498 Main Street,
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The Bijou Theatre opened in 1904 originally as a vaudeville house, interspersed with showings of Edison kinescopes. The theater was part of a block of buildings built in 1884 on the foundations of an old court house and jail, and, in fact, there were still two jail cells that survived in the basement of the theater from the old courthouse building that once had been there. In 1908, it was renamed Empress Theatre
In 1910 the Empress Theatre discontinued vaudeville attractions and continued with a movies only format, usually double bills of sub runs, and was reverted back to Bijou Theatre. It never had an organ but a Photoplayer was installed in the theater in 1915 to accompany silents.
Over the years, the theater suffered from a deterioration of the area and dwindling attendance. The Bijou Theatre closed in 1956. A pool hall occupied part of the theater for a time after that. The entire block of buildings that once housed the theater and other businesses burned to the ground in 1979.
The property remains a vacant lot currently.
A few years later and the Bijou Theatre might have survived had it not burned. Considerable urban renewal flourished in the area in the 1960’s and afterwards. A new city hall was built less than half a block from the theater in 1965, followed by a concert hall, museum and planetarium across the street. The city took ownership and restored the Pantages Playhouse located nearby. That redevelopment has sparked rejuvenation projects of other historic buildings in the area.
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