For many Philadelphia residents, the historic Royal Theater on South Street has never been known as an actual theater, just a mural-sided blight. And now, in a time where some small improvements are actually being made to South Street, the Royal is still sitting there untouched.
According to The Daily News,the Kenneth Gamble (of Gamble and Huff) owned Universal Companies currently owns the property, and has since 2000. The company has received hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to refurbish the building. And what they do with all of that money? As far as anyone can tell, nothing. The building, which opened in May 1920 as a first-run movie house “operated for and by black Americans,” sits on both national and local historical registers. The DN continues that, “later came live performances from Bessie Smith, Pearl Bailey and Fats Waller, whose portraits are included in the colorful murals decorating the building.”
The building is not only deteriorating from the outside, with “treelike weeds and bushes” sprouting from the building. A quick image search for pictures of the inside finds that this is the state of the building’s interior.
The DN story dives into the reasons (or excuses depending on who you side with) that the building has barely been touched, but one thing is for sure, this once beautiful, historic building that could be the center of a revitalized South Street is being left to crumble.