iPic expects to move forward soon on renovation of the Boyd

Lease negotiations are under way with new owner Pearl Properties


The long-suffering Boyd Theater is still waiting for its facelift, but the plans for its renovation seem to be getting back on track under a new property owner.


Live Nation had signed an agreement over a year ago with iPic Entertainment, a Florida-based luxury theater chain, to transform the Art Deco movie palace into an eight-screen complex with reclining seats and food service. Live Nation then sold the 40,000-square-foot property at 1910 Chestnut Street to developer Neil Rodin.


Rodin, in turn, sold the theater building in October to Pearl Properties for $4.5 million. Pearl and iPic then entered negotiations for a new lease.


Those talks are continuing, and “and we hope to move on with the project,” Paul Safran, general counsel for iPic, said Monday. “We’re moving forward, and once we finalize the lease negotiations I expect things to move in a more expeditious fashion. This is just another bump in the road, but we’re anxious to move forward and pick up where we left off,” Safran said.


Representatives of Pearl Properties did not return calls for comment this week.


Limited restoration


The plan for the Boyd – which first opened at Christmastime 1928 — includes restoration of the original façade and exterior entrance designed by the architectural firm Hoffman-Henon, whose Philadelphia projects included the beautiful, long-since demolished Mastbaum and Erlanger theaters.


The iPic design does not include preservation of the Boyd’s memorable interior, which included etched-glass mirrors in the lobby, a dazzling painted proscenium and murals, ornate ceiling and elegant chandeliers.


The exterior of the Boyd was listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2009, but the interior was never designated historic.


The preservation community fought for years to protect the interior. But after the Philadelphia Historical Commission granted the owners a demolition permit in March, the preservationists and developers reached an agreement in April.  A historic preservation consultant would take inventory of the surviving original features of the theater, supervise their removal or reinstallation for exhibition in the building, and provide updates to the preservation group Friends of the Boyd.


Howard Haas, president of the Friends group, said he has not heard from Pearl or iPic since the building changed hands in October.


Future of the theater


Hamid Hashemi, president of iPic, said last year that his company had studied the possible restoration of the theater, which has been vacant for 13 years. He said the building had become obsolete in the current market and was not economically viable to use as a single-auditorium theater.


The iPic business model, found in 14 theaters across the U.S., includes an interior that feels like a modern hotel lobby, Italian food – including sit-down restaurants in some locations – leather reclining seats, pillows and blankets, and complimentary popcorn. The eight-screen complex at the Boyd would provide seating for a total of 744 guests, as opposed to the 2,300 seats in the old Boyd.


Hashemi would not say how much the Boyd restoration would cost.


Contact the writer at ajaffe@planphilly.com.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal