Thursday, June 3, 2010

Then and Now: Dock Street west of Second Street, Philadelphia


After being cleared in the early 1960s, this segment of Dock Street as it appears today was rebuilt by the late local real estate developer and film enthusiast, Ramon L. Posel. In 1976, Posel opened the Ritz Three theater at the southwest corner of Dock and Walnut Streets (left of photo), followed in 1977 by a complementary two-story retail building across Dock Street. According to PAB, the retail building was designed by the now obscure architectural firm of Egli & Pratt; I haven't been able to find much on the architects of the Ritz. Nonetheless, both of the glass and brick buildings were designed in a similar style, accented with white steel beams that evoke a certain maritime feel.

Today, Posel's Ritz chain is usually credited with single-handedly building Philadelphia's market for independent and international films. Posel himself was instrumental in crafting the cinema and its mission, and expended significant personal effort to support his brainchild in the face of initial difficulties, for it took seven years for the Ritz Three to turn its first profit. In 1985, the theater was expanded and renamed as the Ritz Five, and the chain continued to grow into the 90s with the openings of the Ritz at the Bourse and the Ritz East. The Ritz chain has certainly been a great success story for urban cinemas during an era where success has generally been the exception to the rule. In 2007, two years after Posel's death, the movie houses were acquired by Landmark Theatres, which has chosen to preserve the Ritz name.

1. Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
2. Rickey, Carrie. "Ritz cinema founder Ramon L. Posel dies - Posel's Ritz theaters made region a top art-film destination."
Philadelphia Inquirer. 24 Jun. 2005: A01.
3. Van Allen, Peter. "Lamberti's cucina to taste new name, look and menu." Philadelphia Business Journal. 15 Oct. 2004.
Original photo: Cuneo. "Department of Public Property-38863-0." 1959. Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia Department of Records. 27 Feb. 2010.

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