Boston University Theatre

264 Huntington Avenue,
Boston, MA 02115

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rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm

to dave1954- 1) there was no Empire Theatre on Mass Ave, or any unaccounted-for theater on Mass Ave near Huntington Ave. 2) I have a very vague memory that there was a fairly large German-American restaurant next to the Esquire/Boston Univ. Theatre, to its left, way back around 1950 or so. If you have the exact addresses for these 2 locations, you can go to the Boston Landmarks Commission office in Boston City Hall and look at what they might have there.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 23, 2010 at 5:24 am

Small photo of the Esquire, with marquee, during run of Henry V. Boxoffice magazine, May 18, 1946:
View link

dplomin1954
dplomin1954 on June 19, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I recently moved here and work across the street from the University Theater, and was wondering about the building next to it, OLD FRANCE. I tried the web and nothing comes up on old Boston history on it. I’m assuming it was a restarant or nite club in the early 20’s from its' architecture, but when I peeked in yesterday (it’s their production facility) any detail was covered with a drop ceiling or covered up walls. Also, up the street on Mass Ave is a building in white terra cotta called the Empire where their is a chinese restarant on the ground level. I can’t an Empire Theater listed on your site. Again, no history available on this building either. Any help? Thanks!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 7, 2008 at 12:38 pm

In the entertainment section of today’s Boston Herald there is an article “Ghost tale will take ‘Shining’ to theater” by Jenna Scherer which concerns the Huntington Theatre Company’s new play “Shining City” by Conor McPherson. According to Ms. Scherer, the spirit which haunts the play is not the only ghostly spirit residing in the Boston University Theatre. It seems that Henry Jewett, the Australian actor who opened the BU Theatre (as the Repertory Theatre in 1925), died under “murky” circumstances in 1930. He is believed to have been a suicide in the space under the stage. Over the years, there have been numerous creepy happenings in the theater. In addition to “Hank the Ghost” there is also a female spirit.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 25, 2006 at 4:51 am

On this 1928 map, the ‘Jewett Repertory Theatre’ is visible on the south side of Huntington Avenue, between Gainsborough Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 8, 2006 at 10:37 am

In the 1942-43 Motion Picture Almanac, the Repertory Theatre is listed as part of the Fred E. Lieberman Circuit. At the same time, the M & P Theatres show the “Esuire” (sic) as one of their Boston theatres. However, the Paramount – M&P summary does not include the “Esquire”. It appears that just as the Almanac was being readied for printing, the theatre must have changed hands.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 22, 2006 at 9:19 am

There is a very small ad for the Repertory Theatre in the Boston Post of Wed. February 25, 1931. Movies playing are “Melodie des Herzen” (German) and “A Throw of the Dice”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 4, 2005 at 9:59 am

In the Boston Post theatre page of Sept 23 1947, the Esquire Theatre is listed as part of M&P Theatres. It and the Modern Theatre downtown are showing the movie “Life with Father” (Warner Bros.) for the 5th week. So the Esquire name dates back at least to mid-1947. It’s also interesting that “Life with Father” was a big hit at this theatre both on the stage and then on the screen.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 2, 2005 at 10:54 am

The architect was J. William Beal and Son and it opened on November 10, 1925, and has about 950 seats.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 2, 2005 at 10:49 am

I remember it as the Esquire Th. circa 1948-49, presenting British and other foriegn films. In the large space in the front left of the building I have a vague memory that there was a restaurant at one time. I attended 2 plays there on stage presented by the Boston University Gershwin Workshop on May 9, 1953. I was back again on Dec. 3, 1954 for another play in what had been renamed “Boston University Theatre”. So, the purchase by B.U. and the name change took place sometime betwen May 1953 and Dec. 1954. After B.U. took it over they rented it out to various groups, but I don’t think that it ever showed films again. It’s a good -looking theatre, inside and out. I think that when Fred Lieberman ran it in the 1930s he kept the original name “Repertory”. The Esquire name was definitely of 1940s origin, but I don’t know exactly when.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 18, 2005 at 6:06 pm

According to Donald C. King’s new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, the Repertory Theatre in 1939 was part of Fred E. Lieberman’s “proven pictures” circuit, showing cheap reruns of popular old films. Other theatres in his “proven pictures” circuit were the Tremont, Bijou, Normandie, and Majestic.

Starting in September 1940, the Repertory was used as a live stage once again, presenting the play Life With Father.

King says that the theatre was renamed Esquire around 1949. I do not know if this is accurate; it conflicts with the history that Boston University presents on its page.

tomovieboy70
tomovieboy70 on April 22, 2005 at 4:28 pm

I attended Boston University’s School for the Arts in the 1970s and worked many times on the stage of this beautiful old theater. Our graduation even took place here. I had no idea it was one a movie theater!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 21, 2005 at 5:39 pm

As the Esquire Theatre, this housed the American premiere of Laurence Olivier’s “Henry V,” which opened April 3, 1946, more than two months before it made its New York City debut at the City Center Theatre on June 17th. The NYC engagement was hard-ticket, with two shows daily and all seats reserved. Does anyone know if that policy also prevailed in Boston?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 20, 2004 at 7:06 pm

Although it is owned by Boston University, this theatre is not on the BU campus. It is about a mile away from the rest of BU.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 18, 2004 at 3:41 pm

A photo tour of the BU Theatre, including backstage and shop areas.

More about the theatre’s history.

A two-screen independent cinema, the Symphony Cinemas, used to be next door, but BU purchased it and converted it to rehearsal, production, and administrative space for the BU Theatre.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 18, 2004 at 3:24 pm

Until you submitted this post, I never realized this had once been a movie theatre.

This page has more information about its history.

Although its resident stage company is the “Huntington Theatre Company”, the venue’s actual name is “Boston University Theatre”, so that’s probably how it should be listed here.

Other companies (notably BU’s student theatre groups) also perform here, and the Huntington also performs at another venue, the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston’s South End (which replaced the former National Theatre).