Off The Wall Cinema

15 Pearl Street,
Cambridge, MA 02139

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michaelnicholson on July 12, 2011 at 12:31 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 4:35 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 8:29 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 9:02 pm

well? Get on with it, we’re waiting…

michaelnicholson on July 26, 2010 at 12:32 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 1:34 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 5:27 pm

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

michaelnicholson on May 17, 2010 at 12:37 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 5:37 pm

Hey, looking forward!

michaelnicholson on May 4, 2010 at 9:39 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 1:16 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.

MaxAndDave on April 29, 2010 at 9:57 am

Mike, for god’s sake, don’t leave us hanging!

This would make robust content for an Off the Wall tribute site! Anyone interested?

michaelnicholson on April 27, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Yes, that is Pearl St. Larry was of course still with OTW when we were on Main St. He was at Ch. 38 when we were at Pearl St. Speaking of Main St., I promised the story of “Heart Throbs.” I might have come up with the title and the concept- films of sensuality & sexuality -but I don’t really remember. Anyway, sex sells, right? So we splurged on multi-color posters with the logo, the butt cheeks in the heart shape, and put them up around town. Well some Cambridge City Councilor got offended and the next thing we know, we were “investigated” by a couple of plain clothes police. At that time, especially at early shows, we would push the lock button on the front door (locking from the outside, but not the inside), so of course that was suspicious. Someone brought up films being flammable. Well nitrate films went out 50 years ago, just ask any of the other ½ dozen movie theaters in Cambridge. One film we showed was a 5 minute film called “Ass.” As it opens, you see an attractive woman in short shorts and a top tied beneath her breasts. She’s in a barn, pitchforking some hay. As she works, she appears to get turned on, drops the pitchfork and leans back on the hay, rubbing her hands over her body. The only sound so far has been the noise of a running projector. The camera pulls back to reveal that this film has been screening on a movie screen set up in a barn with an audience of…donkeys! This was described by one of the officers as a film about bestiality. That still blows my mind today. My favorite film was “The Club” by George Griffiths. It was an animation showing one of those “old boy” clubs where all the members were literally male members. Any way, we got shut down and it was big news. So much bigger news than when we reopened about two weeks later that it took us months to recover. “Off the Wall? Aren’t you the ones got closed down?"
Next: How’d we come up with those programs, anyway?

tuxguys on April 26, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Pearl St. I have no doubt.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 26, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Glad to see this on YouTube again — for a while it had disappeared due to a copyright takedown claim.

Which Off the Wall was this — Main Street or Pearl Street?

tuxguys on April 26, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Seeing Albert Lamb, in OTW, looking exactly as I remember it, snackbar window and all, was like looking through a timescope. Thank you.

TLSLOEWS on April 26, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Also ART THEATRES never hardly work.

TLSLOEWS on April 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Now thats very “Off The Wall”,Nice Name!

MaxAndDave on April 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Thanks for the latest installment, Michael. Keep ‘em coming! In the meantime, here’s Larry Silverman himself, sneaking an Off the Wall promo into an episode of “We Don’t Knock” on channel 38 in Boston. That’s resident Off the Wall pianist Albert Lamb on the piano. Oh, you have to sit through Dana Hersey at the Rat first…

michaelnicholson on April 26, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Guess what? Larry Silverman has seen this site and got in touch with me over the weekend! I haven’t talked with him in about 20 years. So now I’ll get off my butt and continue the story. We struggled early. Larry was convinced early that to be credible, we couldn’t just show, say, a program of Yugoslavian animation, we’d have to do one specific animator. We learned fast, but could never get that big hit show. One brainstorm we had was a Jazz on Film Festival. In six parts. Box office gold, right? Wrong, but we had left open three weeks in case we wanted to hold over some of the jazz shows. We needed a show fast, and consulted our friend in the animation distribution field, Charles Samu. He suggested a program of Max Fleischer cartoons. Hey, we did ‘animation,’ not Hollywood cartoons, but we were desperate. Superman, Popeye, and especially Betty Boop. We got rave reviews in all the press. People told me the line to get in to some weekend shows went to Mass Av., but we were too busy to check it out. Betty became a staple and Hollywood cartoons became a staple at OTW.
Next: Heart Throbs (You guys are still shut down, right?0

tuxguys on February 10, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Michael Nicholson! Weren’t you the voice of the “now showing” outgoing messages on the OTW phone machine?

“Next: early struggles until we found Betty Boop… ”

Don’t tease us, get on with it!

MaxAndDave on January 11, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Yes Michael, I DID notice that “Quasi at the Quackadero” was inducted! By the way, Ron Lynch (late of the Comedy Clubhouse) was asking about you just the other day.

michaelnicholson on January 5, 2010 at 6:04 am

I hope everybody noticed that “Quasi at the Quackadero” was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Way to go Sally!

michaelnicholson on October 30, 2009 at 1:18 pm

OK, let me start at the beginning. Larry Silverman and I were roommates at 23 Cummings Rd. in Brighton in 1973. I was a Northeastern student and he worked for an agency making commercials. Somehow, Larry talked his bosses into lending him a 16mm projector and screen, and the use of a BPL card that allowed us to take out up to 90 minutes of 16mm films per week. We started showing films once a week, but soon had to show them twice to accomodate our friends' schedules. We would pass the hat for money to buy projection bulbs, which were expensive and not long lasting. I drew a little schedule poster that hung in our kitchen. After a while we wanted to use my bedroom as a projection booth. We approached the landlord for permission to cut a hole in the wall, and not only did he say yes, he lent us the tools to do it! The next step was to go public. I came up with the name because it was Larry’s favorite phrase that year. We convinced our downstairs neighbor, Jay Berman, to put up $5,000, and Larry located the space at 861 Main St. After a lot of work, including building the miniscule projection booth in our tiny kitchen (no more than 2 people could be in the booth), we opened on Friday, December 13, 1974. Yes, that’s right, Friday the 13th!
Next: early struggles until we found Betty Boop…