Bijou Theatre

423 4th Avenue North,
Nashville, TN 37219

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DavePrice on October 27, 2016 at 8:15 am

Judith: Very interesting and many thanks. From your name I wonder if your father was one of the Starrs mentioned in the case and also mentioned on this site.

If so, would you tell us if Bijou Amusement Co still exists and still operates other theaters.

Thanks again, Dave

Chakra7 on October 26, 2016 at 6:22 pm


Found this:

Looks like the city demolished this theatre as part of a “Capitol Hill Redevelopment Project”

DavePrice on September 9, 2016 at 6:42 am

I don’t find the Ace listed here but I remember it. It was built by Bill James and managed by the Starr brothers- Alfred and Milton. After it closed the building sat unused for years, overgrown with vines and bushes.

When I was a boy the street was called Cedar downtown and changed to Charlotte as you got farther out. I don’t know why the entire street was later changed to Charlotte. I think that was during the 1970s.

GarfieldHammonds on September 8, 2016 at 6:41 pm

I grew up in North Nashville just west of the Capitol at 13th and Pearl street. My brothers and sister attended Head School and watched movies at the old Ace theatre located at 11th and Cedar Street, now called Charlotte. We later heard of the Bijou theater and asked Mother if we could go after church on Sunday. On entering the Bijou we were startled that it was so huge and clean compared to the Ace theater. The Bijou also had a massive refreshment area with lots of goodies. We fell in love with this theater and attended most Sunday’s. I will never forget this Nashville icon for African Americans.

rivest266 on February 13, 2016 at 12:26 pm

September 14th, 1904 first ad in photo section.

JudithStarrWolff on July 23, 2015 at 9:37 am

I am doing research about my grandfather Milton Starr. He owned this theater for a long time. The comments above are very interesting. I’d like more information if anyone cares to comment further. Thanks !

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 7, 2015 at 1:04 pm

The Nashville Bijou was originally built for Jake Wells' Richmond, Virginia, chain the Bijou Theatre Company. Beginning in the mid-1910s, Wells gradually retrenched to his Virginia holdings, selling off houses throughout the south to other firms. The Nashville Bijou was one of several theaters that were picked up by the Starr Family’s Bijou Amusement Company.

The September 15, 1904, issue of the Richmond Times Dispatch ran this item about the opening of the Nashville house the previous night:


“Opening of the Nashville Bijou Theatre Last Night.

“Manager McKee, of the Bijou Theatre, received a message from Manager Jake Wells, at Nashville, Tenn., last night, in reference to the opening of the new Bijou Theatre at that place. The message stated that the opening was entirely satisfactory, and that the house was crowded with an enthusiastic audience to see Walter Edwards and his fine company in a revised edition of the ‘Sign of the Four.’ Mr. Allan Jenkins, formerly of this city, and well known here as a newspaper and theatrical man, is the local manager of the Nashville house. The new Birmingham theatre, of the Wells circuit, was opened most successfully on Monday night, with the ‘Midnight Marriage Company.’ Mr. Mortie Seamon, of this city, is the local manager of this theatre for Manager Wells. The new theatre here will be ready for the opening Thanksgiving week. The attraction has not yet been settled upon, but Manager McKee said last night that one of the best of attractions would be offered. Manager Wells will be back in Richmond about Saturday.”

During this period when Jake Wells was rapidly expanding his chain, the new theaters being built for the Bijou Theatre Company, including the Nashville Bijou, were designed by architect Fuller Claflin of the New York firm the Amalgamated Theatre Building Association.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Linkrot repair: The 1957 Boxoffice article about the closing of the Bijou can now be found at this link.

seywhut on December 27, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Bessie Smith played here in 1927. There’s a great story of her chasing Eggie Pitts down the street in a mammy costume.

DavePrice on January 16, 2012 at 10:02 am

I just happened to run across a 1916 trade mag with mention of Nashville’s Bijou (recently opened) and Elite (I assume the one on Fifth Ave.

Try this link:

DavePrice on September 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I have been in the Bijou building twice: once unsuccessfully to see a stage show and once after the theater was closed and awaiting demolition. My father and I went to see the show with friend who knew Alfred Starr and we thought we could get in but after awhile one of the employees came and told us we had to leave as they had been unable to reach Mr Starr and their orders had been to admit no whites without his okay. Of course the theater was darkened on this occasion and we couldn’t seee very much of the interior, but when I went back into the closed building I could see what was left of a box seat up near the stage. I also went up to the office where the files had been emptied and there were many papers on the floor which I now wish I had looked through.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on August 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thanks Joe and Tlsloews.

TLSLOEWS on August 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm

According to the Nahville Tennesean the Adelphi/Grand Opera House was built in 1850 and burned down in 1902 as stated above.

TLSLOEWS on July 1, 2010 at 9:52 am

Thanks Joe,no wonder I do not remember it as I was born just a month before it closed.Thanks again for the info.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 1, 2010 at 1:46 am

An article headed Final Days of Old Nashville Bijou appeared in Boxoffice of August 10, 1957. It has a brief history of the theater, and some information about the Bijou Amusement Company.

The Bijou circuit served African-American audiences, but was not African-American owned. It was founded by Milton Starr, and various members of the Starr family were involved with its management for several decades. The circuit was quite extensive, operating theaters from the Carolinas all across the south and into Texas and Oklahoma. At its peak there were more than fifty houses in the chain. The headquarters was in Nashville.

TLSLOEWS on June 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

I found some info the this was an African-American company that ran a few theatres in Nashville back in the day.Maybe its the same company or just had the same name,I will check it out.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 27, 2010 at 5:58 pm

This Company operated the LENOX THEATRE in Augusta.So they had screens all over Dixie.

TLSLOEWS on June 27, 2010 at 4:50 pm

As stated above this theatre sat were the Municipal Auditorium stands now near the Capital building opened in 1964.

TheatreOrgan on April 14, 2008 at 6:14 pm

The Bijou was constructed on the site of the former Adelphi Theatre which had burned in December 1902. The Adelphi was known as The Grand when it was destroyed by fire.

When the Bijou opened on September 14th, 1904, as a playhouse, it reportedly (Tennessean 7/19/1957) seated 1,642. The theatre had pink marble wainscoting, a tiled vertibule, soft green interior trimmed with white and gold, a guilded proscenium arch, and hand painted figures on the ceiling. The first production, “Sign of the Four” was an adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel.

When the Bijou converted to motion pictures, it’s seating capacity was reduced to accomodate the screen.

JackCoursey on October 11, 2007 at 10:19 am

Here is an archive shot of the Bijou from the Will Duncan Collection.