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Have you been to the Lansdowne Theater? It has quite the history and with its history comes a little bit of haunting. The Stanley Warner Company and Herbert Effinger commissioned renowned and prolific theater architect William H. Lee to design the 1358-seat movie theater. Designed in the Hollywood Moorish style, the $250,000 theater opened just before the advent of the “talkies” and harkens to the days of romantic silent films. Visitors moved through the front doors, up an incline, and into a Moorish style courtyard with fountains at each end. Large lighting fixtures hung in the lobby which opened to the grand auditorium. With its elaborately painted ceiling, grand chandelier, balconies, and large proscenium, the theater is a feast for the eyes.
The Lansdowne Theater opened on June 1, 1927, featuring the silent film “Knockout Riley” starring Richard Dix. John McGuirk. President of the Stanley Warner Co., described The Lansdowne as “the best example of suburban theatre construction around Philadelphia.” Films were shown Monday through Saturday at 2:30, 7:00, and 9:00 p.m. Ticket prices ranged from 15¢ to 35¢.
The theater operated as a single screen movie theater until 1986 when it closed. Several organizations tried to reopen and revitalize it unsuccessfully until finally in 2007, recognizing the theater’s architectural significance and potential to serve as a major catalyst for the revitalization of Lansdowne’s Central Business District, the Greater Lansdowne Civic Association and the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation established the non-profit Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation (HLTC) to purchase, stabilize, and restore the theater in pursuit of the dream of reopening The Lansdowne. Using a grant secured from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development through the leadership of the late State Representative Nicholas Micozzie , the HLTC purchased the building in 2007.
Shortly after it was purchased in 2007, Matt Schultz, Executive Director of the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation recalls entering the building around 7pm at the time that the shows had been scheduled and smelling popcorn exactly how he remembered when he attended movies in the theater in the late 1960s. The theater had been closed for over 20 years and the smell of popcorn was overwhelming, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. A ghostly reminder of the bustling days of the theater in its glory days.
A number of ghost hunters have come through the theater over the years. After reviewing audio and visual recordings during their sessions, they all have concluded that there is paranormal activity in the theater. Eerily, when looking back on the recordings, you could hear voices speaking. Perhaps the patrons of times past?
Look for the ghosts to find another location to haunt when the theater reopens as a concert venue in early 2023!