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Bethlehem, PA: Boyd Theatre Damaged by Heavy Rains, Closed Until End of 2011

Posted on Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 10:36 AM

On May 23, 2011, the Boyd Theatre in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania closed due to damage from heavy rains. A post on the theater's Facebook page simply read "The Boyd Theatre is currently closed for repairs and restoration. Please check back for updates."

On July 14th, the theater posted an update on its web site that said that it was going to remain closed for the rest of 2011. The full text appears below.

Fortunately, moviegoers in the area do have quite a few choices for theaters. We show that there are 11 other theaters within 10 miles. Based on the comments left on the theater's Facebook page, Bethlehem residents are looking forward to having the downtown theater back up and running.

Boyd Theatre to Remain Closed for Season

Water Damage will not Dampen Resolve of Bethlehem Cinema

Following a rain-drenched spring that forced the closing of Bethlehem’s Boyd Theatre, the owners of the ninety year old movie theater building have announced that they expect to the cinema to remain closed through the end of the year. Moving ahead with progress, repair work on the Christmas City’s celebrated theater will continue.

Shortly before Memorial Day weekend, a portion of the theatre’s auditorium experienced some water damage that caused a disruption in their daily operation. Despite a robust schedule of upcoming attractions in the busy summer season, owner Joyce Heydt was forced to cancel the planned schedule of blockbuster programming.

“We could not even think of opening the theatre again until the water problems were fully resolved,” said Heydt, who purchased the theater in 1970 with her late husband. Repairs to the aging structure have been underway since the leak occurred.

“With the freakish monsoon-like rain that hit the area in the spring, we saw damage in locations where we have never seen water before,” added Heydt. “I knew we needed to nip this problem in the bud before we could even think about addressing the cosmetic damage.”

The theater opened in September 1921 as the Kurtz Theatre, built by two local businessmen who also ran a well respected cabinetry and furniture manufacturing enterprise. Following a series of ownership changes, the building was acquired by Philadelphia based A.R. Boyd Enterprises and was renamed the Boyd Theatre in 1934. A fire destroyed the front portion of the building in 1966 and the following year the façade, theatre lobby and marquee were replaced with more modern design elements.

Lehigh Valley natives, Harold and Joyce Heydt of Hanover Township owned the Nile Theatre, located less than a block away from the Boyd and ran the film program at Allentown’s 19th Street Theatre. With the Boyd chain dissolving, the Heydts added a third theater to their operation. Over time the Nile Theatre fell victim to Bethlehem’s 1970s urban revitalization. In the late 1980s the family turned over the film operations at the 19th Street Theatre to the nonprofit Civic Theatre.

Downtown Bethlehem suffered from economic problems from the 1970s urban revitalization trend. For nearly 30 years the one block section of Broad Street in front of The Boyd was closed to traffic, making way for a pedestrian mall.

Despite the negative impact this street closure had on many businesses in the area and the influx of multiplex cinemas into the region, the Boyd Theatre continued to thrive over the years by continuing to run first-run films at reasonable prices. The theater was one of the first in the the region to embrace Dolby Stereo Sound and later innovations such as Dolby’s Digital Surround-EX. In 2002, after much persistence from Mayor Don Cunningham and support from Senator Arlen Specter, the block was opened to traffic once again.

“The Boyd is a special place for me,” said Don Cunningham, now Lehigh County Executive. “I grew up watching films at the Boyd and always enjoy taking my kids there.“

“The loyal customers of the Boyd are what really makes the theatre,” said Heydt. “Many families come to see every movie we play and I look forward to serving them again.”

“With the busy summer season approaching an end, the business simply cannot afford to reopen during the leaner fall months.” Instead Heydt said she “looks forward to using the time to make some minor modifications to the theater and concentrating on the retail and office space in the building.“ “My family has been showing movies for over fifty years, and the motto of ‘the show must go on’ is one we have always lived by,” said Heydt. “We just need to make sure everything is done right.”

In recent years and in the period since the theatre closed, Heydt has been approached by several community members and business people about adapting the theater to a performing arts venue or other use. “We will certainly entertain any of those options, while keeping focused on the task at hand,” said Heydt.

Please check back for updates.

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