RKO Keith's Theater

27 Bridge Street,
Lowell, MA 01852

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RKO Keith - Movie Ad - Dinosaurus!

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B.F. Keith’s Theater was a typical small city vaudeville house with a very large stage house, pit, orchestra level, and two balconies, plus a mezzanine. It was opened prior to 1914.

The Disney movies always came to Keith’s Theatre, so it was a particular favorite of us kids. I remember that painted on the canal side of the building was the sign, “B.F. Keith’s, the house of perfect sound…VITAPHONE”.

When it closed in the 1960’s, it lay abondoned for years. After a brief stint as headquarters for a short-lived, semi-pro football team in Lowell, it suffered a major fire, was torn down, and paved over for parking. Its front office building survives.

Contributed by Robert Provencher

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm

To ticketseller- the Keith circuit of vaudeville theaters was founded by Benjamin Franklin Keith (“B.F.”) and most of these theaters were later taken over by RKO. The “K” in RKO stands for “Keith”. So you would say “B.F. Keith’s” prior to around 1930 or so, then “RKO Keith’s” after that. Undoubtedly, when Jack Kerouac was growing up in Lowell, many local people probably called it by its old name, B.F. Keith’s Theatre.

kencmcintyre on March 21, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Here is a September 1950 ad from the Lowell Sun:

jimroy on April 5, 2010 at 7:43 pm

B. F. Keith also funded two Catholic High Schools in Lowell: Keith Academy for boys and Keith Hall for girls.

Here are a few then and now shots of the theater

TLSLOEWS on April 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Nice photos J.V.Roy.

jimroy on April 14, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I’ve added a couple of shots from 1941 and 1949 courtesy Ron Salters

InesitadaSilva on December 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm

After reviewing the useful notes above, I would like to ask whether cinema treasures' patrons might be able to verify the photograph you can see here of a B.F. Keith’s Theatre at:
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Is this probably the Keith’s in Lowell, MA? The photo was made I believe between 1928 and 1931. I’ve been through all 12 Keith’s Theatres listed on CT, so if it is not the one in Lowell, would site visitors have any idea which Keith’s it might be? A photo of the Lowell Theatre between 1913 and 1941 might resolve the riddle! Many thanks in advance.

jimroy on December 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm

My guess is yes, it is Lowell. The building looks to match the one in the postcard of Lowell from 1913 though the marquee had obviously changed by the ‘40s. Great shot, thanks.

InesitadaSilva on December 29, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Thank you! Then the ‘chaperone’ site visitors can see here: http://www.inesitadasilva.com/images/1930sUSA.jpg also stood in front of the Lowell Theatre. Thank you for helping to confirm another theatre my grandmother visited during her Vaudeville career!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 4, 2011 at 8:02 pm

I-Silva- yes, it appears to be the Keith’s in Lowell. The marquee is not the same as in the 1941 MGM Report photo, but the windows above are the clue. The large center window is the same, with small windows on either side. Look at the photos which JV Roy posted above on April 14, 2010.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm

B.F. Keith’s Theatre was among the Lowell theaters in a long list of theaters and halls in Massachusetts which received licenses in the 12 months ending Oct. 31, 1914. Other Lowell theaters on the list were the Academy of Music, Merrimack Square Theatre, Lowell Opera House, and the Playhouse. Plus some function/fraternal halls.

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