Bijou Theatre

545 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02111

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Showing 1 - 25 of 34 comments

HowardBHaas on March 28, 2017 at 6:32 am

We here at the site fixed the google street view which hadn’t shown downtown Boston. Thanks to Ken Roe for his diligence.

DavidZornig on March 27, 2017 at 5:32 pm

1935 photo added courtesy of the Old School Boston Facebook page.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 28, 2014 at 12:18 pm

The July, 1911, issue of a magazine called New Boston featured a brief article with an encomium for B. F. Keith’s Bijou Theatre:

“During the month of June hundreds of visiting social workers, interested in the dangers and possibilities of the moving picture show, will be in Boston attending the various meetings of a half dozen or more charities conferences. In order to show these visitors the possibilities in the development of a moving picture theater, Mrs. Josephine Clement, the manager of B. F. Keith’s Bijou Theater, has arranged a program of special interest for the week of June 7-14. The two and one-half hour entertainment will consist of motion pictures, musical numbers, and the one act play or opera that are parts of the regular program, and will include also specially arranged illustrated talks on topics of social and civic interest, prepared by a local conference committee. A visit to the Bijou will illustrate how the liberality and broad-mindedness of Mr. Keith have raised the ordinary moving picture show to the level of refined entertainment without sacrificing life and sparkle to ‘uplift.’

“The Bijou Theater is not an educational institution in any sense of the word; its sole purpose is to amuse. The management believes, however, that a motion picture entertainment may be made both interesting and diverting without depicting the antics of hoodlums or the tawdry sentiment of the dime novel. During the past three years, the entire program at the Bijou has been developed from material supplied directly to the management, no agents having been employed.

“The regular program of motion pictures — always with one educational film — is varied by ten minute, illustrated, camera chats, one act dramas presented by the Bijou players, stereopticon views of subjects of contemporary interest, and high grade vocal and instrumental music. As a sample of the best development of the motion picture theater, visitors to Boston should not neglect the Bijou.”

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 22, 2014 at 11:22 am

Another downtown Boston venue which was closed due to the new 1943 fire regulations was the Steinert Hall, a concert hall on Boylston Street just a short walk south of the Colonial Theatre entrance. Unlike the Bijou it was not demolished and is still there, intact. A short while ago the local TV news on either Channel 5 or Channel 7 featured a brief visit to the Hall. The camera panned around inside (all intact, somewhat shabby, seats removed)and made the point that it could reopen if suitable fire exits are created. Someone Who Was There was inside it recently and said that with the construction of the new State Transportation Building, the lay of the land at the rear of the Hall is now different and perhaps suitable fire exits could be created there.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 11, 2011 at 10:53 am

The 1918 Boston street directory lists the Bijou Dream Theatre at 545 Washington St., Keith’s Theatre at 547 Washington, and the Boston Theatre at 539 Washington St.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 8, 2010 at 12:24 pm

The Bijou is listed as the Bijou Dream Theatre in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook. Shown as having 800 seats.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 27, 2010 at 10:38 am

In the balcony foyer of Emerson’s new Paramount there is a huge color rendering of the interior of the Bijou Theatre on opening night in 1882 with G&S' “Iolanthe” on stage. The original print is in the Harvard Theatre Collection and possibly in other libraries as well. The pespective is from the rear of the Bijou balcony looking toward the stage with a full house present.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 24, 2010 at 10:49 am

Emerson College’s newly opened Paramount Center contains a Black Box Theatre and a Bright Family Screening Room (for movies), both built within the footprint of the old Bijou. The Paramount’s lobby areas contain wall exhibits that pay extensive tribute to the Bijou.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

The Boston Herald today quotes the operator of the new Bijou restaurant and night club opening in Oct on Stuart Street as saying “I wanted to hit on something that really had a history in Boston. ‘Bijou’ really stuck out because it was the first theater in the country to have electricity, and nightclubs are all about lighting, sound and electricity.” The Bijou’s electrical system was installed by Thomas Edison himself and was touted at the time as the first 100% electric theater operation in the USA. I don’t how valid that claim is. Certainly it was one of the very first.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on August 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm

A restaurant called Bijou will open this fall at 51 Stuart Street. Stuff Magazine and Zagat both report that the name was inspired by the former Bijou Theatre a few blocks away, because it was “the first in the country to be equipped with an electrical lighting system”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 20, 2009 at 11:16 am

In his lengthy article “Saga of the Movie Industry in Boston”, which I estimate was written about 1950, Boston film pioneer Joe Cifre says that when B.F. Keith renovated his Bijou and renamed it the Bijou Dream, there was a tiny projecton booth which had a unique turntable on which were mounted 2 projectors back to back. He says “When one machine was in operation facing the screen, the other, which was facing in the opposite direction, would be readied for use; at the end of the reel the turntable would be given a half-turn and the second projector would come into play.”

Rebecka on December 11, 2008 at 12:07 pm

I want to thank Ron Newman and others for the updates on the Bijou. I am currently updating Boston theater histories accompanying the Boston Athenaeum’s theater program database and will, of course, give credit where it is due.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 18, 2008 at 11:27 am

I visited the site today, both the rear (Mason St.) and the front, where there is a handy little window on the sidewalk for interested passersby. Everything is gone except for the facade. For the past many years it has been possible to see the outline of the sloping balcony of the Bijou on the south sidewall of the Opera House. Because of the demolition, you can now also see the sloping outline of the orchestra floor. As the new building progresses upward, these 2 outlines will no longer be visible.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 29, 2008 at 11:02 am

Yep – I’m going to ask CinemaTreasures to change the status of this to “Closed/Demolished”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 29, 2008 at 10:47 am

According to recent construction photos posted on the page for the Paramount Theatre in Boston, there is now nothing at all left of the Bijou building but its facade.

spectrum on September 23, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Was in the “ladder district” today to see “Wicked the Musical” at the Opera House (see my report on the Opera House on its page). The Bijou next door looks like progress is being made – most of the back portion where the Bijou auditorium stood is demolished – the front part of the building has interior demolition well underway and the front facade has already been restored. The site of B. F. Keith’s New theatre is partly taken up by the Opera House stage house, and the rest is construction area – eventually the addition to the Paramount/Bijou will be there.

Next door at the Paramount, they they have definitely started renovations – can see evidence of it behind the plywood covering the front. In the back there was a hole about ten feet square knocked out of the backstage wall. If the sun wasn’t shining toward me, I might have been able to see something inside, but no such luck. Saw a vague shape but couldn’t tell if it was the decorative column of the auditorium. Hope it is – the newspaper articles are contradictory about esactly how much of the auditorium interior will be saved.

Interestingly the Playbill reported that Suffolk University had submitted a bid for the Modern Theatre (just on the north side of the opera House) with an eye to renovation with a possible performing arts or theatre space on the first floor and dormitory space on the others. Bid deadline was August 30, 2007, hopefully the Boston RDA will announce a winner soon.

Playbill also mentioned the Wilbur Theatre down next to the Wang/Metropolitan has been placed on the market by Tremont Entertainment Enterprises. City officials will allow the new owners to use the building for entertainment, restaurant, office or residential use. Since it is landmarked, they cannot demolish it or make significant alterations.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 5, 2007 at 11:14 am

During the past few months demolition work has taken place in the rear portions of the Bijou building (what the City calls the “Arcade Building” because it housed a pinball/electronic game “arcade” for decades).

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 6, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Last week’s Boston Phoenix features a long article about the Bijou, the adjoining Paramount, and Emerson College’s redevelopment of both buildings:

Tinseltown East

Read it to learn all about the Bijou’s illustrious history.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 5, 2006 at 7:36 am

Someone recently sent me a copy of a large ad placed by RKO Theatres in “Variety” newspaper of Dec. 20, 1932, listing “RKO Theatres Across America”. There are 4 in Boston: RKO Keith Memorial, RKO Boston, RKO Lyric (the original Keith’s Theatre of 1894) and the RKO Bijou. This indicates that sometime after the Keith-Albee organization closed the Bijou in the late-1920s, their successors, RKO, took it over again and reopened it for awhile.

mrsdragon502 on March 13, 2006 at 8:32 am

thankyou Mr. Salter your article on the Bijou theater was what we were looking for to complete a history to go with the original program from the grand opening on dec.11,1882. Our grandfather attended this after working his way from England to America as a ship carpenter. we wanted something that mentioned thomas edison . thank you once again

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 25, 2006 at 1:07 am

This 1928 map shows at least 11 downtown Boston theatres. West is at the top of this map.

The BIJOU DREAM is on the west side of Washington Street, about halfway between Avery and West streets. A small piece of it is labelled “ENTRANCE TO KEITH’S THEATRE”, which was behind the Bijou on Mason Street.

Just north of both the Bijou Dream and the Keith’s is the larger B.F. KEITH MEMORIAL THEATRE, now called Opera House.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 22, 2006 at 8:46 am

It’s wonderful to have these old maps to study! Note that the Bijou Theatre was an “upstairs house” – its auditorium and stage were one flight up and this fact makes it difficult to show the theater’s location on a small map like this one.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 22, 2006 at 2:47 am

This 1895 map shows part of downtown Boston. West is at the top of the map.

Near the top left of the map, take a look at the block bounded by Washington, West, Mason, and Avery Streets. In the middle of that block is “KEITH’S NEW THEATRE”.

Just to its left, on Washington Street, (between it and the Adams House), you can barely make out the words “BIJOU OPERA HOUSE”. This is the Bijou Theatre. Both the Bijou and the Keith’s had entrances on Washington Street, but the Bijou’s auditorium was in front, while the Keith’s was in back.

To the right of the Keith’s on this map is the Boston Theatre. This was torn down in the 1920s and replaced by the Keith Memorial Theatre — still standing today and now called the Opera House.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 16, 2006 at 7:48 am

I have been told that the house was known as the “RKO Bijou” in the 1930s up until it was sold in the late-1930s and renamed briefly as the Intown Theatre, before the original name was restored.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 8, 2005 at 4:21 pm

From Emerson College’s news office:

Planning proceeds for College’s Paramount Center development on Washington Street

Construction is to begin next fall and be completed in the fall of 2008.

I’m pleased to see that they no longer plan to subdivide the Paramount, but instead will convert it into a 500-seat live stage. The second, 125-seat live stage will go into the adjoining new building which appears to occupy some or all of the former Bijou and B.F. Keith Theatre footprints.

I’m also happy that the complex will include a 200-seat film screening room. Perhaps Emerson could be persuaded to reuse the name “Bijou” for either the smaller stage or the screening room?