RKO Boston Theatre

614 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02111

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The way it was in the old days

Located at the corner of Washington Street and Essex Street. Opened as the Keith-Albee Boston Theatre on October 5, 1925 with Reginald Denny in “California Straight Ahead” & Charlie Chase in “The Caretakers Daughter” plus vaudeville on the stage. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer theatre organ. It had 3,231 seats. The entrance on Washington Street contained the mirrored lobby which contained Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers and there was a second entrance on Essex Street. This house still ran combo live shows and movies through the mid-1940’s attracting stars such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, the Ink Spots, the Andrews Sisters, Abbott & Costello and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Cinerama came in Christmas week of 1953 and stayed until around 1969. They sealed off balcony with a foot of cement and twinned the downstairs using the Essex Street entrance, running Asian/Chinese Kung Fu films and porn as the Star Theatre until at least 1986. Today part of the Washington Street entrance is a subway entrance. The office building surrounding the theatre is occupied by the city. The auditorium was used as a warehouse, but currently sits unused.

Contributed by Richard Dziadzio

Recent comments (view all 134 comments)

MSC77
MSC77 on April 10, 2018 at 9:54 am

Fifty years ago today, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” premiered here.

To celebrate the occasion, I’m sharing the link to a new retrospective article on “2001.” This and many other cinemas get a mention in the piece.

da_Bunnyman
da_Bunnyman on April 10, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Forgive me for this piece of trivia but I can’t resist the joke. In 1960 the film “Scent Of A Mystery” was released only in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in 70mm with the Smell-O-Vision gimmick. In 1962 the film was reissued in Boston as “Holiday In Spain” so the Boston Cinerama was the first place to show the film after it stopped stinking.

MSC77
MSC77 on April 11, 2018 at 9:10 am

A good joke, da_Bunnyman, but it’s not true. “Scent of Mystery”/“Holiday in Spain” played sans stink in Minneapolis and Toronto before playing Boston.

rknbarb
rknbarb on July 23, 2018 at 9:04 am

My grandfather Edward “Eddie” Rosenwald was the conductor of this theater during its vaudeville period. I have an article from the Boston Herald in 1937 that I just added to the photos.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on July 23, 2018 at 9:06 am

If you are able to scan it and it remains legible, you can create a jpeg and post it to the Photos section.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 23, 2018 at 10:37 am

Great article— now THAT’S entertainment…!

Dlrespaul
Dlrespaul on January 13, 2019 at 10:37 pm

The theater is still intact with it’s twinned orchestra and only part of the main entrance hallway to the theater’s lobby has been lost when it was converted into a subway station entrance. The state owns the building, which is filled with state offices, so it is safe from development and makes it the last major unused downtown theater available for restoration.

MSC77
MSC77 on January 14, 2019 at 4:36 pm

This theater’s numerous roadshow engagements are noted in this new article on Boston’s large format and roadshow history

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 14, 2019 at 4:55 pm

The building contains state offices, but I don’t think the state owns it.

Dlrespaul
Dlrespaul on January 14, 2019 at 9:17 pm

City of Boston records show the building has been owned by the MBTA since at least 1996 and is tax exempt property.

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