RKO Boston Theatre

614 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02111

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Keith-Albee, RKO

Architects: Arthur H. Bowditch, Thomas White Lamb

Styles: Adam

Previous Names: Keith-Albee Boston Theatre, RKO Keith-Boston Theatre, Boston Cinerama, Essex Theatre, Star Theatre

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News About This Theater

The way it was in the old days

Located at the corner of Washington Street and Essex Street. A conversion of the Henry Siegel Co. department store, to the plans of noted theatre architect Thomas W. Lamb. Opened as the Keith-Albee Boston Theatre on October 5, 1925 with Reginald Denny in “California Straight Ahead” & Charlie Chase in “The Caretakers Daughter” plus 6-acts of vaudeville on the stage. It was equipped with a $50,000 Wurlitzer theatre organ which was opened by organists A.D. Richardson (from the Rialto Theatre, New York) and William F. Frank. It had 3,231 seats. The entrance on Washington Street contained the mirrored lobby which contained Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers and there was a second entrance on Essex Street. In 1928 it was renamed RKO Keith-Boston Theatre. This house still ran combo live shows and movies through the mid-1940’s attracting stars such as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, the Ink Spots, the Andrews Sisters, Abbott & Costello and Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

Cinerama came in Christmas week of 1953 and stayed until around 1969. They sealed off balcony with a foot of cement and twinned the downstairs using the Essex Street entrance, running Asian/Chinese Kung Fu films as the Essex Theatre, and porn as the Star Theatre until at least 1986. Today part of the Washington Street entrance is a subway entrance. The office building surrounding the theatre is occupied by the city. The auditorium was used as a warehouse, but currently sits unused.

Contributed by Richard Dziadzio

Recent comments (view all 139 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on July 23, 2018 at 10:37 am

Great article— now THAT’S entertainment…!

Dlrespaul on January 13, 2019 at 10:37 pm

The theater is still intact with it’s twinned orchestra and only part of the main entrance hallway to the theater’s lobby has been lost when it was converted into a subway station entrance. The state owns the building, which is filled with state offices, so it is safe from development and makes it the last major unused downtown theater available for restoration.

MSC77 on January 14, 2019 at 4:36 pm

This theater’s numerous roadshow engagements are noted in this new article on Boston’s large format and roadshow history

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 14, 2019 at 4:55 pm

The building contains state offices, but I don’t think the state owns it.

Dlrespaul on January 14, 2019 at 9:17 pm

City of Boston records show the building has been owned by the MBTA since at least 1996 and is tax exempt property.

martybearass on October 7, 2019 at 11:14 am

would love to see some new pics of interior! imagine what it looks like now!!!

Cinerama on February 6, 2024 at 4:53 pm

Click on the link to see pictures of the theatre from 2022 (at the bottom of the page), the names of the theatre and when they changed, ads, articles, and pictures of the Boston Theatre. Please do not copy this web site.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 6, 2024 at 5:23 pm

Do you know if there are any plans to reopen, reuse, or do interior demolition of this theatre? It’s so strange that it is still sitting there unused and abandoned in the heart of downtown Boston.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 6, 2024 at 6:08 pm

That was an amazing set a photographs.

Cinerama on February 7, 2024 at 12:06 pm

It’s been closed for 40 years, so I don’t think there are any plans to do anything with it. Too bad they didn’t add a theatre in the balcony and leave the orchestra alone like was done at the Warner Hollywood Theatre - https://incinerama.com/warner.htm.

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