RKO Chester Theatre

1938 Boston Road,
Bronx, NY 10460

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moviebuff82 on July 3, 2017 at 3:55 pm

What was the last movie that the RKO showed? Was it apes or 2001?

MurrayK on July 2, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Memories! I worked for two summers as an usher at the RKO Chester. I marveled at the second floor with its memorabilia of times past. I remember one art piece depicting a coach for delivering mail up the nearby Boston Post Road. I went to school at nearby PS 6 and once had a season pass to Starlight Pool which was almost adjacent. The old cemetery on 180th street was not far away and recently I read that some soldiers going as far back as the Revolutionary War are interred there. And, of course, I frequently, very frequently visited the Bronx Zoo, not far away, and left the hot steaming streets of the Bronx and entered an exciting world, esoecially for a young boy, imagine entering the Zoo and the closest entrance was near the Chester. One could even see scratches made by glacial till near the pathway near the boat park. I remember boys diving off the close small bridge over the Bronx River and for one nickle. It eas an icon of the depression era and memories are vivid. I saw many movies repeatedly and remember, Jon Hall, Maria Montez and Saba in particular, RKO Chester, the hallmark of an era long gone. I close my eyes and return at times to a world of magic and my youth.

BobFurmanek on June 20, 2014 at 10:48 am

I’ve just added an article to the photo section from September 9, 1954.

briandrum on September 4, 2011 at 8:38 am

The above links are broken. Here is the updated link.

I’m a school teacher in the area and only became aware of the theater’s significance as it was being demolished. Since then, I’ve watched Marty several times and always ask old-timers about the theater whenever possible. I posted some video and pics at the links above.

I was amazed that no one, seemingly, objected to the building’s demise. Very few of the area’s current residents are aware of what once was the RKO Chester.


briandrum on December 15, 2010 at 11:27 am


I’m a school teacher in the area and only became aware of the theater’s significance as it was being demolished. Since then, I’ve watched Marty several times and always ask old-timers about the theater whenever possible. I posted some video and pics at the links above.

I was amazed that no one, seemingly, objected to the building’s demise. Very few of the area’s current residents are aware of what once was the RKO Chester.

TLSLOEWS on June 26, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Sad Photos of the demolition Anthony P.

ntatap on June 26, 2010 at 7:27 am

Here is a link to a photo I took of the RKO Chester’s demolition. As you can see there is not much left. I went back the next day and finally got access to the site and there was even less. The eagle motiff over the bacony exit door was also gone. When I asked about it they said it was plaster and had been destroyed. It is a very sad end to a great theater
View link

TLSLOEWS on May 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Thanks Anthony P.

ntatap on May 15, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I finally got a quick look at the work going on inside today. The roof is gone and it looks like just the walls are left, some of the arches were still intact but thats it. I asked a worker who was leaving about the balcony and he said its all gone. I had seen the inside about 12 years ago and most of the walls above the level of the auto repair shop where still intact as was the balcony, it was very surreal.

ntatap on May 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

Unfourtnatly, The demolition of the Chester has begun. The building has scaffolds all around it with demolition contractor signs on it. I passed it on the Cross Bronx Expressway yesterday (14 May 2010) and the roof beams are now expossed and parts of the parapit walls are being removed. I have tried to get a look inside but the roll down door on the side is always closed ( I think the workers are getting access from the motel property next to the theater)

Rodney on November 22, 2007 at 4:14 pm

For a fleeting second the RKO Chester is quite visible in the background of the Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly musical “ON the TOWN”, while on the el they are singing “Bronx is up and the Battery down”.

Yves Marchand
Yves Marchand on November 22, 2007 at 1:25 pm

We went to the site two weeks ago but the auto shop moved and the theater is now closed. The manager of the adjoining hotel said it will be demolished and didn’t wanted to help us getting inside.
If somebody have more informations or is around, and could sometimes check what’s happening to it, that could be great.

RobertR on September 17, 2006 at 1:25 pm

Easter 1958 because of it’s long running time “A Farewell to Arms” went out on the RKO circuit single with a short subject. The Loew’s theatres are playing a re-release of a Shirley Temple film and “Gullivers Travels”.
View link

William on June 13, 2006 at 8:56 am

The theatre opened on Dec. 26th, 1927. The original seating of the theatre was broken up as follows. It seated 2473, 1333 on the orchestra floor and 1140 in the balcony.

BobFurmanek on February 23, 2006 at 8:58 am

To promote his new film “The Ladies Man,” Jerry Lewis appeared on stage at this theater on July 12, 1961.

BoxOfficeBill on November 14, 2005 at 4:13 am


If you can get your hands on a trade journal named “Theatre Catalog” (note precise spelling: It’s a USA publication, despite the orthography), you’ll find lots of advertisements with pictures for theater equipment, uniforms, concession stands, poster displays, et al. Volumes appeared annually between 1944-55, precisely the years you designate. It should likely be available through interlibrary loan from the Ann Arbor campus.

carolk on November 13, 2005 at 6:07 am

hi, my name is carol and i attend the university of michigan in flint. i work in the theatre department and i am doing some research on 1950’s movie theatre experience. i have read alot of commets you have posted and i was wondering if you could point me into the right direction of some factual information dealing with 1950’s movie theatre popular candies, employee uniforms, posters of horror films… i need to turn our theatre loby into a 1950’s movie theatre loby. our musical is based on classic 1950’s era horror films and i need your help in recreating a classic loby. thank you

dave-bronx™ on November 2, 2005 at 8:11 am

I was passing through the neighborhood and got off the bus to snoop around at the old RKO Chester. First, the ‘hot sheets’ hotel, referred to above, has been renovated, inside and out, into a new Howard Johnsons hotel. The exterior renovations are only on the hotel section of the building. The other storefronts including what was at one time the lobby entrance to the theatre are still run down and closed. Then, if you go around on the West Farms Rd. side of the building, there is a muffler and tune-up shop. If you go into the shop through the large garage door, you are in the auditorium of the Chester theatre. The concrete balcony structure is still there, though the decorative ceiling on the underside of it is gone and cars are parked there, but the seats are still in place above. The back of the balcony is so dark I couldn’t tell what condition the ceiling is in. The ceiling and the upper walls from about mid-balcony and forward still have the decorative plasterwork with flaking brown and beige paint. Through the procenium in the stage area are automobile lifts for the muffler shop. The lower part of the procenium plaster work has been removed. The organ screens are largely intact, but the draperies are gone. It looks eerily similar to the photos we’ve all seen of the Michigan Theatre in Detroit, with the upper plasterwork hanging in limbo above the cars inside the one-time picture palace.

Divinity on October 21, 2004 at 6:43 pm

This theater became a hot sheet motel and was an eyesore for years.
Not too long after Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion was sworn in, he and a van full of policeman raided the former movie palace and closed it down. Since then Howard Johnson has taken over and renovated the interior and exterior of the building. Because of this and increased police prescence prostitutes have been doing buisness elsewhere. The entire area which suffered from the urban decay and mysterious fires in NYC during the 70’s is being revitalized by community groups, the trendy Bronx river art gallery and a team of Bronx River restoration organizations that have installed a greenway along the banks of the river. NYC Market rate homes are now being built on former empty lots with more applicants than homes as well as affordable housing for seniors and the low income families.
Actually these fires werent mysterious at all they were usually set by landlords in rent controlled apartament buildings to milk the insurance companies. So what did the city do about it?
They shut down several fire houses down in the decade when the south central section of the bronx was burning.

theatrefan on October 16, 2004 at 6:27 am

Marty may have not played here but the front of the RKO Chester is visible in film “Marty” when the Marty and Clara leave the Stardust Ballroom for the first time they walk right in front of this theatre under the marquee. The RKO Chester name is quite visible in the backround. Later in the film they walk in front of the RKO Fordham Theatre as well.

PaulLD1 on October 11, 2004 at 3:13 pm

Does anybody out there know if “Marty” ever played at the RKO Chester?

sdoerr on September 12, 2004 at 2:39 pm

You can still make out Chester on the side faintly:
View link

charliek on September 12, 2004 at 12:02 pm

To view recent pics of this huge old theatre building, click here:
View link