The theater district is seeing new life. Actually, the area is poorly defined; the theater district is partly Midtown, partly Chinatown, and partly Downtown Crossing (also known as the Ladder District, to some).
The Herald has an interesting story about one of the old theaters in the area. The Bijou Theater was built and managed by Benjamin Franklin Keith (alas, not a relative), one of the great live theater impresarios of the 1800s. In fact, he lived upstairs, with his family.
The article has lots of information. For instance, did you know that Louis B Mayer (of MGM) was from Boston, as was Adolf Zukor, whose company eventually became Paramount Pictures? (Boston used to have lots of movie distribution companies in the Park Square building, and the “Columbia” luxury condos in Bay Village was the site of another company’s offices).
In the 1990s, Emerson College began moving its campus across the Public Garden / Boston Common to the theater district (this happened after they decided not to move to … Lawrence … in the late 1980s (can you imagine???)). Emerson bought several buildings and made them into dormitories and classrooms (the famous Little Building, where for years dentists bought all their supplies, being one of them). They are now on track to renovate the interior of the Paramount theater, as well as the Bijou theater, the focus of the Herald story.
(Cynic note: The article mentions the old Gaiety theater. I don’t think the Gaiety theater, which was recently torn down, was worth saving, nor do I miss the old Pilgrim theater, which was for the longest time an empty parking lot, but will soon be a monstrous apartment building.)
Complete article: Theater’s next act: Bijou rich in history
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Updated: January 2018