Off The Wall Cinema

15 Pearl Street,
Cambridge, MA 02139

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rausifer on January 13, 2014 at 10:13 pm

UPDATE: I have found my DVD with the interview with Mike Nicholson. I am now in the process of figuring out how to convert and upload this to YouTube. It has some interesting footage, including my little news story (about 7 minutes) and about 7 minutes raw footage with Mike. Please don’t get your hopes too high, because this was done in 1979 with ½" B&W tape. The edited stuff is very glitchy, but the raw stuff is pretty decent quality. I hope to post it tomorrow…

MaxAndDave on June 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Louis C.K. credits Off the Wall with giving him his start — or at least giving him the confidence to become a comedian. Ron Lynch, i hope you see this:

michaelnicholson on May 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Mel, very gratifying to hear your story. Hey, just remembering us is pretty good to me. The Alternative Family Cinema was always central to OTW. We opened on a Friday night and started the AFC the next afternoon. If you were on the floor, it must have been at the original Main St location. Tickets were only 50 cents and we had only 63 seats. We didn’t plan on selling seats on the floor but it was hard to turn parents and kids away. We didn’t have a carpet, though, but I’ll bet it was a chocolate chip cookie. Best of luck to you and please keep us up to date on your progress. michael nicholson

DaleTheSmall on May 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Great idea, Mel! It’s never too late to make your dream happen. Keep us posted. (I have performer friends in Perth — not close to you — but you never know who knows whom here!)

Mel_in_Aus on May 25, 2013 at 6:26 am

WOW!!! I can’t believe I stumbled on to this thread!!! You cannot believe the profound impact OTW had on my life! One of my earliest memories, of childhood, was laying on the carpet, with a big cookie in my hand, staring up at the screen watching ‘The Red Balloon!’

When I was 13, that memory came back and I was struck with the idea opening up my own OTW. My next thought was “I would teach kids how to make movies in the back of the theater.” I got that idea from being able to the the projector.

When I was 18 I attempted to go to college, and study film, but I wasn’t ready and it wasn’t ready for me. I did however get a job as a film projectionist at West Newton Cinema for a year or two. Then I left for London and got a job at the Richmond Film House.

After that I settled in Australia and established a pretty successful career in IT. But every once in a while that old idea would come back, and then I’d put it away. I was busy working and raising babies.

Almost 40 years after that first memory, I finally decided to follow that idea. I gave up my lucrative career. My children are much older and independent. I am now half-way through completing my degree at university, majoring in film & TV production, and minoring in Festival & Event Management and Australian Indigenous Studies.

Hopefully, if the god’s look favourably, I will recreate my memories of OTW, to kids in the most remote parts of the Queensland outback and the far north tropics.

I’m going to bring them a road-show of the best of children’s cinema (OTW quality), and then teach them to tell their own stories.

I wanted to call my non-profit ‘Red Balloon Productions,’ but that was already taken, so it’s called ‘Big Balloon Productions.’

I hope to launch at the end of 2014. In the meantime, I’ve written up the draft business plan. I am slowly creating a network of educators, Film Professionals and Academics to be involved. It’s a pretty ambitious project. But chasing this idea is the happiest I’ve ever been!

I always wanted to say thank you so much OTW, for that beautiful memory that has inspired my whole life. And now I feel like I have.

michaelnicholson on April 26, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Sad to say that Les Blank has passed away. Les, of course, made a memorable appearance at OTW during our Les Blank film fest. I have very fond memories of introducing the films and telling the audience about our special food offerings, culminating with wipping out from behind my back and consuming a chocolate covered garlic. I still have my “Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers” t-shirt, and both David and I have many of his films on dvd. The world has lost a very special film maker. On another note, Rick, I don’t recall your interview, but I’m sure I’ll remember when I see it again. michaelnicholson

MaxAndDave on March 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Rausifer — Too cool! Let us know when it’s posted!

rausifer on March 2, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Everyone and Michael especially – I did a short interview with Michael at Off the Wall as part of a student project back in 1978 or so. My next project is to find it and post it on YouTube – I will do this as soon as possible! Dale – thanks for posting and reminding me!

Rick Usifer

DaleTheSmall on March 2, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Michael Nicholson, as I live and breathe! Long story but I just heard Ken on my radio last night (WNYC in Manhattan) and something about his “late wife.” I googled and discovered the bad news about Karen. So awful.

And don’t be so modest. OTW was a major force in the animation world. You guys created a space for so many filmmakers which was safe as well as comfortable. And didn’t Ron teach classes and/or have his stand-up students do a show at OTW? Such generous and sweet owners you all were!

michaelnicholson on December 13, 2012 at 8:21 am

As I write this on 12/13/12, this is the 38th anniversary of OTW’s opening. How time flies. Just discovered my old concert reviews and interviews on the Boston Globe website. Search the archives (1970-75, enter Michael Nicholson as author: there are 54 entries) if you’re interested. Yes, I will post some more history very soon. mnicholson

MaxAndDave on September 19, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Nat Segaloff, as I live and breathe! Last we heard you had gone off to LA and done a bunch of good things. Definitely Boston’s loss. So glad you remember some of those really special OTW moments. Weren’t you there for Chuck Jones' appearance as well?

Nataloff on September 19, 2012 at 1:16 am

Hi Michael (and others) late of Off-the-Wall. I spent many happy hours there reviewing your programs, plus I got to meet June Foray, Bill Scott, Richie Havens and a few others whose films ran at OTW. Later worked with Larry Silverman at WSBK and Dana Hersey who is still, 25 years later, the best and most professional guy I ever shared a screen with. Nat Segaloff

michaelnicholson on August 3, 2012 at 8:05 am

French filmmaker Chris Marker (91) has passed away. “La Jetee,” which we screened many times at Off the Wall, is one of the most perfect films of any sort. I first saw this in a film series on PBS, which gave Larry and I a film education that was a crucial inspiration for OTW. I’ve been negligent in posting, I know. I’ll put out a new installment soon. mnicholson

michaelnicholson on July 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Sunday, July 10, there was a moving memorial service (at the Armory in Somerville) for animator Karen Aqua. Karen, among many, many things was a frequent contributor to Off the Wall and Magic Movies in particular. She also worked for a time at our original location, which is where we met her. I have fond memories of coming down out of the booth while the films were on and seeing her, her kitchen work done, sitting on a chair, working on drawings for her current film, on that would later be shown at OTW. The service featured remembrances, music, and of course , films. The attendees (seemed like about 200) marched to New Orleans music down the street to the Growing Center after the service. A wonderful sendoff for a wonderfull person. Michaelnicholson

MaxAndDave on April 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Well, thanks! Let us know if you find any more Off the Wall gems…
I wonder what happened to ALbert Lamb, the piano player in that clip?

televisionarchives on April 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

I know this thread is a little old but I was the original person to put up the Off the Wall video. Type in We don’t knock dana hersey WSBK in the youtube search and you will see it.

tuxguys on September 5, 2010 at 11:02 pm

well? Get on with it, we’re waiting…

michaelnicholson on July 26, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Thanks Ub (and also Georgi). I hope others of you tuned in and enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed doing it.
One of the big challenges of OTW was coming up not only with entertaining shows but coming up with a good title to entice people to come. However loyal, people rarely came just to OTW, but to see a particular show. “International Animation” (our first show) and “Science Fiction” are descriptive, but hardly exciting. “Fantasy & the Fantastic” and “Roots” (early shorts by well known directors) were probably the two best from our first year, but hardly went through the roof. I was the one who came up with most of the titles, and my first, and most successful inspiration was “Magic Movies” (the first show opened 1/28/76). Quite a bit better than “International Animation.” Another good one from 1976 was “Slightly Bent-Centennial,” funny and satirical shorts we put together to celebrate the Bicentennial. “Heart Throbs” was the other good one from 1976. “Hubley Bubbly,” the animation of John & Faith Hubley, was a good one from 1978, as was the comedy show “Laughing Gas.” “Feats of Feet,” a show of dance shorts, was a good one from our last days at Main St. I don’t have many records from our State St. days, so next time I’ll review some of the best show names from Pearl St, including the story behind “Bigfoot…..”

MaxAndDave on June 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Michael N, it was great to hear you on ‘MBR. Brought back the OTW days, especially “Intro to the Outro.”

rausifer on May 17, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Michael – thanks so much for the stories and updates. Can’t wait to hear your picks!

michaelnicholson on May 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

The date for the radio show mentioned above has been changed to Thursday, June 10 from 12-2pm.

MaxAndDave on May 4, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Hey, looking forward!

michaelnicholson on May 4, 2010 at 11:39 am

At Pearl St, I made the theme music tapes that played at intermision and after the shows, since I had a large (2500) record collection and enjoyed the challenge. On Thursday, June 3 from 12-2pm, I will be a guest DJ on the Lost & Found show on WMBR (88.1 FM), featuring music from the 60s and early 70s. I did the show last year and by all accounts it was a success. If you can’t hear it live on the radio or at, the show will be archived and available for the following 2 weeks. Hope you can listen in.

michaelnicholson on April 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Before I continue the story, let me clear up a few points. Instead of winging it, I decided to go through some old stuff. I kept track of each day’s box office when we were on Main St. in a series of notebooks. We were shut for showing Heart Throbs after the 5:00 show on 9/14/76. We reopened (after assuring the authorities we wouldn’t show HT) on Friday, 9/24/76. We did show “Heart Throbs ‘77” for six weeks beginning March 23 of that year. The Jazz on Film series actually ran 8 weeks (totaling $9201, not great, but better than I remembered). Fleischer ran for 4 weeks and totaled $10,675. The first week we had 27 shows, 21 of them sellouts.
The woman who serves Larry in the clip is of course the lovely Ingrid, close friend to our partner Mike Peck (more about him when we get to State St and Pearl St.
The reason I don’t post more is that I do not have a computer, and have to use the one at work. I’ll try to speed it up, since I can’t wait to find out how it comes out.