Theatre of Living Arts

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Theatre of Living Arts
WTP C20 AMP 1.jpg
Exterior of venue c. 2009
Former names Crystal Palace (1908-27)
Palace Theatre (1927-40)
New Palace Theatre (1941-59)
Theatre of the Living Arts (1959-68; 1981-87)
Bandbox Living Arts (1968-69)
TLA Cinema (1972-81)
The Palace (1981)
Theatre of Living Arts (1988-2007; 2008-Present)
The Fillmore at TLA (2007-08)
Address 334 South St
Philadelphia, PA 19147-1536
Location Queen Village
Owner Live Nation Philadelphia
Capacity 1,000 [1]
Opened 1908
Renovated 1941, 1957, 1970, 1987, 2006
Construction cost $50,000
($1.33 million in 2017 dollars[2])
Venue Website

The Theatre of Living Arts (known commonly as the TLA) is a concert venue located on South Street in Philadelphia, PA. The venue, which opened in 1988, dates back to the late 1900s as a nickelodeon. Over the years, the venue has seen many incarnations ranging from concert hall to movie theatre to theatre. Known for its acoustics, it was voted as one of the best concert venues in America by Complex.[3]


The theatre opened in 1908 as the "Crystal Palace", a nickelodeon seating nearly 700.[4] In 1927, the venue became a concert hall. In 1941, the venue was taken over by the Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corporation and converted into a movie theatre.[5] Along with the changes came a new name, the "New Palace Theatre". The theatre’s popularity declined in the 50s. By 1959, the theatre saw another reincarnation, this time as a repertory theatre. The theatre was during the direction of stage veteran Anne Ramsey and her husband Logan Ramsey.[5] This is also when the name, "Theatre of the Living Arts" came into being.

In 1964, Andre Gregory took over from the Ramseys as artistic director.[6] The theatre proved to be a success, presenting 10 productions per season, all to high praise. Some troupe members included: Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Sally Kirkland, Ron Leibman and Morgan Freeman. In 1967, a dispute between Gregory and the board of directors saw the director leaving the theatre on February 17, 1967.[7] At this time, the theatre was taken over by a new firm and christened as the "Bandbox Living Arts", a beatnik house.[4] The theatre saw a decline in popularity and closed in 1969 due to financial issues.[8]

In 1970, it was purchased by Al Malmfelt, a business entrepreneur.[8] It opened a year later as a single screen cinema; specializing in hard to see films. Nearly 20 films were shown per week. The movie house showed classic films, alongside art films, foreigns, serials and controversial films. There was also a monsters at midnight film series, with the venue showing horror films. In 1976, it premiered The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The success led to weekly showings, encouraging the audience to dress as their favorite character.

In 1978, the venue was also utilized by the American Theater Arts for Youth.[8] The company did several productions during its tenure including: Babes in Toyland, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Wizard of Oz. They left the venue in 1982 to seek a bigger audience. By November 1980, the theatre was once again in final trouble. The theatre folded once again in 1981.

Stephen Starr purchased the building for $600,000 in March 1981. He hoped to bring his Starr nightclub to a bigger facility, however, this was prevented by the Liquor Control Board and local residents of the neighborhood. Instead, Starr reopened the cinema under the name The Palace, however it closed again September 1981. In 1981, former employees Claire Brown Kohler, Eric Moore and Ray Murray began working on how to reopen the theatre.[6] Together, they formed the Repertory Cinema, Inc.[9] (later becoming the TLA Entertainment Group). When the theatre reopened, to save costs, the new team would travel roundtrip to New York City to exchange reels.

Due to the success of VHS and cable television, the cinema saw a decline in attendance. In 1985, the team then opened TLA Video to cater to that audience.[10] The initial store opened next to the theatre, however, four additional locations were added throughout the metro area. All stores closed in 2011.[10]

In 1987, the cinema folded again. The theatre received another face lift as an off-Broadway theatre. The theatre was purchased by Allan Spivak in September 1987.[8] Renovations took place to convert the venue from a cinema into a theatre. Its first production, Lady Day (a musical based upon the life of Billie Holiday) opened October 21, 1987. One year later, the theatre was converted into a concert venue. In 2007, the venue was purchased by Live Nation.[11] It was briefly known as "The Fillmore at TLA"[12] (commonly The Fillmore Philadelphia) until June 2008.[13]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2017. 
  3. ^ Kimble, Julian (May 10, 2013). "The 50 Best Concert Venues in America". Complex. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Fatsis, Stefan (December 8, 1987). "Once a hippies' hangout, old theater stages change". The Hour. 117 (287). Norwalk, Connecticut: The Hour Publishing Company. p. 25. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Bruskin, David. "Theatre of the Living Arts". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Reso, Paulina (April 16, 2013). "The TLA refuses to die". Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  7. ^ Guither, Pete. The Theatre of the Living Arts: Case Study (case study). Illinois State University. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d Lucas, Renee V. (October 20, 1987). "Live! From South Street". Philadelphia Daily News. Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ Adams, Sam (July 12, 2000). "The Guy Can't Help It". Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "The Final Days of TLA". WHYY-FM. August 18, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  11. ^ Tomassini, Jason (December 3, 2008). "Theater offers a glimpse of Fillmore venue". The Gazette. Post-Newsweek Media. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Todd Rundgren to Play Inaugural Concert at Newly Re-Named Fillmore Philadelphia" (Press release). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Live Nation. PR Newswire. March 29, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  13. ^ Cohen, Jane; Grossweiner, Bob (June 9, 2008). "Live Nation changes name of Philly venue". Ticket News. Retrieved April 12, 2014. 

Coordinates: 39°56′28″N 75°08′55″W / 39.941111°N 75.148611°W / 39.941111; -75.148611