The Troy Street Observer

Dec 25, 1978: Sun Ra Reopens the Modern Theatre

If you weren’t satisfied by the seasonal lights of Christmas trees and innumerable illuminated Rudolphs and Frostys, the Modern Theatre had just the thing to boost your spirits on Christmas night, 1978. It was a new lighting machine, and it was creating wild visual effects for Sun Ra’s Arkestra.

Photo of Sun Ra
Sun Ra: I doubt he played “Frosty” or “Rudolph”

The Modern, at 523 Washington Street, was where Bostonians saw the first talking picture shown in the city, Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, in 1928. That was then, and by the 1970s, the Modern had fallen on hard times. Like its neighbors the Paramount and the Savoy, the Modern was in desperate need of rehabilitation. In 1976 David Archer purchased the building through a non-profit venture and set about the task.

Archer envisioned an arts district on Lower Washington Street that would link the restaurants around Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market with the Tremont Street Theatre District. He wasn’t alone in this idea, either, as the Opera Company of Boston bought the Savoy Theatre in 1978.

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