The Troy Street Observer

May 17, 1947: Big Bands Out at the RKO Boston Theatre

On May 17, 1947, the RKO Boston Theatre announced it would discontinue stage shows for the summer, virtually ending the big band era in Boston.

The economics of the entertainment business were changing fast in postwar America, and the most visible sign of that change in Boston was at the RKO Boston Theatre at 614 Washington Street.

The RKO chain owned of a pair of theaters on Washington Street, a block apart. The Keith (now the Opera House) showed mainly movies after the Boston, a big theater seating about 3,200, opened in 1925. The formula at the Boston was “stage-and-screen.” The A movies ran at the Keith, while B movies played at the Boston, along with the live entertainment. Sometimes that was vaudeville, sometimes a big-cast stage show like Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Revue, and when swing became the thing, shows headlined by big bands. These became the norm a bit later than you might expect, finally dominating the schedule in late 1941, and they continued to dominate until early 1947.

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