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This is seriously good news for Bostonians who appreciate independent film.
I’ve watched in shock and dismay as many of the theaters mentioned in the above article disappeared from what was once a mecca for the savvy cineaste. This is a college town, not to mention the “Athens of America.” Historically, we’ve had a taste for more than Tranformers 2 or the latest installment of the Saw franchise.
I don’t remember the Sack chain so I missed theaters like the Pi Alley and I didn’t remember the Charles Playhouse as the Sack 57. (I did actually work part time at the box office during it’s latest incarnation, prior to the installation of the McDonald’s of live theater, Blue Man Group.) When USA took over, the name ’57’ moved across the street. The entrance was in a parking garage. Since Radisson bought the building, it’s become the home of “Menopause the Musical.” Oy!
When I moved to Boston, Sack had been sold to the USA chain, which then became Loews, then it was something else and then Sony Loews and now is AMC. I do remember the wonderful single screen at the Paris on Boylston Street, right across from the Prudential Center. I remember being in line to see “The Last Temptation of Christ” on opening night. The line stretched around the block despite the bussed-in protesters staging mock debates between the clergy and the devil. Now that’s live theater! First they divided the theater into two screens and then they closed it altogether. A Walgreen’s now stands on the site. I can’t pass by without Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” playing in my head.
There used to be screens all over town, and now not one of them is left. The Cheri(which was about a block and a half from my apartment-loved it!) is a bowling alley/nightclub, the Copley Place multiplex is now a Barney’s New York, the Nickelodeon (mentioned in the article before it became part of the chain) now belongs to Boston University. I miss that one in particular because not only was it where the indie and foreign films used to play, it was right on the Green Line and I could hop off the train on my way home from work, often before 6pm when the prices went up.
Now, as mentioned, you have to at least go across the river to Cambridge. The Kendall Square Cinema is a terrific venue (and is now the site of the Boston Film Festival every September since the closing of the Copley Place theaters) but it is not easy to get to (which is not always a bad thing. The nature of the films they show and it’s off the beaten path location tend to ensure that it is an “adults only” theater.)
Speaking of Cambridge, Harvard Square used to be teeming with great theaters. The Brattle, a repertory theater, is still there. You can find monthly themed programs as well as some more obscure foreign fare. The Orson Welles burned the year I moved to Boston and never recovered. The Janus was the next to go. I remember seeing “Mrs. Brown” there. The ticket taker also sold you your popcorn and sitting in the theater was akin to sitting in someone’s basement and watching a movie projected on a sheet draped on the wall while your feet stuck to the floor, but it was a blast. The Harvard Square Theater is still there, part of the AMC chain. It’s been there for decades. It started out as a concert hall. (It’s where Jon Landau saw Bruce Springsteen perform in 1974 and famously declared “I’ve seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen.”) It’s an odd movie theater, some of the auditoriums are like closets (as was the case at Copley)and it’s current claim to fame is that it still hosts “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” every Saturday night with live musical accompaniment.
I can imagine the refurbished (It will need a lot of work. It gave the impression of being rickety and on its last legs as a live venue.), reinvented Charles Playhouse will be a welcome addition to the city dwelling movie-goer. It’s easy to get to via the MBTA (transit system)and there are lots of great restaurants/bars within walking distance, and it will be nice to once again share the experience of watching a good flick with like minded individuals; people who probably know that a ringing cell phone or talking during the movie is rude without having to be told.