Wang Theatre

270 Tremont Street,
Boston, MA 02116

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Showing 26 - 50 of 149 comments

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 27, 2010 at 10:32 am

ginabiehn – for movie titles look at the Met’s ads in the entertainment section of Boston newspapers, such as the Globe and Post for the years you want to write about. The papers are on file on microfilm at the Boston Public Library. For many years after it opened, the Met was a first-run movie theater, so the ticket prices were a bit higher than in the neighborhood houses. (example: in 1955, about 75 cents at night, versus 45 or 50 cents in a “nabe”.)The Met attracted a wide mass audience.

ginabiehn on September 26, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Thank you all for your very informative discussion about the Metropolitan/Wang theatre in Boston. I am working on a project about the old movie palaces of the 1920’s and 30’s and I chose this theatre to research. Would anybody have any infomation or know of any places where I could research exactly what movies were playing there in that time period? Or about the people who attended? Any links or tips for research would be much appreciated. Thank you

bruceanthony on July 20, 2010 at 10:40 am

Would like to see photos of the new electronic marquees.I hope it enhanced the theatres because the marquee on the Wang was very boring.brucec

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 21, 2010 at 11:43 am

The marquee which forms a rain canopy over the sidewalk has been redecorated. As posted above, there is a large electronic marquee above it, perpendicular to the facade. There are similar new electronic marquees next door at the Wilbur Theatre and across the street on the Shubert.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith on April 24, 2010 at 10:13 am

Click here for a photograph of the Metropolitan [Wang] Theatre taken in 1929 by George Mann of the comedy dance team, Barto & Mann.

spectrum on February 11, 2010 at 11:57 am

Here’s a corrected link to the photos at the Conrad Schmitt studios. Some great before and after restoration photos!

View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 28, 2009 at 11:50 am

I have heard that there was a screening room in the Met with some 90 seats in it for showing new movies to “the trade”. It was located upstairs somewhere at the front of the house. The space is still there, but the mini-cinema is long gone.

silverquill on September 26, 2009 at 6:42 pm

The Music Hall/Metropolitan Theatre is one of the qualifying buildings for the Piano Row District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here is the narrative description from the nomination form:

Music Hall/Metropolitan Theatre

Architect: Chief Designers: Blackall, Clapp and Kenneth Franzheim, G. Nelson Meser
Builder: Olympia Construction Co.

Irregularly-shaped Renaissance Revival “palazzo skyscraper” with symetrical, 11-bay Tremont facade. Two-story colonnade of engaged fluted Greek Ionic columns at level 2-3. Shaft of building organized by rising piers, recessed spandrals and paired metal window units, with ornament concentrated at level 4 and 5. Building terminated by two-story colonnade of engaged Corinthian pilasters at level 12 and 13, plus denti cornice and roof cresting of palmettes and theatre masks.

The Music Hall/Metropolitan is highly significant as the largest theatre in Boston history and one of the largest in the country, as the best example of the sumptuous “movie palace” of the roaring twenties and as the last of Clarence Blackall’s 14 Boston theatres.

The theatre reputedly cost 8.5m, seats 4200-4400, and is housed in a large office building, first to be constructed in Boston under a new height limit of 14 stories. Architect Clarence Blackall (1857-1942), one of the leading U.S. theatre architects and designer of the Colonial, Wilbur, Modern and Pilgrim/Olympia. The interior, modeled after Garnier’s Paris Opera and decorated in the Louis XIV style, was appropriately advertised as “the public castle” with “a thousand and one wonders” including the grand lobby with four tiers of prominades, spacious lounges, marble doorways, rose jasper pillers, tow 1800-lb. gold plated chandeliers, bronze details by the Gorham Company, and $10,000 in gems decorating the central mural painting by Edmund Philo Kellog.

The entertainment was equally extravagant. The Met offered a combination of films and stage show, which might feature its resident ballet corps, 100-voice chorus, 55-piece orchestra and two console organ, all for 35 cents or 75 cents on weekend evenings. Resident producer John Murray Anderson arranged his own stage shows, headlined over the years with stars such as Rudy Vallee, Al Jolson, Burns and Allen, Jack Benny and Bob Hope. A seating board and cadre of 40 well-mannered, costumed ushers made sure that no seat remained empty long. Waiting patrons could arrange for bridge parties, lounge in comfortable chairs with the latest magazines, prominade to the music of two lobby orchestras, play ping pong, or visit the chic art deco restaurant which opened in 1932.

Since the destruction of the Boston Opera House in 1958, the Metropolitan has been used for performances by the Royal Ballet, Metropolitan Opera Company, Bolshoi, Kirov and Stuttgart Opera. Has been “Music Hall” leased by Sach Theatres since 1962.

View link

JohnMLauter on September 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

The Wurlitzer (4 manual 26 rank)that was in the Metropolitan was removed in the early 70s, it was purchased by a group from Portand Oregon who operated a theatre organ-equipped pizza parlor there, the “Organ Grinder”. The Boston Met console was added to their existing organ, the core of which came from the Portland Oriental theatre (3-13 Wurlitzer), as did select ranks of pipes, the remaining pipes were sold off piecemeal, breaking up the original organ. After the restaurant closed in 1996 the 44 rank colossus was sold to a Chicago interest who broke it up for parts, the console is now back in the Boston area controlling a fine instrument at the Shanklin conference center, adjacent to the Shanklin Corporation’s plant.
View link

MPol on June 22, 2009 at 2:02 pm

How I miss their Monday Night Motion Picture Series!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 17, 2009 at 10:52 am

I walked within a block of the Wang yesterday afternoon and it does indeed have one of those colorful, ever-changing electronic cartoon -type marquees. There is one also on the Shubert across the street. They are both large rectangular devices attached perpendicular to the building facade.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 27, 2009 at 11:13 am

Further to the comments above by Chet Dowling regarding a passageway in the Wang basement leading from backstage to the front of the house. I looked at a floorplan of the basement printed in the 1927 book “American Theatres of Today” which is about to be reprinted by the Theatre Historical Society of America. There were doorways and a short set of steps in the basement on either side of the base of the orchestra pit. If you went out the door on the east side (stage-left) it was pretty much a straight shot out to the lower lobby. If you went out the door on the west side (stage-right) you would need a guide to lead you thru the maze! But you would end up near the men’s room.

ChetDowling on January 20, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Thanks for the info Ron; Nice to hear that the old secret passage is still there. I live on the West coast these days; and have never been back to visit the new Wang Center.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 20, 2009 at 11:02 am

I remember when Martin & Lewis played the Met. It was around 1952-53; I was in Quincy H.S. at the time and some students skipped school and went to see them. The stage house at the Met then has since been replaced by a new and much larger stage house. The stage door and the loading door were at stage-left originally. I have been told a couple of times that it is still possible to go from the lobby to back stage by way of a passageway in the basement which leads from the lounges at the lower level to the basement under the stage.

ChetDowling on January 19, 2009 at 7:09 pm

The attendance record at the Metropolitan was broken in the early fifties when Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis were booked live on stage for a week. The shows were continuous every day and featured Les Brown & his Orchestra, Helen O'Connell and Gene Sheldon. The crowds were almost uncontrollable. I was assigned backstage, and discovered that there is a secret door leading from the dressing rooms directly into the downstairs Mens' Lounge. This is how Martin & Lewis escaped the mobs at the Stage Door. They simply mingled with the patrons walking out of the Lounge and out into the street. They called it “Hide In Plain Sight”. I wonder if it still exists at The Wang?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 14, 2008 at 10:27 am

I have heard that the upper marquee at the Wang, which is really sort of a short, wide vertical sign, has been converted to one of those electronic animated signs. And that there is a similar sign on the Shubert across the street. Anyone know for sure?

bruceanthony on October 3, 2008 at 11:56 am

The new Corporate sponsor should restore its marquee to reflect the interior of this theatre. This is the missing link in the restoration of this theatre. Both the Wang and the Opera House have terrible marquees and the Paramount has the best marquee in the theatre district.bruce

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 26, 2008 at 11:50 am

I hope that’s not true, as I have tickets to the Old 97’s at the Wilbur on October 5!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 26, 2008 at 11:47 am

There are some ‘08-'09 attractions posted on the website, mostly the final season at the Wang Th. for the Boston Ballet, plus a few other things; but virtually nothing for the Shubert Th. (although their resident opera company will be back). Times are tough on that block of Tremont St.— I read somewhere just recently that a number of the music concert attractions at the Wilbur Th. (next to Wang) have cancelled.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 26, 2008 at 11:33 am

The ang doesn’t seem to be doing to well these days. Every other major local performing-arts organization has long since announced their 2008-09 calendar and starting selling subscriptions. Not the Wang. When I walked up to their box office a couple of weeks ago, they still had no information available about the upcoming season.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 26, 2008 at 11:25 am

I recently found among my stuff a program for the Music Hall from 1962. It’s for the Week beginning Thursday, Sept. 13, 1962. The program has 4 pages (a single 8" x 11" sheet folded in half). It says: Ben Sack’s MUSIC HALL, Showplace of New England. The program: 1. Music Hall Grand Organ, Louis Weir presents “Music Hall Medley”.
2. Music Hall preview of coming attractions.
3. Music Hall Orchestra conducted by Joe Holicker
4. “Manhatten USA” Produced by Buddy Thomas; Settings and Lighting by Major Theatre; Costumes by Madame Bertha, Bill Drew
A. “Central Park” Bob Warren and the Music Hall Girls
B. “Autumn in New York” Bob Warren and Les Dames
C. “Mambo” The Music Hall Girls and Les Dames
D. “La Vie Paris” Under Paris Skies, Leslie Post and Bob Warren
E. White and Gold Ballet Music Hall Girls and Les Dames, and the Star of our show: Denise Darcell Finale – Entire Cast
Movie: “The Interns” with Cliff Robertson, Suzy Parker, Buddy Ebsen and Tully Savalas.
Coming Next: “Boccaccio ‘70” w/ Sophia Loren, etc. directed by DeSica, Fellini and Visconti, produced by Carlo Ponti.
Coming Soon: Sol Hurok presents “The Bolshoi Ballet” on stage; Also coming: ABC’s Nationally Famous Television Show “Queen for a Day” starring Jack Bailey, live on stage.

MPol on September 22, 2008 at 8:29 am

The last time I went to the Wang Theatre, back in the winter of 2003, they were still showing the Monday Night Classic Film series, but they were showing them for free, instead of the usual five dollars that they’d previously charged. West Side Story was showing that night, and when my friend who was accompanying me arrived, we secured our seats in the theatre and went downstairs, where the movie theatre served up some great evening snacks and desserts as a pre-theatre reception. It was a sweet night, and my friend and I both had a wonderful time.

Ahhhhhh, nostalgia comes creeping in….mmmm.

bliberman on September 22, 2008 at 7:57 am

As I recall, Ben Sack guaranteed 20th Century Fox $200,000 to obtain “Cleopatra” for the Music Hall, a fortune of money in those days. In advertising the film, a big deal was made over the fact that all seats were in the orchestra; but Sack and his manager A. Alan Friedberg – who later ousted Sack from his own company – notoriously sold “strip tickets” in the balcony on weekends when demand was high. These tickets were very unlikely reported in the ticket manifest that went to Fox, helping Sack get a quicker return on his “guarantee.”

MPol on August 31, 2008 at 7:34 pm

I agree with your last sentences, danpetitpas. I had a Friend of the Film Series Membership at the Wang for afew years, but when they gave up their annual Classic Film Series, I allowed my membership to lapse. I remember seeing the film “Ciao America”, “To Sir With Love”, ‘Ben-Hur", and, last but not least, my alltime favorite movie, “West Side Story”, at least three times at the Wang. How I miss their Classic Film Series. I wish they’d bring them back. I think there was some sort of ominous thing taking place when they began showing really junky-soounding classic films, too.

danpetitpas on August 28, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I just wanted to give a few remembrances of movies I saw at the Metropolitan-Music Hall-Wang Center/Theater.

I remember first going there with my mother, probably in the mid-‘60s for a Disney film. I think the first show was at 9am and that was the bargain matinee, with the rest of the shows being full price.

My next experience was in 1974 when Columbia Pictures rented out the Met for a full day of free films to celebrate the studio’s 50th anniversary. I remember showing up there after the films had started, and there was no one at the door or in the lobby. I just walked in and took a seat. The theater was about one-third full with people going in and out at times. I saw Funny Girl, The Professionals, Bridge Over the River Kwai and Doctor Strangelove. It was incredible! Great films, and the chance to see them on a giant screen!

I can’t imagine anything like this being done this way today. When I saw Star Wars at the Charles in 1977, there were only about 100 people standing in line before the doors opened. Three years later for Empire, there was a line snaking down the mall about an hour before the movie. By 1982 for E.T., there was at least 1200 people in line and a four-hour wait! These days, people are willing to camp out weeks ahead of time for certain movies or events.

Columbia held a similar film festival at the Music Hall in 1982 for its 60th anniversary, but I was tied up at the time, and I think they might have charged admission. It was basically the same movies being shown.

I believe in 1991 the Wang started a Monday night film series to recapture its movie history. I remember seeing the Wizard of Oz there with a large gay audience that picked up on innuendos in the movie I had never imagined before. And on February 22, 1991 (a Friday night) it squeezed in a special showing of Ben-Hur with Charlton Heston sitting in the audience. He was only two rows behind my girlfriend and me and he stayed for the entire film, although the 70mm print was a blown up, cropped version of the original Cinemascope film.

And the film series even made U.S. history on April 29, 1991 when Citizen Kane, on its 50th anniversary tour, sold out all 3,600 seats for a record-breaking $18,000 single-showing take.

Unfortunately, by the time of Citizen Kane, the film series was getting so popular that it was difficult getting good seats. Subscribers to the entire series got seats in the orchestra, while the balcony was general seating.

For the Wizard of Oz, we were in the first row of the balcony, which was OK, but for Citizen Kane, we were about 1/3 back and the sightlines were positively awful. The screen was so low you had to peer down to see it, and you were basically staring at the head of the person in front of you. I had to crane my neck over to see between the heads in front of me, with the heads in front of them blocking my bottom view of the screen, while the person in back of me complained I was blocking his view. I know this was built as a movie palace, but I would say because the Wang is so huge that from 2/3 of the balcony the screen looks smaller than a 19" TV set at home.

I think the film series lasted about 10 years in the winter months, and then did a series with free admission. Fortunately, because of the number of films being shot in Boston, and some Boston actors and directors climbing up the ranks of Hollywood, the Wang will be used from time to time for future film premieres. But it’s a shame the theater doesn’t host more cinematic events.