The History of the ‘Wonder Theatre of the World’
Located on the Atlantic City Boardwalk near the Million Dollar Pier, the Warner theatre opened its doors on June 19th, 1929 with a screening of the first ‘100% Color, Talking, Singing, Dancing’ motion picture, ‘On With The Show’. Designed by Philadelphia architectural firm Hoffman-Henon Co. and dubbed “The Wonder theatre of the World”, the Warner theatre was Atlantic City’s grandest movie palace, with its romantic Spanish-Moorish style and over 4,100 seats.
1930s to 1940s
The Warner theatre operated as a jewel in the crown of America’s Playground, screening the landmark motion pictures of the Hollywood Golden Era. Audiences were also entertained by music played on the epic Wurlizter organ. In 1945, Bob Hope performed live on stage with the stars of his phenomenally popular radio show.
With the swapping around of a few letters on the marquee, the Warner theatre became the Warren theatre and started a new chapter as a live concert venue. Big names graced the stage including Ella Fitzgerald, Ricky Nelson and Mel Tormé. However, it became just as famous for the singer who didn’t play there. “I got a call from the William Morris Agency around February of 1957,” recalled owner George Hamid. “They said, ‘We have an act so big we can’t put it on Steel Pier.’ I laughed and said, ‘There’s no such act.’ ” Mr. Hamid refused the offer. “Who’s going to go for a guy with a crazy name like Elvis?”
In 1960, the theatre screened what was billed as the greatest innovation in cinema since the movies first talked. ‘Windjammer’, the 1958 documentary about the journey of a Norwegian sail training ship, was presented in the novel wide-screen CineMiracle 3-camera, 3-projector format. By 1966, George Hamid had closed the theatre and transformed it into a bowling alley, the Boardwalk Bowl. Snooks Pearlstein and all the old-time pros used to play pool there.
1970s to 1990s
The theatre was sold in 1970. The lobby which once welcomed movie and concert audiences became Boardwalk Roger’s, selling hot dogs, tacos and ice-cold beer. In 1979, Caesars Atlantic City opened as the Boardwalk Regency, and the theatre auditorium was demolished to make way for a car park. When Caesars Atlantic City and Bally’s started construction to connect both properties, the original theatre facade was thankfully retained to keep the Boardwalk’s charm.
2023 – Forever
Today, the theatre’s glorious facade still stands, proudly facing the Atlantic Ocean. Behind this, construction is underway as Spiegelworld builds on the foundations of a century of entertainment history to write the theatre’s next chapter as THE HOOK. Opening June 30th, 2023, The Hook live show will be directed by Britain’s leading comedy director Cal McCrystal (Atomic Saloon Show, One Man Two Guvnors), and will be Atlantic City’s first-ever permanent entertainment residency. Guests will also be able to experience Spiegelworld’s hugely popular Italian-American-Psychedelic Superfrico restaurant, and a myriad of discoverable cocktail bars.
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