Boston Opera House

539 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02111

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Showing 26 - 50 of 144 comments

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 6, 2010 at 8:54 am

Ron, this Globe movie page from October 1959 (linked from this blog entry) has an ad calling it “RKO KEITH’S Memorial”, with the apostrophe.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

“Signs of the Times” Magazine was a trade publication for the outdoor advertising industry. A 1939 issue (I don’t know which one) has a small item about a new billboard for the Keith Memorial Theatre in Boston. The billboard belonged to Donnelly Advertising. I don’t know if there was just one billboard, or several. It was illuminated at night, including neon in the theater name. The photo shows a billboard out somewhere with no buildings, only trees in the background. The sign reads “Keith Memorial Theatre – First in Boston for Generations”. Under “Now” is a poster for a movie whose title looks like “In Name Only”. It’s interesting that there is no “RKO” in the theater name. Also, it’s called “Keith Memorial”, not “Keith’s Memorial” (I never, ever, heard it called that). Of course, by 1939, it had only been “First in Boston” for half a generation, but Keith entertainment had been present in Boston since the 1880s.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

The marquee and the verticle cloth banner above it have now been changed to read “Boston Opera House” instead of just plain “Opera House”. Most TV and newspaper ads for shows at this venue now have “Boston Opera House” as the theater name instead of “Opera House”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 17, 2010 at 10:37 am

tisloews – you have sharp eyesight to spot the “E.M.Loews Theatres” sign in ken mc’s 1980 Savoy photo, posted on 4-21-09. I didn’t notice it. The EML offices had been located in the Publix Theatre bulding on Washington Street. That theater closed in Spring 1983 and the offices were moved out. I didn’t really pay much attention to where they moved. The company didn’t last too much longer after that.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Just an office – there was never a theatre in this location.

TLSLOEWS on May 16, 2010 at 12:39 pm

It is interesting that in Ken Mc’s 1980 photo of the SAVOY the brick buildiing to its right has a sign ot it that says E.M. LOEWS THEATRES was that a theatre or just E.M. LOEWS office.

William on May 3, 2010 at 10:12 am

The theatre opened on Monday Oct. 29th. 1928, the feature film was “Oh Kay” with Colleen Moore.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 5, 2009 at 10:41 am

to danpetitpas- thanks for posting the links to the 2 photos of the structure on Tremont Street and its rear on Mason Street. Note that it is right next to the south wall of the Tremont-oin-the-Common condo building. It is on the exact footprint of the old 1890s Keith structure which provided a Tremont Street entrance for the old Keith’s Theatre (later, Normandie and Laffmovie). I think that it is perhaps slightly narrower than the original. It is not the original in a preserved state, however. The original structure was demolished totally about circa-1990. This new structure was built about 7 or so years ago. I suspect that the developer was required to build it, but it no longer serves any purpose, because patrons cannot get into the Opera House from Mason Street they way they used to. See posts above which discuss the demolition of the arcade alongside the south wall of the Opera House at the time that the major renovations took place in the early 2000’s. When the west end of the arcade was demolished, it was replaced by stage space at stage-right. There no longer is a thru doorway for patrons to go out onto Mason Street and then walk thru to Tremont inside the new structure. Or vice-versa.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 4, 2009 at 8:41 pm

It’s not “preserved”, it was demolished and then rebuilt.

danpetitpas on October 4, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I was reading some of the older posts from earlier this year, and I just wanted to clarify that the corridor or alleyway that ran between Tremont Street and Mason Street and led to the rear of the Opera House is still there. I walk by it every day. You can see a picture of it wedged between two apartment buildings here and the back view here courtesy of Google Street View. It was restored a few years ago as part of the Opera House renovation.

It’s actually nothing more than a few steel I-beams holding the facades on and a roof. There is no marquee on it, but you can see where it was, and the glass doors, I believe, are always locked, although they might help in bringing in deliveries from Tremont. The white stone is similar to the white stone used on the facade of the Opera House on Washington St, and they may date to the 1940 renovation.

The city of Boston has a policy of keeping old alleys intact. For example, there’s a passageway from Temple Place to Winter Street that probably dates back to when Sam Adams lived there. Or it’s also possible that the Opera House owns that slim piece of property. But it’s still there preserved.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 26, 2009 at 10:30 am

There was a short item on the biz page of the Quincy Patriot Ledger 2 or 3 days ago stating that the sale of the Opera House from Live Nation to its new owners was about to be finalized.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

The Boston Herald today has an article about the move from the Wang Theatre to the Opera House of the Boston Ballet Company. It says that the orchestra pit at the Opera House has just been rebuilt and enlarged. It can now accomodate up to 60 musicians.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 6, 2009 at 10:42 am

Don Law is a long-time concert promoter. David Mugar is a philanthropist involved in many community activities. The Orpheum was not sold to them; only its operating contract.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 5, 2009 at 8:20 pm

The Boston Globe and Boston Herald websites both report that Live Nation has sold the Orpheum, the Opera House, and the Paradise Rock Club (in Allston) to the newly organized Boston Opera House Ventures LLC , owned by Don Law and David Mugar. Law is president of Live Nation New England, but his new company will operate separately from Live Nation, according to the Herald.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm

According to WBZ-TV Boston local news today, Live Nation has just sold the Opera House to an unnamed party. They will continue to book attractions there.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 5, 2009 at 11:18 am

Yes, the entrance to the Opera House is on Washington Street (east side) and from the outer lobby there was an “arcade” which ran along the south side of the theater all the way to Mason Street at the rear of the stage (west side). The western half of that arcade was demolished, along with the entire stage house, around 2004. During the movie days, the arcade was kept unlocked, so that pedestrians could use it as a short-cut. Also, it was used by movie patrons who purchased their tickets at the Tremont St. box office, went out the back of the Tremont St. entrance, crossed Mason Street and then entered the west door of the arcade.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 4, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Thanks for answering my question. Sounds like it was probably a necessary sacrifice.

Doesn’t the entryway from Washington Street run the length of the building and open onto a parallel street?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 2, 2009 at 10:21 am

to Life’s too short- the rear entrance of the Opera House arcade, and the west half of the arcade, were demolished circa-2004 or so at the time the heavy renovations on the Opera House started. They torn down the entire stage house, from the proscenium arch rearward, and this included the west half of the arcade. The new structure today contains exit doors where the arcade entrance on Mason St. was located. The stage door today, for performers and stage hands, is in the approximate location of the original stage door. It’s no longer possible for patrons to enter the theater from Mason St. because the stage-right wings and the scenary dock are in the way.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on May 1, 2009 at 11:58 am

Hey Ron, why was the rear entrance of the Opera House arcade removed?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 1, 2009 at 10:42 am

ken mc’s 1938 photo above is of the Tremont St. entrance as it originally appeared (built in mid-1890s for B.F. Keith’s Theatre, later the Normandie). After WW II, the structure was “modernized” so that it looked as it does in ken mc’s 1980 photo, posted on 4-21-09.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 23, 2009 at 10:58 am

Sarah Caldwell was a talented director, but her company had constant money problems. The Tremont Street entrance, shown in ken mc’s photo above, was used by her company to access the theater from the west side. There was no box office there, unlike in movie days, and it was used simply as a way to enter and exit via Mason Street which divided the rear of the structure in the photo and the rear entrance of the Opera House arcade, now gone. She had no funds to fix it up.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 22, 2009 at 11:36 am

It looks like hell in that 1980 photo. Sarah Caldwell, as I understand it, was respected. But she must not have had much of a budget to work with.