. These shows are geared for people from all walks of life and from all income levels. Have you forgotten about the student discount? Ask any box office employee about how many tickets are sold to students in Philadelphia for high end Broadway shows. They are studying by day, waiting tables at night and seeing Broadway shows with the elite, for less money.

Please pay closer attention to the neighborhood around the Boyd...the high end condos are now in all neighborhoods...but the area of the Boyd houses Kate's Home, local pizza places, Devil's Alley, Rachels Deli, Primos Hoagies and Dunkin Donuts, not Gucci.

I can see that you have no idea of the employment opportunites that the Boyd could provide starting with actors, musicians, box office, stagehands, wardrobe, hair, teamsters and these are among the highest labor paying jobs in the country.

The announcement to renovate the Boyd is widely known in theater circles around the country. Clearly, no other entertainment company is interested or it would have long since been sold. If you are so concerned about the elite always getting everything...wouldn't it make more sense to continue with the project and have a theater that would benefit all residents of Philadelphia? Have you considered that it is the elite who are stopping the project, those politicians and wealthy who support the Academy of Music/Kimmel Center..so that they can be amongst their own kind.....and leave those beneath them without an affordable venue..why then not just say it and cast those poor folks who would love to go to shows at the Boyd and tell them the best they can hope for is going to a show at the TLA on south street..19th and Chestnut also belongs to the elite.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many businesses on Chestnut Street -- from 17th to 22nd Street who are hanging their hopes for long-term success on the re-opening of the Boyd Theater -- which would bring 2,400 theater patrons each evening plus certain matinee days. These theater-goers will patronize the area's restaurants, some will stay at nearby hotels, and some may come early to shop Walnut and Chestnut St. (The scarcity of parking in the area would also have to be addressed if anyone does any kind of planning in this area. Scarce and over-priced parking is hurting restaurants and theaters all over the center city.)

The Kimmel Center with it's limited Broadway series at the Academy has made it politically clear that they consider the Boyd reopening as a Broadway venue to be a threat to the success of their own offerings. I have to believe that the fact that Midge Rendell is on their board, and sleeps with Hiz-honor the Governor, who's close friend heads the historic commission, is somehow linked to the incomprehensible reason that this 1928 art deco treasure -- and center city's last movie palace -- was declined for historic protection or certification of any kind. It was only public outcry, and the ensuing pressure, that allowed the Goldenberg's demolition permit (he not only applied for it, it had been issued) not to be renewed once it mercifully expired.

I am among those almost-powerless Philadelphians who are so sick of seeing our historic treasures lost to indifference and mis-guided greed. We do not need another condo tower. We do not need another big "Oops. Our bad." sign which proclaims what great, historic building stood on this site before we tore it down for something of far less value. At this point, the city is overbuilt and still losing population. The continued building frenzy is only starting to devalue the existing properties (and we homeowner's who care for, invest in, and protect the city's remaining historic townhouses get no tax credits as the new chip-board and Tyvek, garage-fronted houses enjoy. Why in the world would the city provide an incentive to eliminate precious street parking for inferior building quality and cheap design? If the city can provide tax abatements to new condo and townhouse owners -- which really are built into the purchase price and go into the developers' pockets -- why no tax credits for historic preservation? And this theater project will generate hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.

Saving the Boyd has been and continues to be an endless, uphill battle. Most people who live closest are barely involved in the effort to save it -- those around Rittenhouse Square (2 blocks away) have been the least supportive of the grass roots efforts of Friends of the Boyd which for years has mobilized hundreds of volunteers and small supporters to keep the plight of this great theater in the forefront through e-newsletters, a few tours of the theater, press interviews, and small film-screening fundraisers.

But big bucks are needed to save and restore this theater. An investment that will yield a world-class treasure, and a great economic attraction. Yes, pro-active overtures should be made to make it economically viable for Live Nation to continue their involvement. Given this city's poor track record in such endeavors, it should not purchase and take over the project as many other cities and towns have done.

Wouldn't it be lovely if some local film impresario -- like M. Night Shaymalan -- would take over this project and create their own, personal mega-screening room for premiers and film fests? And, in between such film events, they could make the investment pay for itself by having Live Nation or another similar organization manage the space for touring Broadway shows and concerts.

Or if anyone in the Blogasphere has $40 million to put into this incredible project, visit www.friendsoftheboyd.com and step up. Otherwise, perhaps the power of prayer -- and copious calls to city council, and even state legislators to step in to save this potential economic boon.

I remember there was a study done by Pew a few years back that found that every $1 invested in the arts yielded $4 in return to the city. (Sports was closer to a $1-for-$1 ratio, if not negative return!)

I say, no more incentives to condo-builders and more incentives to the city's foremost attraction -- historic sites and, increasingly, culture!

Lily Rose
Center City Resident

1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many businesses on Chestnut Street -- from 17th to 22nd Street who are hanging their hopes for long-term success on the re-opening of the Boyd Theater -- which would bring 2,400 theater patrons each evening plus certain matinee days. These theater-goers will patronize the area's restaurants, some will stay at nearby hotels, and some may come early to shop Walnut and Chestnut St. (The scarcity of parking in the area would also have to be addressed if anyone does any kind of planning in this area. Scarce and over-priced parking is hurting restaurants and theaters all over the center city.)

The Kimmel Center, with it's limited Broadway series at the Academy has made it politically clear that they consider the Boyd reopening as a Broadway venue to be a threat to the success of their own offerings. I have to believe that the fact that Midge Rendell is on their board, and sleeps with Hiz-honor the Governor, who's close friend heads the historic commission, is somehow linked to the incomprehensible reason that this 1928 art deco treasure -- and center city's last movie palace -- was declined for historic protection or certification of any kind. It was only public outcry, and the ensuing pressure, that allowed the Goldenberg Group's demolition permit (he not only applied for it, it had been issued) not to be renewed once it mercifully expired.

I am among those almost-powerless Philadelphians who are so sick of seeing our historic treasures lost to indifference and mis-guided greed. We do not need another condo tower. We do not need another big "Oops. Our bad." sign which proclaims what great, historic building stood on this site before we tore it down for something of far less value. At this point, the city is overbuilt and still losing population. The continued building frenzy is only starting to devalue the existing properties (and we homeowners who care for, invest in, and protect the city's remaining historic townhouses get no tax credits as the new chip-board and Tyvek, garage-fronted houses enjoy. Why in the world would the city provide an incentive to eliminate precious street parking for inferior building quality and cheap design at the expense of the school board budget? If the city can provide tax abatements to new condo and townhouse owners -- which really are built into the purchase price and go into the developers' pockets -- why no tax credits for historic preservation? And this theater project will generate hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy.

Saving the Boyd has been and continues to be an endless, uphill battle. Most people who live closest are barely involved in the effort to save it -- those around Rittenhouse Square (2 blocks away) have been the least supportive of the grass roots efforts of Friends of the Boyd which for years has mobilized hundreds of volunteers and small supporters to keep the plight of this great theater in the forefront through e-newsletters, a few tours of the theater, press interviews, and small film-screening fundraisers.

But big bucks are needed to save and restore this theater. An investment that will yield a world-class treasure, and a great economic attraction. Yes, pro-active overtures should be made to make it economically viable for Live Nation to continue their involvement. Given this city's poor track record in such endeavors, it should not purchase and take over the project as many other cities and towns have done. But it should certainly remove obstacles, and provide incentives to experienced private or non-profit enterprises interested in such an undertaking.

Wouldn't it be lovely if some local film impresario -- like M. Night Shaymalan -- would take over this project and create their own, personal mega-screening room for premiers and film fests? And, in between such film events, they could make the investment pay for itself by having Live Nation or another similar organization manage the space for touring Broadway shows and concerts.

Or if anyone in the Blogasphere has $40 million to put into this incredible project, visit www.friendsoftheboyd.com and step up. Otherwise, perhaps the power of prayer -- and copious calls to city council, and even state legislators to step in to save this potential economic boon -- may be its only salvation.

I remember there was a study done by Pew a few years back that found that every $1 invested in the arts yielded $4 in return to the city. (Sports was closer to a $1-for-$1 ratio, if not a negative return! Just look at the half billion the city poured into all the recent stadiums. Or was it more? I lost track.)

I say, no more incentives to condo-builders but more incentives to preserve and promote the city's foremost attraction -- historic sites and, increasingly, cultural venues!

Lily Rose
Center City Resident

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry about the double-posting. Didn't realize the first went through. Still, it's a $40 million project, and that makes it quite the challenge for a publicly-traded company (owned by bunches of large and small investors) to make it economically viable. As far as I know, Live Nation hasn't asked the city for squat. They've just sidelined the project after being quite gung-ho on doing a really quality restoration/adaptation. Somehow, since the spin-off from deeper-pocketed Clear Channel, the numbers are just not working for Live Nation.

If the Friends of the Boyd get their way, for their involvement in helping the project along -- and they don't have that much money to contribute so far, but plenty of expertise and more than a little public leverage -- they will get a commitment from Live Nation to host (between Broadway shows) inexpensive film series which will allow all Philadelphians to have a movie palace experience. It's our legacy, is this going to be another one we just throw away waiting for someone else to step up and do it for us?

The prior commentator was correct -- we need more youth, vitality and vision in city hall. It's not about the city giving money to the project, but rather not taking money by offering the same tax discounts they gave Comcast and other businesses to stay in the city. Yes, it's sad that the City has to provide a cash incentive for Comcast to build a headquarters building and create jobs in the very city that nurtured their tremendous growth. But Philadelphia is an expensive city to do business in, so such incentives must often be offered or all the (rest of the) jobs would move outside the realm of pricey parking, real estate tranfer taxes, business privilege and city wage taxes.

I've walked the neighborhood around the Boyd, and there are a lot of very small, locally-owned businesses like coffee shops, retailers, etc. that appeal to people of any income level. They are just as deserving of a city investment in their neighborhood to make it more economically viable. If they can't survive, you can expect more boarded little businesses and whole blocks of great old townhouse buildings that house them being collected and torn down for big, ugly, luxury condos.

This should not be about class warfare. And if it is, it's a fight for the working person for better jobs and access to their own historic movie palace.

And Live Nation should get an even playing field if they are going to invest $40 million in saving OUR last movie palace. Their primary competition for Broadway shows is the non-profit Kimmel/Academy -- which can't seem to operate profitably despite getting millions in contributions and tax breaks from it's tax-exempt status.

I was all for restoring the Academy of Music, and building a real symphony hall but not for them to present commercial shows and compete with for-profit theaters. (The Kimmel, by the way has plenty of inexpensive seats in the upper tiers -- which have great views and great sound, plus community rush tickets for $10 a few hours before every concert -- as well as free concerts in the lobby lounge. So, no elitism there. And no dress codes -- except shoes and shirts. Where do you get such a notion? It's not a "class thing" to dress nicely for an evening out. Anyone can buy a long-sleeve, button-down shirt for the price of a couple beers at your local bar. People of every income level like to dress up for a special occasion. But there are plenty of folks in jeans at any cultural event, if that's a uniform you can't pry yourself out of.)

If the city gives tax breaks -- unlike with Comcast -- they might ask for some give-backs like being able to use the theater now and then for large high school or community college graduations; providing inexpensive rental for the film festival use; or making the theater available for film premiers which, yes, have an elite audience but generate so much money, jobs, and media attention for Philadelphia, that they should be definitely enticed. (Not to mention -- the films premiering would probably be those that were filmed in Philadelphia which meand mega money and jobs in the region!)

And the person who commented about the many hundreds of jobs the theater will generate had it right -- it's a blue collar heaven. The electrician, stage hands, teamsters, performers, ushers, box office and projectionists are all union jobs that pay very good wages. Not to mention the tremendous amount of construction jobs over the year it would take to renovate the theater.

Having more, not fewer, vibrant theaters is great for all of Philadelphia. It brings outside money into our economy and, well, how big an appeal would Broadway be with only one or two theaters? We're already a pretty good theater town. Why not keep it going and be a great one?

If this is a class war -- it should be a war for the common citizen to say, "You may not steal our last movie palace -- that great bastion of grandeur created for the working man. It belongs to me, my children and generations of Philadelphians to come."

Lily Rose

4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me respond here by saying that I appreciate everyone’s passion for the restoration of the Boyd. I also have hope that the Boyd will be restored, as I stated in my first post (anonymous, 7:31 pm – While I would love to see the Boyd restored to its former grandeur, being that it is an important place in Philadelphia’s cultural history, and hopefully its future…)

My goal wasn’t to make this about class or class warfare—it’s just that over the last few years I’ve seen a disturbing trend here in Philadelphia towards exclusivity becoming a desirable ideal, and our less affluent citizens and the places they patronize being regarded as undesirable, and that’s heartbreaking to someone who loves this city as much as I do. I’ve been in love with this city my entire life, even on the worst of days, so please excuse my lashing out.

With that said, my only real objection here is giving a huge subsidy to Live Nation, a monopoly, just like Wal-Mart, Clear Channel, Starbucks, etc., all of which degrade local culture and initiative, which I despise. I would, however, like to see tax cuts and some taxes eliminated for everybody’s benefit, as well as the streamlining of regulations, making them effective but easier to comply with, thus making the city a fair and desirable place to do business.

I also want my fellow Philadelphians to be more creative and hands-on dealing with this issue as well as others, and stop waiting for government handouts. Harrisburg and most of Pennsylvania has nothing but disdain for Philadelphia, and more often than not, I think City Council and the Mayor’s office does too. How do they keep getting re-elected? The bottom line is: we have to do for ourselves if we’re going to move forward on this or any other issue. Imagine what would happen if we put our own blood, sweat and tears in everything we set out to accomplish.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Inga, ur blog readers are certainly a cynical lot... and also quite verbose

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lily Rose needs to be elected to Philadelphia's City Council. Verbose or not, she makes a good argument that's not as myopic or cynical as some comments.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Philadelphia has always amazed me with is its lack of vision.

A lot of shortsighted views here.

You clearly have no idea who Live Nation is.

If you disagree with someone, then you should be respectful about it. Good things can come about when people of various viewpoints share their ideas. Making smug and condescending remarks is counterproductive.

Cynical? Oh, that’s just a side-effect of living in Philadelphia for an extended period of time : )

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone (Oscar Wilde?) said a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Don't let that happen.

2:38 PM  
Blogger RJ March said...

I recently moved here from Albany, NY. I live on Chestnut Street, work on Chestnut STreet, and I pass the Boyd daily. I'd noticed and remarked to my partner that "not much" seemed to be happening there and now I see why. As a new-comer, I haven't a whole lot to say about what this is all about, but I do know that in its present state, it is a sad reminder of what can happen when people stop caring. The good news is that you all seem to care. I remain hopeful. And we love it here.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Live Nation will not renovate the former RKO Stanley Warner's Boyd Theatre (aka United Artists Sameric 4 Theatre), then someone who is willing to renovate this grand palace should step in.

7:22 PM  
Anonymous Totalrenovering said...

Really cool and very interesting article, thank you and congrats!

1:46 AM  

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