Keith's Theatre

525 Walnut Street,
Cincinnati, OH 45202

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Keith-Albee

Architects: James W. McLaughlin, Cornelius Ward Rapp, George W. Leslie Rapp, James M. Wood

Firms: Rapp & Rapp

Previous Names: Fountain Square Theatre, Columbia Theatre, B.F. Keith's Columbia Theatre, B.F. Keith Theatre

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KEITH'S (COLUMBIA) Theatre; Cincinnati, Ohio.

Located on the corner of 5th Street East and Walnut Street. Originally opened on November 21 1892 as the 1,800-seat Fountain Square Theatre, it was designed by an architect James W. McLaughlin. It closed in 1899. It was redesigned by architect James M. Wood and reopened as the Columbia Theatre on October 15, 1899 which operated until 1909. It was taken over by B.F. Keith and he employed architect James M. Wood to redesign the theatre which reopened on October 10, 1909.

It was sold to Benjamin Franklin Keith and reopened on September 9, 1910 as B.F. Keith’s Columbia Theatre. In 1912 it was renamed B.F. Keith Theatre.

In 1921 architectural firm Rapp & Rapp designed an office building which wrapped around the theatre and the theatre was renamed as Keith’s Theatre. Vaudeville closed the theatre on February 24, 1928. Three weeks later it reopened as a movie palace with Charlie Chaplin in “The Circus”. It had been equipped with a Wurlitzer 3 manual 13 ranks organ and a modern projection booth. The theatre was modernized in 1932 and again in 1946.

In 1959 it was equipped with a Todd-AO curved screen and 70mm projectors.

Keith’s Theatre was closed on September 5, 1965 and the building was demolished in July 1966 to make Fountain Square.

Contributed by Ray Martinez

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

hanksykes on September 20, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Keith’s Theater Walnut St. Cincinnati,ohio was demolished in the 1960’s to make way for the new Fountain Square developement.Originally built inthe 1880'sit was known as the FOUNTAIN SQUARE THEATER and was located up an alley on Fountain .Sq . In 1909 the theater was renamed Columbia and was gutted and the stage moved toinside fountain square and the entrance was established on Walnut St. for better foottraffic notice. In 1910the Columbia became B>F>KEITH’s and remained KEITH’s until 1921when it was rebuilt as an 18 story office building and theater by Chicago archicts Rapp&Rapp .

hanksykes on September 30, 2006 at 2:34 pm

Hi Ron Concerning the three theaters located on the B.F.Keiths Walnut St. Cincinnati,Ohio site they were in order the Fountain Square Th. by Architect Mc Laughlin Nov. 1892 till 1899,then The Columbia Th. by Architect J.M.Wood 1899 until 1909, then B.F.Keith’s 1910 until 1921. In 1921 famed Architects Rapp&Rapp of Chicago built Keith’s office building and Keith’s Theater which lasted until 1964 when both were torndown to create our present public space known as Fountain Square.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 1, 2006 at 9:43 am

Thanks, Hank.Sykes, for answering my post of late-Sept. which somehow got deleted when this Page was updated. I wanted further details about Keith’s Theatre being one in the same as the previous Columbia/ Fountain Square theatres, although drastically remodeled and rebuilt.

hanksykes on April 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Curious thing about the B.F.Keiths Cincinnati venue it never became an R K O house. Twas always and remained an independent house even though it was originally part of a parent Keith/Albee chain as was the Albee Th. here. Even when Radio Keith Orpheum boughtout the local Ike Libson chain in 1930. So from start until 1965 this movie house remained an independent operation.

RSM3853 on July 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm

The last first-run film I can find for the Keith’s Theater is the Rock Hudson-Leslie Caron comedy “A Very Special Favor” which opened the week of August 18, 1965 and played for two weeks.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 13, 2020 at 1:57 am

I’m puzzled by this item in the July 2, 1927 issue of Moving Picture World:

“One of the oldest theatres in Cincinnati, namely, Keith’s, is to be razed, and with its passing Cincinnati will be minus the two-a-day policy which has been in vogue here for many years, according to a statement issued personally by E. F. Albee, on a recent visit to the city. In place of the present theatre an elaborate new structure will be erected to the city. In place of the present theatre an elaborate new structure will be erected to house a continuous policy of vaudeville and pictures, similar to the Palace Theatre, another Cincinnati Keith house, established nine years ago.”
If Keith’s Theatre was rebuilt in 1921, why would there have been plans to rebuild it again in 1927?

walterk on September 13, 2020 at 5:12 pm

Joe Vogel, B. F. Keith’s wasn’t razed in 1927. However, it closed on February 4, 1928 for 3 weeks while an organ, modern projection booth and new marquee advertising “B.F. KEITH’S PHOTOPLAYS” were installed. The house itself did get remodeled in 1932. Nice article from the Cincinnati Enquirer published in 2016 can be read here.

The organ by the way, was Wurlitzer opus # 1834; a three manual 13 rank style 240, installed on February 3 according to the opus list.

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