Post Content

South Station Theatre

South Station Theater, Dewey Square, Boston, Mass., November 15, 1931. Photograph by Arthur C. Haskell. Courtesy of Historic New England.

For today’s South Station travelers, the latest news reports are as close as their smartphones – or at least the television monitors in the waiting area.

But pre-television, not to mention pre-Internet, news reports with moving images could only be seen at the local theater. Fortunately for Boston train travelers, South Station had such a venue in a former wing of the building near the corner of Summer Street and Dorchester Avenue.

South Station Theatre opened in a transformed carriage concourse on November 6, 1931 as the motion picture craze swept the country. The Boston Globe called the theater “an innovation in its field, equipped with talking picture apparatus, a lounge for women, and a smoking room.” The theater continuously showed newsreels and short films of all kinds from 8 a.m. to midnight. Admission was 20 cents (a little more than $3 today).

A 1931 photo of the art-deco theater entrance and box office, across from Track 27, showed posters with the lineup: Fox News, Universal News, Ted Husing’s “Sports Slants,” and three short films including “Thrills of Yesterday” starring Harry Houdini.

South Station Theatre Interior

Courtesy of Historic New England.

The theater proved popular with both train passengers and other visitors. In 1936, an outside entrance was added “for office workers on Summer St. and those patrons who park at night on Dorchester Ave.,” the Globe reported.

That same year, a new staple of the theater’s programming arrived: “The March of Time,” a newsreel companion to the popular radio broadcast of the same name. Produced monthly, “The March of Time” featured reporting, on-location shots, and dramatic reenactments of news events at home and abroad.

For much of the next decade, Americans were drawn to theaters to watch vivid newsreel coverage of what would be the seminal event of their lives: World War II. South Station Theater offset military programs with lighter fare, including cartoons, musical and comedy performances, featurettes, and even public service programming. Following passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, South Station Theatre presented a film from the Social Security Board instructing residents on how to register for the new program.

South Station Theatre operated until late 1954, when news programs were increasingly being beamed directly into Americans’ living rooms via that decade’s explosive new medium, television. But the space quickly took on another unique life: pews and altar replaced theater seats and movie screen and Our Lady of Railways Chapel opened in February 1955. It served worshipers until closing in September 1972, shortly before the southeast section of the terminal was razed to make way for the Stone and Webster building at 245 Summer Street.

Written By:

Tags:

Recent Posts

MBTA Safety Review Panel Recommendations to FMCB to improve safety for T riders, employees posted on Dec 9

MBTA Safety Review Panel Recommendations to FMCB to improve safety for T riders, employees

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and its Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) today accepted a report from the MBTA Safety Review Panel that offers 34 recommendations with 61 corrective actions to improve safety for MBTA riders and staff. The panel, commissioned by the   …Continue Reading MBTA Safety Review Panel Recommendations to FMCB to improve safety for T riders, employees

MassDOT Winter Storm Update posted on Nov 30

MassDOT Winter Storm Update

MassDOT is advising the public that the National Weather Service has updated its forecast, predicting that by mid-day Sunday there will be a mix of heavy snow, freezing rain and strong wind gusts in Western Massachusetts which will arrive in eastern regions, including the Greater   …Continue Reading MassDOT Winter Storm Update

MassDOT Weekend Travel Advisory posted on Nov 29

MassDOT Weekend Travel Advisory

MassDOT is advising the public that the National Weather Service is forecasting a mix of heavy snow, freezing rain and strong wind gusts across the state beginning during the afternoon hours on Sunday, December 1. The storm is developing from west to east and is   …Continue Reading MassDOT Weekend Travel Advisory