Charles Cinema

185 Cambridge Street,
Boston, MA 02114

Unfavorite 11 people favorited this theater

Showing 26 - 50 of 77 comments

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.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Bill, this was a triplex pretty much from the beginning. The two small cinemas downstairs were not subdivided from the main screen above.

Billinuk on November 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

I moved to Boston in the fall of 67 and I went to the Charles Cinema a lot before I went down to new York and college in 1972. I remember thinking that the Charles was a pretty classy place, I saw Truffauts The Bride Wore Black there as well as William Friedkin’s film of Pinter’s The Birthday Party and I even saw a Richard Attenborough film called Only When I Larf there. I was saddened when it became a triplex theatre but such is the way of the world.

dick on November 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

Having been to the Walter Reade(CHAZRLES CINEMA) many times I felt it was a great place to see movies. The screen was huge(Coolidge Corner and The Metropolitan(MUSIC HALL) were bigger screens and the Stereo Soun was wonderful especially on 70MM screenings. Ryans Daughter was beautiful as was Star Wars. But my fondest memory was the night in 1972 when my wife and I went to see Deliverance(which we walked out after the male rape scene)but had to sit through a preview of Pete and Tillie(which was cute) with Carol Burnett. Carol was there along with director Martin Ritt. Carol and Martin were very open and friendly and the sat right behind us. This was a fun night. I loved the Charles but when Sack took over they let it go to hell just like everything else they took over. Especially after they became USA.

BobSchlapowitz on March 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I’m too young to have caught anything at the Charles in it’s heyday. The only movie I saw there before it closed was Gettysburg.

whbjr on June 15, 2009 at 11:27 am

Soon after moving to Boston in 1978, I saw “The Last Waltz” at the Sack Charles. About a month later, I got a job there as an usher, and stayed until 1982. I was there for “The Rose,” “Deer Hunter,” “Alien,” and of course “The Empire Strikes Back.”

But I also remember many of the movies that played downstairs. Two in particular: “Chariots of Fire” played for a while, and as I recall its run had just ended when it was nominated for several Oscars, so they brought it back for a very successful run. Also, “La Cage aux Folles” played there for over a year – there was a one-year party in the parking lot.

Anyone know the answer to the trivia question above? (Famous usher) I believe I know who they mean. A hint: He was one of many Emerson College students who worked at the Charles.

MPol on December 13, 2008 at 6:02 pm

The Charles Cinema, as I mentioned before, was a cool place, especially the large screen. Other movies that I saw there, in addition to West Side Story and Star Wars I, included Dr. Zhivago, Sounder, and The Empire Strikes back, and probably some others that I don’t remember.

RogerA on March 5, 2008 at 11:39 am

The Charles Cinema was not the biggest screen in Boston. The Astor had the biggest screen until it closed in the late 70’s. Originally a stage theater the stage at the Astor was ripped out to accomodate the large curved Todd-AO screen. The screen at the Beacon Hill theater was also bigger than the Charles screen. In fact, the screen at the Charles may have been reduced in size by Sack theaters. After Ben Sack was ousted from the company they made an effort to get away from large screens and when Sack took over the Charles they reduced the size of the screen. It was Sack company policy to avoid 70mm when ever possible. I was responsible for getting a 70mm print of Star Wars shown at the Charles and Sack theaters was very much against it.

nkwoodward on December 11, 2007 at 8:51 am

Seen at the Charles: Unforgiven, Wind (Jennifer Grey), and the premiere of Star Trek 6 (sold out crowd)

jamesk on August 16, 2007 at 2:24 pm

I remember my first film at the Charles was Empire Strikes Back. It was also the first film I remember seeing in 70MM. From then on, any big event film I wanted to see in 70MM. It wasn’t easy to get to the Charles theater without my parents involvement in those days. I remember going to see Return of the Jedi, Roger Rabbit, The Rocketeer, and Gettysburg all at the Charles.

People too young to have ever seen a film in 70MM don’t realize what they are missing in visual and sound quality. The last film I saw in 70MM was a special projection setup at the Kendall Square theater for Kennith Branaugh’s Hamlet, which was also shot in 70MM (the last film to do so). Previous films to be shot in 70MM? You have only a handful: Far and Away, Tron and Ryan’s Daughter.

RonnieD on May 18, 2007 at 5:32 am

Contrary to many of the great posts here, I personally never really cared for this theater and would only go there when I had to see the film which opened there. It was the first stadium style modern design theater I had been in and apart from that there wasn’t much in the way of distinctiveness about it. Like most modern theaters, it was not a warm environment, clinical in design and serviceable but very little else that inspired me.
I cut an afternoon class on Friday April 8, 1966 to see the opening feature, Coppola’s “You’re a Big Boy Now”. Only the one large upstairs theater was operational at the time and there was much building going on. The area looked like a construction site and you had to navigate your way around piles of sand and equipment to find the theater.
Other films I remember seeing at the Charles: David Lean’s “Ryan’s Daughter”; a sneak preview of “Barefoot In the Park” with the featured attraction Preminger’s “Hurry Sundown”. Last film I saw on the Charles screen: “Days Of Heaven” Fall, 1978.

Boywonder on October 6, 2006 at 10:39 am

Ah, yes the Plaza Theater! I’ll check with my old pal Sid to see if he can confirm the Village Cinema as an old Reade house. He worked as an usher for quite a few theaters in the early 70’s.

One theater I’d like to get information on is the old Roxbury Cinema located on Warren Street in Roxbury. It mainly showed Blaxploitaton films during Blaxsploitations short run! I haven’t been in that area for quite a few years, but the building was still standing in 1992. It was some sort of “Church of the Almighty” or something.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 6, 2006 at 10:15 am

We have a listing for the Plaza Theatre, which later became the second-run Cinema Brookline.

Can you confirm whether the Village Cinema in West Roxbury was also once a Reade theatre?

Boywonder on October 6, 2006 at 9:43 am

Yes, this was indeed an amazing theater.

I remember catching all of the original Star Wars fims at this theater. Not getting into Star Wars on opening night, but taking the day off for both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

I also remember seeing StarCrash here on one of the small screens downstairs.

This was a former Walter Reade theater, as was the Hearthstone Cinema located in the Hearthstone Plaza in Brookline, which when I discovered it in the later 70’s was a second run house in beautiful shape.