Charles Cinema

185 Cambridge Street,
Boston, MA 02114

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Showing 26 - 50 of 90 comments

dickneeds111 on May 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I believe that gettysburg opened 1st for about 3 weeks at the Coolidge Corner then Moved over to the Charles. Sack didnb’t want it because it was too long and he could only get about 3 screenings per day. So the coolidge tookit. The same thing happened to the 1st Muppetts movie. Sacl controlled downtown at that time and he thought it was probably too G to make money. So of all the theatres to take it was the Exeter and they laughed all the way too the bank for many weeks.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 26, 2012 at 9:32 am

But I saw Gettysburg at the Charles. Maybe it opened simultaneously at Coolidge?

whbjr on May 26, 2012 at 8:48 am

Not quite as famous as Leno or Fonzie, but I worked at the Charles with Mario Cantone, who was as high-energy then as he is now (and I mean that in a good way).

dickneeds111 on May 26, 2012 at 6:24 am

No one seems to know who the famous Bostonian was that ushered at the Charles. If i.m not mistaken it was Jay Leno while he was at Emerson. Another Emerson student, although not a Bostonian who may have worked there was “THE FONZ” Henry Winkler. I’m just guessing at this. I know he was an alumni speaker at Emerson colleges graduation back about 17 years ago when my son graduated. The Charles was a great movie house not a Palace like the Metropolitan(Music Hall-Wang ctr- Citi Wang ctr). Saw many films there especially the big ones like Deliverance, Pete and Tillie, The Wrath of God(Robert Mitchum, Star Wars(35 & 70mm) and Ryans Daughter in 70mm. Just to keep people informed I do believe that Ted Turners Gettysburg in 70 mm opened at the Coolidge Corner 1st because Sack did not want it because it was too long. Another movie that Sack didn;t want was the 1st Muppetts Movie, it went to the Exeter and played to packed houses for many weeks.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The Charles had a huge screen upstairs and two small screens downstairs. When Walter Reade still owned it, those were called the Charles East and Charles West.

dce6644 on May 20, 2012 at 6:12 am

The Charles was always a great place to see and hear BIG movies in the 70’s and 80’s. I have fond memories of seeing ALIEN, JAWS, THE LAST WALTZ, GLORY, the STAR WARS and BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogies… It was the only theatre in town that did justice to the restored LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 1982.

After the Music Hall closed in the 70’s, the Charles was the one of the usual Sack houses for the Bond movies. I’m pretty sure I saw FOR YOUR EYES ONLY there.

Wasn’t there a smaller screen downstairs at the Charles too? Pretty sure that’s where I saw BLADE RUNNER.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 20, 2012 at 4:49 am

By the late 1970s and early 80s, the Music Hall was almost exclusively a live stage and rarely showed films.

Billinuk on May 19, 2012 at 11:37 pm

In the late 60’s / early 70’s When the Music Hall showed movies it was the largest screen, followed by the Astor and then I think the Savoy. Thanks to the the closing of those theatres the Charles moved up the ladder. I don’t remember the Cinema 57 screen being that large but if you guys say so, I’m willing to believe it.

sweetmel on May 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm

This will always be the Star Wars theatre for me. I have very fond memories of the charles.

HowardBHaas on May 19, 2012 at 5:12 pm

The Music Hall wasn’t showing movies on a daily basis in the 1980s. I’m started to read your comment that the Cinema 57 had a larger screen. I don’t recall what kind of movies they were showing. I don’t see photos online that depict a huge screen. I only see the few at cinematour. The best screen that I enjoyed was the Charles.

whbjr on May 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

When I worked at the Charles in ‘78-'82, the general knowledge was that we were second-biggest – the Cinema 57 had a bigger screen and bigger seating capacity, but our sound system was better. (Feel free to call me a highly-biased source.) I’d forgotten about the Music Hall, that screen may well have been bigger.

dickneeds111 on May 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

to Roger A. Sorry roger but you are wrong about Sack theatres also had the Gary, Saxon, Music Hall, Cinema 57',Beacon Hill and the Capri and one cinema in Copley Place that was equipped with 70m. These theatres may have not been open at the time you are talking about. The largest screen in Boston was the Music Hall and the Charles was 2nd followed by the Astor. The Orpheum also had a large screen and ran 70mm. The Boston premiere of Gettysburg I believe was at Coolidge Corner and in 70mm. Boston had plenty of 70mm theatres but Sack controlled downtown and let all these theatres fall apart. When they became USA cinemas it got worse. I wish that READE had never sold to Sack/USA. Reade ran nice theatres.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

I walked by the site of the Charles Cinema twice last week while going to a clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital, which is very close by. The address above is correct; the Map and the Google Street View are both incorrect.

HowardBHaas on May 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm

When I was at Boston U School of Law (1982 to 1985), it WAS the largest screen in Boston!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

The address is correct. There is more than one Cambridge Street in Boston, and the map is showing the wrong one.

RogerA on May 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm

The information on this site is pretty bogus sometimes. The address they have listed for this theater isn’t even close to where the theater was and it never was the largest screen in Boston!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 13, 2012 at 7:13 am

The other film I’m pretty sure I saw in 70mm here is “Lawrence of Arabia”.

RogerA on April 12, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Yes that played in 70mm at the Charles. When Sack took over the theater it had two 35/70 Italian projectors with carbon arcs. After they were forced to install the sound processor for Star Wars the Charles ran 70mm more often and my source tells me that they ran Gettysburg in 70mm. Still they only ran 70mm when it was demanded of them. New York and Los Angeles Washington and other cities ran 70mm prints of many, many, films that were run in 35mm in smaller cities. There was a time almost every major film had a 70mm release print. Just about every major theater in the Los Angeles area was equipped to run 70mm. So theaters like the Chinese and the Avco had three 70mm prints of different movies all running at the same time. There were 8 movies released in 1993 in 70mm and Boston got one 70mm run maybe two. check out this theater in Boston

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 12, 2012 at 8:03 pm

I saw “Gettysburg” here. Wasn’t that in 70mm?

RogerA on April 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm

The Screen at the Charles was not huge by any standards. After Ben Sack lost control and Sack theaters was being run by a whole different management team things changed in Boston. The new management did not like to run 70mm except when they were forced to by the studios. I watched “Star Wars” the opening week and the presentation was so bad I called 20th century fox to complain. Shorty after that the Charles started to run a 70mm print and they had to install a Dolby CP100 to do it. Days of Heaven ran there in 70mm and again Sack had to upgrade the system and change out the left extra and right extra speakers. Sack management hated doing anything that cost extra. The only other Sack theater’s that could run 70mm were the Beacon Hill and the 57. The screen at the 57 was so small they put the left and right channel speakers over the exits.

HowardBHaas on February 25, 2012 at 4:36 am

Dan, webmaster can’t “move” picture but unlocked Street View in case anybod can manually guide locale to the ex-cinema. It might be miles, though.

dickneeds111 on February 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm

The astoir never was operated by Sack/USa/Lowes.

danpetitpas on October 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

The picture above should display this location: Charles River Plaza. If you look down the driveway, the theater was around the corner in back with the two smaller screens at ground level and the big screen upstairs. The front building is sitting on what was once just an open parking lot.

I think a lot of people are remembering just pieces of the theater’s history. As for sound, Sack upgraded the sound system just before Star Wars, placing two big sub-woofers in front of the screen, and the sound was pretty spectacular in the late 1970s-early ‘80s. Francis Ford Coppola wanted “Apocalypse Now” to play there because of its sound system, but the Charles played Fox films then and Sack upgraded the sound in one of the 57’s auditoriums to satisfy him. The sound probably did deteriorate after this time.

As for 70mm, Sack regularly featured 70mm prints at many of their theaters in Boston during that time period when 70mm prints were being used to provide upgraded 4-track Dolby Stereo. 35mm could only do 2-track matrixed soundtracks. After Star Wars, the Charles hosted 70mm runs of Alien, Empire, ET, and others.

When Star Wars opened May 25, 1977, there were only 8 70mm prints in circulation out of the 43 theaters that played the film. As Fox made more prints available, many theaters switched over, including the Charles on Sept 21, 1977. I don’t think Sack was purposely keeping 70mm prints out of its theaters.

As for screen size, Sack’s old-time vaudeville theaters such as the Astor, Saxon, Savoy, etc. all closed in the ‘80s which left the Charles the largest screen in Boston until it closed in the 1990s.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 29, 2011 at 7:39 am

The zip code for this theatre should be 02114, not 02134. Right now the map and street view are pointing to the wrong Cambridge Street. (Boston has multiple streets with the same name in different neighborhoods.)

Billinuk on November 29, 2010 at 1:00 am

Really? I have no memory of that at all. yikes.