106 Boylston Street,
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Boston’s beloved Colonial Theatre was built inside a new office building on the site of the old Boston Public Library. The sumptuously decorated house quickly eclipsed the nearby Tremont Theatre (later the Astor Cinema) as the Klaw and Erlanger syndicate’s Boston flagship. It is a richly rococo Victorian-era playhouse, home to both touring shows and pre-Bway tryouts. The opening production was the stage spectacular “Ben Hur”.
The advent of full-length feature “photo plays” after 1910 created “road-show” movie presentations in legit houses. A number of these movies played at the Tremont Theatre and in February 1913, “The Miracle” in “Lyricscope” opened at the Colonial Theatre. Sound films came to the theater in October 1927 with the local premier of “Don Juan” using the Vitaphone process. The feature was accompanied by a number short subjects which were also designed to show off Vitaphone sound. When the engagement ended, these films went into other Boston houses at regular prices.
The Shuberts controlled the theatre from the 1930 to the mid-1950’s. At that time, it boasted a square cinema-style marquee which used white letters on a black background. Around 1956 it was thought that the house would be sold to a movie exhibitor, but that did not happen. Emerson College, which also owns the Cutler Majestic Theatre around the corner, currently owns the Colonial Theatre and leases it to the organization that operates the Wang Center. In 2014, the Colonial Theatre is operated by Citi Performing Arts Center.
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