Bijou Theatre

N. 8th Street and Race Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Keith-Albee

Architects: John Bailey McElfatrick

Firms: J. B. McElfatrick and Sons

Styles: Moorish

Previous Names: B.F. Keith's Bijou Theatre, Garden Theatre, New Garden Theatre

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This was the second Bijou Theatre to open in Philadelphia, and was the first of two B.F. Keith’s vaudeville theatres to open in the city. B.F. Keith’s Bijou Theatre was opened November 4, 1889, and it was located at the northeast corner of N. 8th Street and Race Street. On December 25, 1895, B.F. Keith’s Bijou Theatre showed the first ever films in Philadelphia. From 1896 films became part of the vaudeville program. On January 5, 1922 it was taken over by Jules Mastbaum. In 1924 it was renamed Garden Theatre and presented Yiddish plays. In 1927 it became a burlesque theatre, but movies were still part of the program. There were numerous police raids on the theatre. In later years double-bill ‘B’ feature movies were presented and it operated under the New Garden Theatre name. It was closed in 1967 and demolished May 25, 1967. Part of the site was used for the Metropolitan Hospital.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

RickB on June 8, 2014 at 6:40 pm

I doubt that any theater in this area actually stayed in operation as late as 1967. When I was a kid (mid ‘60s to early '70s), the buses we rode on field trips to museums or the zoo had to come through here to take us home. It was on the edge of skid row, and it was just a mass of big old creepy buildings that looked like they had been abandoned for a very long time.

TheALAN on April 26, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Jeepers creepers Rick, in 1967, just imagine, the Bijou Theatre might have been hiding in one of those big old creepy buildings.

Gosh Rick, in the heart of the long-vanished theater district, there must have been a bunch of long abandoned theaters in there.

craigmorrisonaia on November 28, 2016 at 1:47 pm

My memory of the Bijou dates from 1965. It was a prominent presence, in all its elegantly creepy elaboration, on the approach to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge via Race Street. Don’s remember whether it was open or not. The area indeed was skid row; the Bijou in its last days had become a skid row burlesque/film venue.

RickB on February 11, 2017 at 9:12 pm

The Bijou was demolished on May 25, 1967, according to a story in the Inquirer of the following day. The same story said that the theater closed in 1947. However, an April 13, 1947 Inquirer story about a sale of the building stated that the theater would continue in operation as a movie house.

RickB on March 12, 2022 at 5:18 pm

Jules Mastbaum, president of the Stanley Company of America, bought the Bijou from B.F. Keith’s estate on January 25, 1922, according to a story in the next day’s Inquirer. The purchase was made in Mastbaum’s own name, not by Stanley. Mastbaum was quoted as saying that he believed that the 8th Street Tenderloin district would improve significantly when the Delaware River bridge was completed in 1926. From everything I’ve seen, it didn’t work out that way.

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