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When Roslindale and Roxbury had movie theaters


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The Rialto was on South street , but the rear doors opened up behind the Post Office that was on the corner of South and Taft Hill terrace. Also nearby was a bread shop where you could buy Italian bread sliced or not, plus he had little spukie rolls for a few pennies . Of course nearby as well was the Happy Hour in later years .

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Nice article but it may be missing a couple.

The Rialto was deemed the first "modern" movie theater in Roslindale but the fact is that a silent film house existed on Washington St. on the 2nd floor of a building that housed Redd's at Rozzie Restaurant and an earlier version of Tony's Market. After a fire damaged that 2nd floor around 1968 the upper floors were removed leaving just the lower first floor storefronts. Vinnie Marino, building owner, recently added new apartments above the 1st floor business spaces which are now up for redevelopment. No organ in the silents theater. Just a piano. The Rialto did have a small organ but it never played for silent films and was removed well before any of us were born.

On Belgrade Ave. the Bellevue Theater sat at Belgrade Ave. and Iona Street. It's entrance was just up from the front door of Stash's take out, and the theater itself extended behind the storefronts on land backing onto Iona St. After it closed in the late 1950s or early 1960s it was used by a construction firm (an electrician if I remember correctly) as a warehouse. After demolition housing on Iona Street was built on some of the land. The Bellevue did have a small Wurlitzer Theatre Organ for use with silent films but its removal was early and disposition (where it went) still unknown to this day per historical databases.

The West Roxbury Theater was in the business block at VFW Parkway and Independence Drive. The CVS there occupies much of the footprint. No organ here ever as the theater was a late arrival to this block when it was built and redesigned.

The Oriental Theater in Mattapan Sq. did have a Mighty (large) Wurlitzer Pipe Organ as did many theaters of its size and design in their day. After the theater closed the organ became available and was acquired by professional organist Ron Rhode and moved to his home in Arizona where it was installed and added-to. Rhode recorded at least 2 CDs using the former Oriental Theater organ, which by then was known as the Rhode-Tanner Wurlitzer after its renovation and additions. Eventually, like all of these instruments, it became too much to maintain and it was sold off and some parts installed in other organ installations.

Some of Boston's former Theater Pipe Organs that played for silent films still exist. The E.M. Lowes theater organ on Washington St. was acquired and disassembled just weeks before the wrecking ball took the building down. It was acquired by the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society (EMCATOS), and by arrangement was revamped, added-to, and installed with a new console (keyboards) at Babson College in the Knight Auditorium building. It has regular concerts by EMCATOS and the occasional silent film accompanied as it was meant to be, by a Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ, complete with all of the sound effects such as sirens, whistles, drums, trolly bells, klaxon (ah-ooo-gah) auto horns, and many more.

The organ at the Boston Metropolitan Theater, now the Boch-Citi-Wang center had recordings made back in the 1950s by none other than the Boston Red Sox organist, John Kiley. Kiley also played for the Bruins and Celtics at the original Boston Garden. That organ was remove in the late 1950s and sold to a restaurant in Oregon which used it for many years until it closed. It was then acquired by the local inventor, Garrett Shanklin (whom I had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions). Shanklin had land next to his manufacturing building in Groton, MA and there he built a specific building to house and maintain the instrument. As with many such installations, it was added-to and modernized somewhat (electric circuits had to be modernized to meet safety codes) and the console (the keyboard, which is the original), was refinished to its original glory. Shanklin Music Hall is available for rentals for meetings and weddings and also hosts periodic Wurlitzer Organ concerts by some of the world's best, and the occasional silent film.

The Shanklin installation is the 2nd-largest in the 6-state New England region with a console with 4 keyboards, and 32 ranks (types) of pipes. The Babson instrument has 4 keyboards and 18 ranks of pipes. Both units are used by EMCATOS for entertainment but the Shanklin instrument remains in the hands of the Shanklin family which has also preserved quite a number of antique autos including several Stanley Steamers.

Upcoming silent movies include "The Freshman" (Harold Lloyd comedy), Shanklin, Oct 5, Phantom of the Opera, (original with Lon Chaney Sr), Ziterion Theater New Bedford (another EMCATOS instrument) Oct 27, and Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie, at both Babson and Shanklin next March.

Aforementioned organist and former owner of the Oriental Wurlitzer will perform at Babson and Shanklin in early November. Specifics can be found at: http://www.emcatos.com

If you'd like to see the set up at Shanklin (former Metropolitan) and the guts of the organ itself, you can see it here (18 mins video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hhBFvEEtaw The organ is also being played by a MIDI device through the walking tour on both levels. The MIDI recorded the keystrokes of a player and re-plays them back like the actual organist.

Old theaters and their pipe organs have died in most places, but a few are in the hands of historians and curators to help preserve them for future generations, as well as the genre of silent films as they were meant to be viewed.

Voting closed 29

This is a great article. Most people don’t know about the two former theaters in Roslindale. A lot of us recall attending the Rialto Theater, as evidenced by people sharing their memories on Roslindale Facebook pages. Thank you, dmk for sharing your knowledge.

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The Rialto space was still a parking lot into the 1990s. The health center was originally located in the community center building and moved across the street in the mid 2000s. https://roslindale.wickedlocal.com/x161977295

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Lost Theatres of Somerville is a website (and former museum exhibit) about the many local neighborhood theatres that used to be all over that city.

Only one remains in operation, the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. Another has been converted to a pottery studio. A few others are still standing but no longer recognizable as former theatres.

Voting closed 11

That one was open until at least 1969 not vacant throughout the 1960's. I saw the movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars in 1964 and Marooned in 1969 there. All in all a great article but like the author says people who remember are hard to find.

One weird thing about the Dudley Theater in Dudley Square. It was converted into a Blair's Supermarket sometime in the 1950's I believe: But they left the rear entry stairwell complete with movie poster frames all the way to the top of the stairs. I think it was the "Colored Only" entrance back in it's heyday.

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Fairmount Avenue in Hyde Park had a movie theatre that I used to go to movies in the early 60's.

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