Astor Theatre

176 Tremont Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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Astor Projectors

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The Tremont Theatre was opened on October 14, 1889, and was the third Tremont Theatre to be built on the site. It was designed by architect John Bailey McElphatrick.

In November 1947 it was remodelled to the plans of architectural firm William Risemen Associates, and reopened as the Astor Theatre. One of the premiere first run movie theatres in Boston’s past. It was located opposite the Boston Common on Tremont Street. It was where De Mille’s “The Ten Commandments” played in the 1950’s.

Demolished in July 1983, the Loews Boston Common multiplex now occupies the same general spot.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 108 comments)

Redwards1 on March 9, 2014 at 2:56 am

I do not think there were roadshow engagements anywhere for the 35mm Cinemascope version of Oklahoma! The whole point of Oklahoma! roadshow presentations was to introduce Todd-AO. Since American Optical was headquartered in New England it would have been an embarrassment to present the Boston premiere in 35mm.

Coate on March 9, 2014 at 4:14 am

dickneeds111 wrote: “"Oklahoma was shot both in Cinemascope and Todd AO at the same time.”

Yeah, but they weren’t distributed at the same time. In North America, only Todd-AO prints, distributed by Magna, were booked for the first thirteen months of the film’s release. Then the 35mm CinemaScope version, distributed by 20th Century-Fox, became available for hundreds of general-release bookings. All of the original roadshow engagements were the 70mm version (except for the final few weeks of the Detroit engagement which had been switched to the 35mm version as a test).

On a related note, some of you may recall a while ago I posted a list of the original roadshow engagements of “Oklahoma!” This info may clarify many of the points mentioned in the discussion going on here on the Astor page. Here again is the link if you wish to take a refresher look or if you missed it when first posted. The list is complete, as far as I know, up to the point in time the 35mm general release began. (There were a few more 70mm presentations that began beyond my cut-off point — plus international — but I didn’t include them because I wanted to present a concise timeline.)

Oklahoma! Roadshow Engagements

RogerA on March 11, 2014 at 3:34 am

Michael Coate has done his homework. He corrected me on a few points and after long hours of digging through old newspapers I have found that what he writes is correct. It is certain he knows a great deal about this subject.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 27, 2014 at 2:59 pm

CT member HankSykes tells me that he was looking through some boxes of old stuff in a storage area at the Cincinnati Public Library yesterday afternoon and came upon a program,in good condition, for the Tremont Theatre’s production of “No NO Nanette”. The latter was one of the great hit musicals of the 1920s and ran for 6 months at the Tremont Theatre about 1925. At the back of the program is mention of the theater’s “water curtain” which deploys in case of a fire on stage. I assume that they also had a regular fire safetly curtain (usually made of asbestos in those days). One can imagine the mess the water curtain must have made if it deployed accidentally. This water curtain apparatus and plumbing, plus the regular stage curtains, were all swept away in the late-1930s when the orchestra pit, stage floor and proscenium arch were removed so that the main floor seating could be extended forward into the stage area. (the Tremont seems to have stopped presenting live shows on stage after about 1930; films only.)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 7, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Someone who worked at the Astor around 1960 managed to get into the old office suites in the Tremont Street building which contained the theater entrance and outer lobby. To his surprise, there were still some records left there. He found files for Fred Lieberman’s Proven Pictures circuit from the 1940s, old records for the Bijou and other nearby theaters. He also says that there was indeed a remnant of the old second balcony still in place above the rear of the main balcony. It appears that the original second balcony was cut back but not completly removed at some time during the drastic renovations in 1937 and 1947.

asok10 on July 2, 2015 at 11:56 pm

These comments about the Astor Theatre are intersting and I would like to put in my two cents as I worked there as an usher briefly after graduating from high school in 1956. When I started they were playing Raintree County in 65mm which I thought was was an odd film size. This was being played on a Roadshow basis. After that closed they went back to the “grind” with a dreadful film whose name I cannot recall now. At the time I worked there the stage and pit had already been removed and seats went right up to the main curtain. They ever sold that many seats but can you imagine trying to look up at that huge screen from the first few rows for several hours. The projection booth was in the second balcony and was a long climb up there. I had to assist brining up the film for the grind movie which was in 35mm. I would have hated to carry the 65mm prints up all those stairs. Some dressing rooms still existed on stage left and were being used for storage. Backing up a few years, a friend of the family took me to see Joan of Arc there when it still had a stage and pit and was probably still called the Tremont Street Theater.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 3, 2015 at 6:39 pm

The name was changed from Tremont Theatre to Astor Theatre in November, 1947 at the conclusion of heavy renovations. There were prior heavy renovations in 1937. Yes, there were several floors of dressing rooms at stage-left (west side of the former stage) – they were still there during demolition.

Redwards1 on July 3, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Does anyone have interior photos of the auditorium? There have been many comments about this theatre’s history of major remodels, including the 70mm installation that covered the proscenium.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 4, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Rewards1 – I have never seen any photos of the Astor interior as far as I can recall. I did see a nice pen and ink black and white drawing that was made when the theater was fairly new. The artist was on stage at the stage-left side and was looking out at the left side of the auditorium. He drew the tiers of boxes and the left side of the two balconies. The theater was very ornate and was something like the Colonial Theatre on Boylston Street, if you have ever been inside it. The proscenium arch was removed either in the 1937 renovations or in the 1947 work. When it reopened in 1947 it was what they called a “draped house”. There were huge long dark drapes from the ceiling down to within a foot of the floor, starting on each side of the screen and going round to the edge of the balcony. Very dull and uninteresting.

RogerA on November 21, 2015 at 2:02 am

The Astor auditorium was very plain and drab. When they did the Todd-AO install they ripped out all the boxes the stage and put in a screen that was wall to wall.

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