The Boyd Theater can now take its rightful place in Philadelphia history as the city's last great movie palace.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission last week voted unanimously to give historic status to the old downtown theatre.

The action was a big relief for the Friends of the Boyd, a nonprofit preservation group that rallied to save the theater.

The hard-won designation protects the classic art deco building - located on Chestnut Street near Rittenhouse Square - from being demolished or altered.

After initially dragging its feet, the commission deserves credit for finally doing the right thing. It passed up an opportunity in 2002 to grant historic certification to the Boyd.

In the latest battle, Mayor Nutter threw his support behind classifying the building as a protected landmark. That was a stark contrast to former Mayor John Street's administration, which stood by while the previous owner - a major mayoral campaign contributor - skillfully blocked historic status for the theater.

Without the protection, preservation groups had feared that the Boyd could be lost. The National Trust for Historic Preservation this year listed the theater as one of the country's 11 most endangered historic places.

Built in 1928, the now-shuttered, 2,350-seat theater once opened for such movie stars as Grace Kelly and Charleston Heston. It was most recently known as the Sameric.

Its 74-year run ended when the ornate movie house closed in May 2002.

The Boyd's future has been up in the air since its current owner, concert promoter Live Nation, abandoned plans to transform the theater into a music venue and put it up for auction.

The new historic certification should help speed up the search for a new owner interested in possibly reviving the old theater. Remarkably intact, the theater would be a perfect place for live shows.

The Boyd Theater - the only remaining movie palace in Center City - almost

became

history. Let's hope its near demise serves as a reminder in the future to preserve the city's rich historical legacy.