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Photos of Boston Theatres from 1984 – The Beginnings of RetroRoadmap

Posted on: August 3, 2010


All this talk of Boston with Eddie Coyle and the arrival of my new fave  movie compendium Big Screen Boston made me realize that my photos from a college “slide tape presentation” might be of interest to Retro Roadmap Readers.

These photographs, shot in the fall of 1984 were of some of the old theatres of Boston, many of which were shuttered, sad or in the process of being eliminated all together. Weird to believe that photos I took can now be seen in a historical context (but I’m so YOUNG!) – these photos are also the first tangible evidence of my own interest in places left over from bygone eras, and  thus, the beginning of Retro Roadmap.

The Paramount Theatre and further down The Opera House and Modern:
Paramount Theatre Boston 1984

(Can you see why I was so happy to see it all dolled up now, my heart swells!)


The Hotel Avery across from The Paramount:

Paramount Theatre Hotel Avery Boston MA

The Opera House Entrance Interior:

Opera House Interior Boston MA 1984

Saxon Theatre Sign:

:Saxon Theatre Sign Boston 1984

Orpheum Theatre:

Orpheum Theatre Boston MA 1984 The Cure(actually my first show at the Orpheum was Peter Gabriel – but this is one of my fave photos)

Orpheum Theatre Boston Interior 1984

The Modern Theatre Washington Street:

Modern Theatre Boston MA 1984( I remember they used to store the pushcarts from Downtown Crossing in here)

The Exeter Street Theatre – where I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time.
Exeter Street Theatre Sign Boston MA 1984

Exeter Street Theatre Boston MA Organ and 1984

Exeter Street Theatre Boston MA Demolition 1984

Exeter Street Theatre Stained Glass 1984

There are a bunch more photos of these theatres and more over on the Retro Roadmap Flickr Page, so swing on by and relive some Boston History!

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  • We have even more in common! I saw Peter Gabriel & The Cure in about the same time period too …. although the places where I saw them perform were not nearly as cool 🙂

  • The Exeter Street Theatre sign belongs to Dave Waller now. The very first concert I ever saw was in 1972 at the Aquarius Theater (Orpheum’s alter ego at the time). The headline performers were “Yes” with “King Crimson” as the opening act. I saw “Where Eagles Dare” at the Paramount in the late 1960’s. The Modern Theater was the RKO Kieth Theater when I was a kid. From what I read it became the Savoy for a while before it closed.

    • Larry – good to know that the sign is in good hands! Actually speaking of Dave Waller, it was from that “after diner tour” gathering at his (fire)house that I remembered that the Apple Tree was a center entrance diner, when we were discussing Eddie Coyle.

      My dad told me at one point that he saw some shows at the Paramount, but unfortunately now he can’t remember them. And my mum says she remembers the Opera House being the Keith, with some crazy giant bust of him in the lower level.

      Funny thing I just remembered was that it was also a music show that got me into the Opera House for the first time – Echo and The Bunnymen in summer of 84. That totally sealed the deal for me loving those old somewhat decaying but beautiful theatres!

    • Ron Newman

      The RKO Keith Memorial became the Opera House.

      The Modern became the Mayflower, then went back to being the Modern.

      • Ron – thanks for the help! I remember the Opera House was the Keith because my mother said she remembered there being a giant bust of him someplace in the downstairs or the lobby. My first event there was seeing Echo & The Bunnymen therein 1984. I was immediately smitten with the place and came back to photograph it just a few months later.

  • Br. Cleve

    I had a girlfriend who lived in a loft upstairs from the Modern Theater in the early 80’s.

    A note to Larry – the Modern Theater was the Mayflower when we were youths. The Mayflower was, by the 60’s, a double or even triple bill B-movie/2nd run kind of place, much like the Publix and the Stuart were. By the late 70’s it had relugated to pono fare. They had some a few live shows as well, such as Sun Ra & His Arkestra for a multinight run as well as a night of underground post-punk featuring a very early appearance by Mission Of Burma.

    The Savoy was originally the RKO Keith Memorial; it was renamed in the 60’s when Ben Sack ran his Boston theater chain. It was a first run theater for many years; it even hosted the World Premier of Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” back in 1971. Unlike the other downtown theaters, it shut down rather than spiral into porn or grindhouse fare; it was restored instead as the Opera house.

    • oh how cool to live in the loft upstairs from the Modern- total dream!

      Thanks both Larry and Cleve for adding your comments and filling in the blanks in my knowledge of these places. Great to have the info all in one thread as a resource to others as well. Funny thing is I swear I’ve got more photos b/c I remember doing the Music Hall / Wang Center, Majestic / Colonial. Must track’em down!

      • Ron Newman

        The Majestic became the Saxon and then the Emerson Majestic, now Cutler Majestic. The Colonial is a different theatre, around the corner on Boylston St.

        • I sometimes forget that there’s a Colonial Theatre in Boston (heresy I know!) because I’m involved with The Colonial Theatre here in Phoenixville PA. I do remember seeing some shows at the Boston Colonial, in the late 1990s. And nothing beats seeing the Nutcracker at the “Wang Center” when we were growing up, though I realize when I do some research it was called The Music Hall when I went there as a little girl. What great memories!

      • Ron Newman

        What’s now the Wang Theatre started out as the Metropolitan Theatre, then became the Music Hall in the early 1960s, then very briefly Metropolitan Center before being renamed after Wang.

        My earliest Music Hall memory is of waiting in line all night to get tickets to Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review in 1975, when I was a freshman at MIT.

  • Valerie Cummins

    Lived in Boston from 1976 until the 90’s….remember many of these great theaters. Saw the greatest show ever at the Orpheum. Never heard of the band, but left mesmerized… U2…1983….

    • Valerie – I remember when that show happened! I did not attend, but it is mindblowing to know they played there. Kind of like learning that The Police played downstairs at the Rat-!

      • Valerie Cummins

        OMG! I lived close to “The Rat”….a couple of times…Kenmore Square… Are u still in Boston? ( my favorite town!)

        • While I say “awww…Boston you’re my home” I have not lived there since 2000. But all the fam and many friends are up there, so I visit often. I DO know that Kenmore Square has changed drastically since back when I remember it – The Rat, Bertha Cool, long gone. But memories live on!

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