545 Washington Street,
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The Bijou Theatre opened on December 11, 1882 as a “Parlor Opera House” featuring Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe”.
It was located on the second floor of an annex to the next-door Adams House hotel. It replaced an earlier theatre in the same building that at various times was called the Lion, the Mechanics Institute, the Melodeon Varieties, the New Melodeon, and the Gaiety.
B.F. Keith took over the Bijou Theatre in 1886 and began to stage vaudeville shows there. Later he converted it to show movies and renamed it the Bijou Dream Theatre. At one point it was also called the Intown Theatre.
The Bijou Theatre continued operating into the 1940’s, but after the horrific Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire of 1942, Boston enacted stricter fire laws that doomed the Bijou Theatre. Its exits led not to the street but rather to two neighboring theatres, the old BF Keith Theatre (later called the Normandie Theatre and the Laffmovie Theatre) and the newer Keith Memorial Theatre (much later called the Savoy Theatre and the Boston Opera House).
Eventually the Bijou Theatre was razed to the orchestra and stage floors, which became the roof of the stores below.
Until a few years ago, the former Bijou Theatre entrance was a storefront containing a pinball and video amusements arcade.
Most of what remained of the Bijou Theatre building was demolished in 2008, leaving only its front facade standing. Emerson College redeveloped the Bijou Theatre property, along with the adjoining Paramount Theatre, into a new theatre and dormitory complex.
(The above information comes from Donald C. King’s “A Historical Survey of the Theatres of Boston”, published in the Third Quarter 1974 issue of Marquee, the journal of the Theatre Historical Society.)
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