Center Theatre

690 Washington Street,
Boston, MA 02111

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Showing 26 - 46 of 46 comments

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 8, 2006 at 8:36 am

The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Center Theatre has an exterior photo dated May 1941. The theatre was named the Globe at that time. When the photo was taken the theatre was presenting Burlesque shows on stage. Fairly large lit signs had been attached to the top of each side of the marquee reading “Glorified Burlesque”. The names of various performers were posted on the marquee itself, and from the bottom edges of the marquee were hung elaborate cloth banners reading “Glorified Traveling Burlesque”. I don’t know if they also presented movies between stage shows; I suspect that they probably did. The Report states that the Globe is on Burlesque; that it does not present MGM films; that it was built before 1910, and is in Fair condition; and has 1,457 seats.

Boywonder on October 6, 2006 at 10:16 am

I remember this theatre as a grindhouse in the early 70’s.

As a youngster I saw endless horror double features at this place. Going on a Friday night to see a movie at this theater was an adventure, since it was located in Boston’s old “Combat Zone”, along with the Publix.

Yes, later it played martial arts films as the Pagoda, before it closed as a movie house.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 3, 2006 at 3:18 am

No. I would surmise that it is the end of the first decade of the 1900s. A lot of similar postcards seem to date from that era. I’ll cross-post the link to the Premier page.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 3, 2006 at 2:54 am

And just to the left of the Globe, the postcard shows the Theatre Premier. The Premier didn’t last very long as a cinema, though its building stands to this day. Does this postcard have a date?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 3, 2006 at 2:19 am

Here’s an old postcard image of the Globe Theatre.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 25, 2006 at 1:37 am

This 1928 map shows at least 11 downtown Boston theatres. West is at the top of this map.

The GLOBE THEATRE is on the east side of Washington Street, one building north of Kneeland Street, at the far left edge of this map. It is next door to the Unique Theatre, later to be renamed Stuart Theatre.

IrishHermit on February 6, 2006 at 4:47 pm

In the mid sixties the Center played a lot of American International pictures. I remember seeing Wild In The Streets and Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels here.

My friends and I also saw The T.A.M.I. Show here. For us the most remarkable thing about it was going to a racially mixed event.

The last time I was inside the downstairs floor still had a slope that I attributed to the old movie theater.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 4, 2005 at 8:16 am

The Globe Theatre was built by the comedy team of Weber and Fields, but lacking business acumen, they soon lost it. The architect was Arthur Vinal. It had 2 balconies. It became a 2nd-run legit house for awhile; I have a program for “Wizard of Oz” on stage about 1907. Then it was a film and vaude house. In the late-1920s, the 2 balconies were removed and one big balcony constructed, which necessitated extending the facade upward. You can clearly see this upward extension today. There was Burlesque there during WW II. I went into it a few times circa 1955- 1965. It was the E.M. Loew Boston flagship house and was in fairly good condition inside. On the little side-street out back which runs between Beach St. and Kneeland St. you could see the huge black steel scene door and a dressing room wing across the back of the stage. Later, as the Pagoda Theatre, the original Center Th. marquee was kept.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 9, 2005 at 2:00 am

Here is a 1969 Harvard Crimson article about Peter Bogdanovich’s film Targets opening at this theatre, instead of at one of the top houses. The article was written by Tim Hunter, then a student and active in Harvard film societies, who went on to become a Hollywood director of considerable merit with movies like Tex, River’s Edge, Sylvester, The Maker and numerous TV films.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 18, 2005 at 4:58 pm

According to Donald C. King’s new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, the Globe opened on September 14, 1903, with a capacity of 1536 seats.

It did not last long as a legitimate stage; by 1912, it was presenting vaudeville and movies for 10, 15, and 25 cents. At the end of 1913, it showed a film called Traffic in Souls, an exposé of white slavery. The following year, it became part of Marcus Loew’s vaudeville and movie circuit. NETOCO took it over in December 1928 and extensively remodeled it during the summer of 1929.

By the 1940s, it was a burlesque house.

In 1947, E.M. Loew bought the Globe and renamed it the Center Theatre. The Center’s first production was Ben Hecht’s A Flag is Born, a stage play about the new state of Israel. In April 1947, it offered Everything on Ice, a copy of the Ice Capades arena show, which flopped. The Center then played a revival of the movie The Thief of Bagdad, which “did tremendous business”, according to King. As a result, E.M. Loew turned the Center into a double-feature revival film house.

By the early 1970s, the Center was playing action films and Asian “chop-socky” films, and it eventually changed its name to the Pagoda.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 30, 2005 at 8:34 am

Another Center Theater photo, from 1948, described here. A double bill of “The Plainsman” and “The Virginian” with Gary Cooper.

Further down the street you can also see the Stuart Theatre’s marquee.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 30, 2005 at 8:28 am

A great 1955 photo of the Center Theatre, described here. The marquee has an E.M. Loew’s logo in front, and advertises “Call Northside 777” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends”.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 19, 2005 at 9:03 pm

According to an unpublished 1968 draft manuscript by Douglas Shand-Tucci entitled The Puritan Muse (available in the Fine Arts room of the Boston Public Library), the Globe opened as a legitimate stage but soon changed to a policy of movies and burlesque. This lasted until 1946. Some time shortly after that, it changed its name to the Center.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 11, 2005 at 9:07 am

As the Pagoda Theatre, this closed in late January, 1995. From a Boston Herald article published February 7, 1995:

“A recent cut from three to two screens, an afternoon-only, five-days-a-week schedule and a lack of new movies hurt the theater, which played mostly Hong Kong action pictures. Despite this genre’s crossover success at such venues as the Museum of Fine Arts and Brattle Theater, the Pagoda failed to tap the English-speaking audience. Typically, the outside posters for their offerings included only the Chinese titles, and the Pagoda rarely billed its openings in advance.”

When it closed, it was the last remaining Chinese-language cinema in Boston.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 30, 2004 at 7:07 pm

The Chinese restaurant now occupying the theatre space is called the “Emperor’s Garden” on signs outside, but “Empire Garden” in the phone book. It used to be called “Grand China”. Its address is 690 Washington Street.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 25, 2004 at 6:33 am

I have a booklet called “Boston Theatre District: A Walking Tour”, published by the Boston Preservation Alliance in 1993. It says:

This was the second theatre called “Globe” in Boston. Designed by Arthur Vinal, it opened in 1903. Its two-story, Romanesque entrance arch was cut into panels with centered light bulbs. The facing was light brick and terra cotta, topped with friezework, cornice, and balustrae. On the latter were eleven bronze posts topped with lamps. The Globe was famous for burlesque in the 1930’s with Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Fannie Brice, Sophie Tucker, W.C. Fields, Abbott & Costello, and Gypsy Rose Lee among its performers.

By the way, I’m not convinced this theater was ever called “Century”. I think it should be listed here as “Center”, although in its final years as an Asian cinema it had the name “Pagoda”.

scottfavareille on November 4, 2004 at 1:32 pm

The film Garden of Eden was best known for a US Supreme Court decision in which it was declared that “Nudity is not obscene.” It was at that point that nudist film prouction increased and then Russ Meyer’s 1959 film “The Immoral Mr Teas”, which became a huge hit, helped shape the future of “adult films” (plus an increase in the number of theaters that carried them).

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 4, 2004 at 1:14 pm

This was a nudie-film theatre in the late 1950s-early 1960s. In March of 1962 they were showing PARADISIO…“The best ‘nudie’ movie to date.” “In ‘TRI-OPTIQUE’—–"Broad-minded adults only!” Plus second feature THE CHOPPERS.

I believe the semi-legendary nudist-camp film GARDEN OF EDEN had already played here in the 1950s.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 18, 2004 at 9:02 am

Shouldn’t the Century and the Center listings be consolidated into one, since they are the same theatre?

William on November 20, 2003 at 2:16 pm

As the Center Theatre it seated 1200 people.

richarddziadzio on December 26, 2002 at 9:53 am

In the 60’s and 70’s, this was the E.M.LOEWS CENTER THEATRE. Theatre was built as the GLOBE. It was upstairs/downstairs twinned,then the downstairs was left/right split all as the Pagoda Theatre.