RKO Keith's Theatre

44 W. 4th Street,
Dayton, OH 45402

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Keith-Albee

Architects: Cornelius Ward Rapp, George W. Leslie Rapp

Firms: Rapp & Rapp

Styles: French Renaissance

Previous Names: B.F. Keith's New Theatre

Nearby Theaters

RKO Keith Theatre Dayton, OH

The B.F. Keith’s New Theatre opened November 27, 1922, to much fanfare. No expense had been spared for this theatre. Two heavily carpted marble staircases lead to the first promenade, which was decorated with rare, old French furniture, upholstered in the riches of Louis XIV and Louis XV damask. The first promenade led to the mens and ladies room, both of which were elaborately furnished. There was also a second mezzanine which was lavishly decorated. In the auditorium, theatre patrons enjoyed wide aisles with seats finished in ruby Italian velvet. The walls were finished with the color of old ivory and lit with crystal and gold chandeliers. The stage of the B.F. Keith’s New Theatre was fitted with the latest in stage equipment. Performers enjoyed seven floors of dressing rooms, many with their own bathrooms and beds. The theatre was equipped with a Wurlitzer organ which had 657-pipes.

By 1929 vaudeville was being phased out and the B.F. Keiths New Theatre became a full time movie house with occasional live shows. In 1930, RKO bought the theatre and it became known as RKO Keith’s Theatre.

The RKO Keith’s Theatre continued along throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s, and in the 1950’s the theatre was equiped with television equipment and several University of Dayton sporting events were watched from the theatre via closed circuit TV. In the 1960’s attendance at the RKO Keith’s Theatre was dropping like many other theatres in the US.

The theatre was sold in 1966 to Richard H. Grant and Paul H. Deneau and in 1967 they decided to close the theatre. Ironically, the final movie was titled “Once Before I Die”. The theatre was demolished later that year and the Grant-Deneau towers were erected in its place. A sad but typical end to one of the best theatres in Dayton, Ohio.

Contributed by Jon Flynn

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

kenmedford on October 12, 2007 at 3:38 am

Was the Strand organ destroyed in the fire? Thank you. To view photos of the ongoing restoration work of the Dayton RKO Keith’s theatre pipe organ, now located in Medford, Mass., near Boston, visit www.chevaliertheatreorgan.org

roywboy on January 22, 2008 at 4:01 pm

I worked at the RKO Keith’s theater from about 1945 thru about 1947. Also
worked at Loews off and on. In those days, both theaters posted “barkers"
from time to time. I enjoyed barking. Many times we had crowds in-line waiting to get in for the next movie.
When Guy Lombardo came to Keiths, we had hugh crowds waiting to get in during weekday late afternoon shows. When Louis Prima played few showed up
and he got bad reviews.

Patsy on May 17, 2009 at 11:48 am

The site that features the demo photos is down and I’d like to view them though it is never easy to look at such mistakes! Can anyone find and post them?

Patsy on May 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Found this link after reading the CT news story about the organ out of this theatre and is now in Mass. being restored by the Chevalier Organ Society. I don’t believe the Chevalier Theatre in Medford Mass. is listed on CT.

Patsy on May 17, 2009 at 12:06 pm

And to read about this grand and opulent theatre that was once in Dayton Ohio, but was eventually demolished truly breaks my heart.

kenmedford on July 23, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Chevalier Theatre is not listed on CT because it never was a movie house. It originally was built as the auditorium for Medford High School. After a fire at the high school in the late 1960s, the high school was converted to condos but the auditorium was preserved and remains a municipal building. www.chevaliertheatre.com

The article reference about the organ restoration can be found here:


kenmedford on July 23, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Correction on the link in the previous posting about the organ restoration project:

View link

InesitadaSilva on December 28, 2010 at 2:21 am

After reviewing the useful links above, I am having a hard time determining whether the photograph you can see here of Keith’s Theatre at:
View link
is the Keith’s in Dayton, Ohio. The photo was made I believe between 1928 and 1931. If it is not that in Dayton, would visitors have any idea which Keith’s it might be? Many thanks in advance. Inesita da Silva

stevenj on February 6, 2021 at 11:57 am

In 1965 my cousin and I drove across the country to see the World’s Fair in NY. On the way back we stayed with my mother’s cousin in Dayton and went to this theatre and saw Crack in the World. As soon as I walked in I wished I’d brought my camera. Not many people there for a weekday matinee so I roamed the theatre marveling at the marvelous (Rapp and Rapp?) architecture. It’s a shame it couldn’t hang on.

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