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163 Bala Ave

Date of Construction: 1926
Original Architect: Hoffman-Henon Co.
Original Owner: Patrick J. Lawler
Description of the Resource: Built in 1926 for theater owner Patrick J. Lawler, the Bala Theater, originally known as the Egyptian Theatre, is one of the few remaining examples of Egyptian Revival architecture in the greater Philadelphia area. With the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, Lawler’s Egyptian Theatre was one of several Egyptian revival theaters built in the 1920s, Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood being the most famous of these. Lawler and the Bala Cynwyd Building Association planned and developed much of the surrounding area along Bala Avenue, turning it into a bustling commercial district. Hoffman-Henon Co., architects and engineers, designed the theater, and architectural terracotta work was done by O. W. Ketchum Terra Cotta Works. The structure is comprised of the central theater building with two wings for retail use. The theater building is topped with a monumental cavetto (rounded concave molding typical of the Egyptian Revival style) cornice and winged relief, and there are windows with alternating monumental pilasters on the second story above the theater entrance. The retail storefronts carry the Egyptian Revival style with smaller cavetto cornices above the windows and doors and a frieze decorated with a hieroglyphic-like relief. The opulent interior was decorated with monumental columns, elaborate ceiling mouldings and a large Egyptian Revival medallion in the center of the main screening room. When it opened, the Egyptian Theatre showed films and vaudeville performances and hosted the circus. Films are still shown at the Bala Theater, and the theater space is now divided to accommodate three screens. (10/2012) The Bala Theater, known as "The Egyptian" when it opened in 1926 is renowned for its terra cotta façade and elaborate interior Egyptian Revival decoration. Individual store fronts flank the central ticket booth and entrance. The theater space is now divided into three.
Class: 2
Street Classification: Secondary
Name of Local Historic District: Not in a local district
Name of National Historic District: Not applicable
Reviewed By: Historical Commission
Inventory Index Number: BC032

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