RKO Franklin Theatre

887 Prospect Avenue,
Bronx, NY 10459

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RKO Franklin

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Situated in the West Morrisania section of the Bronx, the Franklin Theatre was one of the largest theatres built by B.S. Moss. It first opened on September 5, 1921, presenting Keith-Albee vaudeville and movies, which explains how it eventually became part of the RKO circuit.

Hard-hit by declining neighborhood conditions, the Franklin Theatre closed in the 1960’s and was converted into a supermarket. Demolished in the 1980’s, it has been replaced by a group of three-story garden apartments.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

Paul Noble
Paul Noble on June 28, 2006 at 6:05 am

The Franklin is mentioned in the 1935 Clifford Odets play, set in the Bronx, “Awake and Sing!” The family is on its way to see vaudeville at the Franklin when the daughter takes sick on Prospect Avenue, and they return home and realize she is pregnant.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 6, 2007 at 1:33 pm

During construction of the Franklin, B.S. Moss announced plans for an even larger theatre in the Tremont section of the Bronx. For whatever reasons (probably financial), the million dollar Grant Theatre never became a reality, but it’s possible that architect Eugene DeRosa used his ideas for another project, and not necessarily for one built by B.S. Moss: www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/bxgrant.jpg

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 28, 2007 at 9:54 am

A Moller theater organ opus 2953 size 3/17 was installed in the Franklin Theater in 1921.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 18, 2008 at 11:21 am

The Billy Rose Theatre Collection at the Library of Performing Arts in Lincoln Center has one of the magnificent souvenir programmes given out at the grand opening of the B.S. Moss Franklin Theatre on Monday night, September 5, 1921. The theatre was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, whom Moss considered the greatest American that ever lived. The dedication was also “a sincere compliment” to Franklin’s namesake, vaudeville mogul Benjamin Franklin Keith. The souvenir programme contains long, illustrated biographies of the two men, both of whom “were born in Massachusetts and rose to fame and power from humble beginnings in Boston.” The opening night festivities started with the overture to Wagner’s “Tannhauser,” played by the Franklin Theatre Orchestra, followed by a newsreel and vaudeville acts including the Royal Gascoynes, Wells, Virginia & West, the De Wolf Girls, Handis & Millis, Jimmy Lucas with Francene, and Dave Harris & the Seven Syncoaptors. After an intermission, the orchestra played a medley of currently popular songs, and remained to provide background music for the feature movie, “The Hell Diggers,” starring Wallace Reid.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 2, 2008 at 9:32 pm

The RKO Franklin is visible in this photo.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 15, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Crime at the RKO Franklin….

NY Times June 14, 1954

BRONX THEATRE ROBBED; As 1,500 See Movie 2 Thugs Get $2,500 at Gunpoint

Two gunmen robbed the RKO Franklin Theatre, at Prospect Avenue and 161st Street, the Bronx, of $2,500 last night while a movie was in progress. They handcuffed the manager and two employes to a water pipe, the police of the Morrisania station said.

BobFurmanek on February 4, 2009 at 2:44 pm

On Friday January 26, 1962, the Three Stooges (Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly-Joe DeRita) embarked on a three day promotional tour for their latest feature film, THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES. They were accompanied by “The Herculean Giant” (almost 8 foot tall Dave Ballard) and popular DJ Clay Cole, who was one of the stars of the co-feature, TWIST AROUND THE CLOCK.

On Friday January 26, they appeared at the RKO Franklin at 9:00 PM.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The year given for this photo is 1941.

AlAlvarez on December 25, 2009 at 1:33 pm

A 1921 photo as the B.S. Moss Franklin theatre can be seen at this Bowtie website.


Tinseltoes on April 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm

On this night only in 1947, the RKO Franklin presented vaudeville in addition to its current screen program of 20th-Fox’s “Boomerang” and Republic’s “Rendezvous with Annie.” Topping the Franklin’s stage bill was the great comedian Mantan Moreland, best known for his portrayal of chauffeur Birmingham Brown in Monogram’s “Charlie Chan” series.

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