RKO Fordham Theatre
215 E. Fordham Road,
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Architects: William H. McElfatrick
Previous Names: B.F. Keith's Fordham Theatre
The Fordham Theatre was always considered one of the top Bronx theatres due to its location in the shopping hub around the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road. With William McElfatrick as architect, it was primarily designed for vaudeville and built by Keith-Albee. As B.F. Keith’s Fordham Theatre, it first opened on April 14, 1921, with six acts of “Best Keith Vaudeville” plus the feature movie, “Black Roses” starring Sessue Hayakawa. It was equipped with a Moller 3 manual 17 ranks organ. In 1926 the Moller organ was replaced by a Robert Morton 3 manual 13 ranks organ.
In 1929, the Keith Theatres chain were merged into the RKO circuit. In that year, the RKO Fordham Theatre also got a major rival in the larger and more sumptuous Loew’s Paradise Theatre on the Grand Concourse. For several decades, the two theatres were the area leaders, although the Loew’s Paradise Theatre had the advantage of showing movies that were exclusive for the Bronx. The RKO Fordham Theatre showed the same programs as six other Bronx RKO theatres, as well as some Skouras houses in areas without RKO outlets.
The RKO Fordham Theatre survived into the era of mass distribution and was triplexed in 1976. A fourth screen was added in 1980, but a decline in the neighborhood’s business district finally forced the Fordham Theatre to close. It was demolished in March, 1987, and replaced by retail buildings.
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