Bijou Theatre

423 4th Avenue North,
Nashville, TN 37219

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Bijou Theatre

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Built on the site of the former Adelphi/Grand Opera House, the Bijou Theatre was the Nashville flagship of the Bijou Amusement Company, one of the first African American theatre chains in the south. It was opened September 14, 1904. For close to forty years, the theatre featured both live performance and film until it was razed in 1957 for construction of the new Municipal Auditorium.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 4, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Thanks Joe and Tlsloews.

DavePrice on September 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I have been in the Bijou building twice: once unsuccessfully to see a stage show and once after the theater was closed and awaiting demolition. My father and I went to see the show with friend who knew Alfred Starr and we thought we could get in but after awhile one of the employees came and told us we had to leave as they had been unable to reach Mr Starr and their orders had been to admit no whites without his okay. Of course the theater was darkened on this occasion and we couldn’t seee very much of the interior, but when I went back into the closed building I could see what was left of a box seat up near the stage. I also went up to the office where the files had been emptied and there were many papers on the floor which I now wish I had looked through.

DavePrice on January 16, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I just happened to run across a 1916 trade mag with mention of Nashville’s Bijou (recently opened) and Elite (I assume the one on Fifth Ave.

Try this link:

seywhut on December 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Bessie Smith played here in 1927. There’s a great story of her chasing Eggie Pitts down the street in a mammy costume.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 27, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Linkrot repair: The 1957 Boxoffice article about the closing of the Bijou can now be found at this link.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 7, 2015 at 9:04 pm

The Nashville Bijou was originally built for Jake Wells' Richmond, Virginia, chain the Bijou Theatre Company. Beginning in the mid-1910s, Wells gradually retrenched to his Virginia holdings, selling off houses throughout the south to other firms. The Nashville Bijou was one of several theaters that were picked up by the Starr Family’s Bijou Amusement Company.

The September 15, 1904, issue of the Richmond Times Dispatch ran this item about the opening of the Nashville house the previous night:


“Opening of the Nashville Bijou Theatre Last Night.

“Manager McKee, of the Bijou Theatre, received a message from Manager Jake Wells, at Nashville, Tenn., last night, in reference to the opening of the new Bijou Theatre at that place. The message stated that the opening was entirely satisfactory, and that the house was crowded with an enthusiastic audience to see Walter Edwards and his fine company in a revised edition of the ‘Sign of the Four.’ Mr. Allan Jenkins, formerly of this city, and well known here as a newspaper and theatrical man, is the local manager of the Nashville house. The new Birmingham theatre, of the Wells circuit, was opened most successfully on Monday night, with the ‘Midnight Marriage Company.’ Mr. Mortie Seamon, of this city, is the local manager of this theatre for Manager Wells. The new theatre here will be ready for the opening Thanksgiving week. The attraction has not yet been settled upon, but Manager McKee said last night that one of the best of attractions would be offered. Manager Wells will be back in Richmond about Saturday.”

During this period when Jake Wells was rapidly expanding his chain, the new theaters being built for the Bijou Theatre Company, including the Nashville Bijou, were designed by architect Fuller Claflin of the New York firm the Amalgamated Theatre Building Association.

JudithStarrWolff on July 23, 2015 at 5:37 pm

I am doing research about my grandfather Milton Starr. He owned this theater for a long time. The comments above are very interesting. I’d like more information if anyone cares to comment further. Thanks !

rivest266 on February 13, 2016 at 8:26 pm

September 14th, 1904 first ad in photo section.

GarfieldHammonds on September 9, 2016 at 2:41 am

I grew up in North Nashville just west of the Capitol at 13th and Pearl street. My brothers and sister attended Head School and watched movies at the old Ace theatre located at 11th and Cedar Street, now called Charlotte. We later heard of the Bijou theater and asked Mother if we could go after church on Sunday. On entering the Bijou we were startled that it was so huge and clean compared to the Ace theater. The Bijou also had a massive refreshment area with lots of goodies. We fell in love with this theater and attended most Sunday’s. I will never forget this Nashville icon for African Americans.

DavePrice on September 9, 2016 at 2:42 pm

I don’t find the Ace listed here but I remember it. It was built by Bill James and managed by the Starr brothers- Alfred and Milton. After it closed the building sat unused for years, overgrown with vines and bushes.

When I was a boy the street was called Cedar downtown and changed to Charlotte as you got farther out. I don’t know why the entire street was later changed to Charlotte. I think that was during the 1970s.

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