Astor Theatre

176 Tremont Street,
Boston, MA 02108

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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 104 comments)

patryan6019
patryan6019 on February 28, 2014 at 4:53 am

Sorry for forgetting to add pertinent Astor data — Oklahoma! played it’s 1962 reissue there in Todd-AO May 23 – June 19, following El Cid’s 22 week run.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 9, 2014 at 12:21 am

After reading some of the above comments I must put in my 2 cents. Porgy & Bess opened at the Astor in 70mm Todd AO in 1959(I saw it there) and it was followed by Spartacus in Super Technirama 70mm. Both were the same aspect ratio of 2.21:1(70mm). As far as Oklahoma it ran at the Saxon in 35mm cinemascope roadshow for most of its engagement until Todd AO was put in and then in Todd AO for the rest of its engagement. Oklahoma was shot both in Cinemascope and Todd AO at the same time. There are many differences in both versions. And to ever said they saw Ryan’s Daughter in 70mm at the Astor may have seen I re-issue because its original run was at the Charles.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 9, 2014 at 12:27 am

I,m back with more info. Raintree County from what I have read was filmed in Camera 65(same as Ben Hur) but was never shown in 70mm on its 1st release anywhere. MGM said they could not get any 70mm theatres in the country because they were all booked solid at that time. They then needed to get it out so they sent it out in a 35mm Cinemascope roadshow version. It was not seen in 70mm until the 80s-90-s in 70mm in a New York film festival.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 9, 2014 at 12:27 am

I,m back with more info. Raintree County from what I have read was filmed in Camera 65(same as Ben Hur) but was never shown in 70mm on its 1st release anywhere. MGM said they could not get any 70mm theatres in the country because they were all booked solid at that time. They then needed to get it out so they sent it out in a 35mm Cinemascope roadshow version. It was not seen in 70mm until the 80s-90-s in 70mm in a New York film festival.

Coate
Coate on March 9, 2014 at 1:26 am

Good grief.

dickneeds111 wrote: “As far as Oklahoma it ran at the Saxon in 35mm cinemascope roadshow for most of its engagement until Todd AO was put in and then in Todd AO for the rest of its engagement.”

Not true, dickneeds111. There’s plenty of evidence available to support the claim that the Saxon installed Todd-AO equipment specifically for the “Oklahoma!” engagement, which began in September 1956. That was two months before any 35mm prints of “Oklahoma!” were put into circulation. The timeline alone proves you wrong.

dickneeds111 wrote: “Raintree County from what I have read was filmed in Camera 65(same as Ben Hur) but was never shown in 70mm on its 1st release anywhere. MGM said they could not get any 70mm theatres in the country because they were all booked solid at that time.”

It’s a myth that there weren’t any available 70mm theaters to show “Raintree County.” The theater in which its world premiere engagement was held, the Brown in Louisville, was 70mm-equipped at the time, having previously played “Oklahoma!” and “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Also among the first few bookings of “Raintree County” when it was still a roadshow was the McVickers in Chicago, which had Todd-AO installed for “Oklahoma!.” If no 70mm prints were made for “Raintree County” it was a choice made by the distributor for reasons other than theater availability.

Redwards1
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
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
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.

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