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Prince Theater to rebrand as Philadelphia Film Center, with improvements scheduled for the future

The Prince Theater will become the Philadelphia Film Center

Renderings of the new Philadelphia Film Center — formerly the Prince Music Center
Renderings of the new Philadelphia Film Center — formerly the Prince Music CenterRead morePhiladelphia Film Society

The Philadelphia Film Society's Prince Theater will undergo substantial changes, starting this month with a rebranding as the Philadelphia Film Center — a space its parent organization hopes will become the "premiere hub for film" in the city.

"The idea for the whole building is to be a community space centered around film," society executive director Andrew Greenblatt said. "There is a lot we want to do."

The society (PFS) would not put a specific dollar amount on renovation costs, calling it a "multimillion-dollar plan."

PFS will drop the Prince Theater name with the start of the 27th Philadelphia Film Festival on Oct. 18. The Prince, which recently has been a "milti-use performing arts facility," was a movie theater, last known as the Midtown, until 1995, when it was opened as the Prince Music Theater by the American Music Theater Festival and renamed to honor the Broadway director Harold Prince. That organization closed in 2014.

Formerly a "multi-use performing arts facility," the Philadelphia Film Center will deal exclusively with "film programming at the start of 2019." PFS acquired the Prince in 2015 for $8 million provided by the Wyncote Foundation. PFS also manages Center City's Roxy Theater.

With its focus fully on film, the former Prince will see significant improvements, including more screens, better projectors and sound systems, expanded concessions, and a cafe area that will remain open when films aren't screening. The theater will also convert its black box rehearsal space into an education-oriented community screening room, and add two "micro-theaters" with limited luxury seating to be used for smaller screenings and events.

"The reality is, there is so much great film out there, and some of it doesn't command a great audience," Greenblatt said. "We want to program those types of films and not worry about, 'Will it get the audience it needs?'"

The additional space is also intended to be used by Philadelphia's various film festivals, like the Blackstar Film Festival, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, and the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival,  Greenblatt said.

Additional programming changes include year-round screenings of new films alongside curated showings, plus more weekend festivals and special events. Current programs like the Philadelphia Film Festival and monthly quizzo events will continue.

"It's something that I think will be great for the city, because it's something we don't have," Greenblatt said. "Great cities have great arts and culture, and we are a great city. I think this will just add to that."

The 27th Philadelphia Film Festival will begin on Thursday, Oct. 18,  with the addiction drama Ben Is Back, starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges, heading a slate of more than 100 movies that will run over 10 days, concluding with the documentary Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don't Know Me. Other highlights include Widows from director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave); Green Book, starring Mahershala Ali as a pianist touring the Jim Crow South in the 1950s, with a bouncer-turned-driver played by Viggo Mortensen; director Jason Reitman's The Front Runner, an account of the scandal-plagued 1984 presidential campaign of Gary Hart (played by Hugh Jackman); and Roma, Alfonso Cuarón's big-buzz movie about the disintegration of a middle-class Mexican family, seen through the eyes of the housemaid.