They Say the Neon Lights are Bright in Downtown Crossing

Modern Theatre, Boston, Downtown Crossing

Globe File Photo

Today, the Modern Theatre, the last dormant theatre on lower Washington Street, reopens its doors and Downtown Crossing takes one more step towards its revival.

“In a 1914 article we read, the author wrote that we are the most elegant theater in Boston of its size,” said Marilyn Plotkins, founding director of the Modern. “We still are.’’

Suffolk University, the theatre owner, will unveil its $41 million renovation at a ribbon-cutting ceremony today to ensure the theatre keeps this reputation for generations to come.

Suffolk University, Modern Theatre, Downtown Crossing, Boston

Globe photo / Essdras M Suarez

The Globe writes, “The Modern joins the Paramount Center and the Boston Opera House, all in the row on Washington Street, to represent the reclaiming of a once-glorious cultural center that became a porn-soaked symbol of city decay.”

That’s quite a transformation.

I moved to Boston almost 10 years ago from San Francisco. I often have the opportunity to walk from Post Office Square to Beacon Hill, the Back Bay or the South End. I love walking through all of those neighborhoods, and the Common and Public Garden in between. But, Downtown Crossing is like the ugly stepchild that can’t be avoided – you have to go through it to get from point A to point B. It feels dark, dirty, crowded, outdated, and seedy.

However, that’s slowly changing. Ten years ago, you just didn’t go to lower Washington Street. Today, three once-magnificent theatres are restored and reopened, and a W Hotel opened around the corner.

I see pictures of what Downtown Crossing once was – a bustling street filled with horses, carriages, finely-dressed people and shining store-fronts. It could once again build its reputation as a vibrant hub, but that will require significant changes and capital investment; what has started at the lower-end of Washington Street must extend up through the rest of Washington Street.

I’ve heard people talk about the dramatic change and revival of the South End, and have witnessed the transformation of the Seaport District. I sincerely hope Downtown Crossing can achieve the same end.  It takes sustained time, effort and focus to change a reputation.

If you’d like to see Downtown Crossing revitalized, send a note to Mayor Menino at or via

Modern Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Boston, Downtown Crossing, Suffolk

Globe photo / Yoon S. Byun

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3 Responses to They Say the Neon Lights are Bright in Downtown Crossing

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention They Say the Neon Lights are Bright in Downtown Crossing | The Fosbury Flop --

  2. Ron Newman says:

    The Modern is not the “last dormant theatre on Washington Street”. Everyone has forgotten about the huge RKO Boston Theatre (later called Boston Cinerama, Essex, and Star Cinema), hidden away in the 600 Washington-Essex Building. The entrance is gone, the marquee is gone, you can hardly tell it’s there, but it is, sitting vacant for decades. Someone needs to save it.

  3. meganmpage says:

    Thanks for your comment, Ron — I wasn’t aware of the RKO theatre. Have you considered sending a letter to the editor of the Globe in response to their article on the Modern? Could be a good way to build awareness of this dormant theater. As someone who moved to Boston just 10 years ago, it’s great to see these old theaters restored, and that area has so much potential.

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