Charles Cinema

185 Cambridge Street,
Boston, MA 02114

Unfavorite 11 people favorited this theater

Showing 51 - 75 of 77 comments

parktheatre on May 5, 2006 at 9:14 am

The screen at the Charles (upstairs) was a very good size, to be sure. I believe the biggest screen in the “Star Wars era” in Greater Boston may have been the Saxon on Tremont St. (now the Emerson Majestic). Although the picture quality at the Charles was excellent, the sound was not particularly good, maybe even sub-par.

shaggycub on April 17, 2006 at 2:13 pm

As a child, my father took the family to see all three Star Wars movies there. I also recall having seen “Fantasia” there, and I think we saw “Return to Oz” there as well. My father’s a bit of an AV snob, so for the really big event movies, he’d find the bestest sound and picture, and at that time, I remember the Charles had the biggest screen around (the second was the Coolidge, no?)-but sound wasn’t quite as important in theaters then as it is now. Another random Charles memory was seeing the trailer for “9 to 5” there-boy was I excited to see that movie.

parktheatre on December 22, 2005 at 6:09 pm

I worked at the Charles in 1980-81. I worked during The Rose and All That Jazz and recall Jack Lemmon coming in to see a special showing of, I think, Paper Tiger. I was working concessions upstairs during Empire Strikes Back. They let the velvet ropes go and everyone came charging at us. What a madhouse it was, with continuous sell-outs! One night during that run I was working downstairs and we were robbed at gunpoint—the cash draw was so close to the door—I quit soon after that!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on September 28, 2005 at 10:29 am

Recent construction at Charles River Plaza has changed the street addresses of some buildings there. The building that formerly contained the Charles Cinema is now called 185 Cambridge Street.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 26, 2005 at 5:07 am

I saw an ideal presentation of The Empire Strikes Back here in July 31, 1980.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 26, 2005 at 5:47 am

When Sack took over the Charles, they dropped the “Charles East” and “Charles West” names for the smaller auditoriums, and just called the whole thing “Charles 1-2-3”.

ErikH on June 26, 2005 at 5:41 am

The appendix of King’s book states that the Charles opened in 1966 (the text states April 1967). Similar glitch regarding the opening of the Pi Alley (1968 or 1969?).

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 18, 2005 at 8:02 pm

According to Donald C. King’s new book The Theatres of Boston: A Stage and Screen History, the large screen at the Charles opened in April 1967, but the two smaller downstairs screens, “Charles East” and “Charles West”, opened in 1973.

Coate on June 14, 2005 at 9:28 pm

The New England exclusive engagement of “Star Wars” was at the Charles, as mentioned previously in this discussion, and began May 25, 1977. The engagement upgraded to a 70mm presentation in September 1977 (which was also a New England exclusive).

jph on May 27, 2005 at 5:49 pm

I remember visiting the old Charles site in March 1996 just as it was being transformed into a conference center. They had many of the old auditorium chairs sitting out in the hallway outside the lobby, so I took one home. Was able to get a brief look at the large cinema which had been all torn out. The upstairs part of the cinema seemed to stay the same right from when it closed in 10/94 to winter 1996 (while the downstairs was quickly remodeled), and they didn’t change the marquee til at least later in 96 or 97.

Miki on May 26, 2005 at 2:53 am

Hi—I, too have fond memories of the Charles Cinema, in Boston. I remember seeing Star Wars there, as well as other wonderful films in 70mm, including my alltime favorite film, West Side Story, which made a three-week debut there in the summer of 1976, which I took full advantage of, by attending an evening screening of WSS every other night!

tomovieboy70 on April 22, 2005 at 5:13 pm

I attended Boston University in the mid-1970s, and my firends and I attended many first-run screenings in this great theater. We stood in line through two showings of “Star Wars” to be amongst the first in Boston to see it in 70mm, threw popcorn into the air (accidentally) during “Alien”, and marveled to “West Side Story” in 70mm stereo on the huge Charles screen. Wonderful place to see films in Boston in those days. Many good memories.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 17, 2005 at 2:23 pm

I saw that one there, too. It may well have been the last “big event” 70mm movie to play the Charles.

marlowe on March 17, 2005 at 2:07 pm

The last movie I saw at the Charles was Jurassic Park. It wasn’t that great compared to other stadium-steating theatres with Digital sound (was only matrix stereo).

One of the best films I did see what Gettysburg, allbeit four-hours long. It started at 7pm intermission from 9-9:30pm and finished at 11:30pm.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 15, 2005 at 10:33 am

According to a Boston Globe article published on October 6, 1994, the final films to show on the three Charles screens were “My Fair Lady,” “Schindler’s List” and “Corrina, Corrina”. The large screen had 900 seats.

deleted user
[Deleted] on January 5, 2005 at 8:50 pm

The address given for the Charles Cinema is 195 Cambridge St.

bunnyman on January 5, 2005 at 2:50 pm

It was a triplex with Walter Reade, I recall seeing ‘Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin In the Bronx’/ ‘The Twelve Chairs’ double feature downstairs, this was after Gene Wilder & Mel Brooks became hot properties. I also recall seeing a very obscure film called ‘All This and WWII’ upstairs with fantastic sound and almost no audience.
An unconfirmed rumor is that the first run of Jaws at the Charles caused Ben Sack to be booted out as the head of Sack Theatres. He was still insisting on exclusive Boston runs for big pictures before they opened in the suburbs but Universal wanted to open Jaws everywhere at once. As a result the still Reade owned Charles played the pic and did incredible business. Sack took off on a vacation flight as the head of the chain but was out by the time he landed.

br91975 on January 3, 2005 at 7:46 pm

For a time after the Charles triplex closed its doors, the removed seats from the upstairs auditorium were stacked and stored in its accompanying lobby.

One key reason why a movie theatre probably won’t be included in the newly redeveloped Charles River Plaza is the location of the Loews Boston Common Theatre at Tremont and Avery Streets. That venue was built where it was, besides being a prime location which draws from most parts of the city and of surrounding cities and towns (with the subway station across the street helping matters greatly), in order to dissuade competition from other chains – and to essentially accelerate the closing of its other, less luxurious Boston sites (i.e., the Cheri, the Copley Place, and the Nickelodeon). Given those circumstances, it’s unreasonable to expect another cinema, save for perhaps a multi-screen, all-stadium seating art house (and one, at that, which would be operated by a chain dedicated to such fare – i.e., Landmark), to be built within geographical range of the Boston Common.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 3, 2005 at 7:38 pm

I never knew about the conference center until you posted about it. Thanks for the lead!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 3, 2005 at 7:17 pm

“Charles River Plaza” is the outdoor shopping center where the Charles Cinema was located. It is located on the north side of Cambridge Street and is being extensively redeveloped. Both addresses are probably correct in their own way.

I doubt that a cinema will ever be located here again.

Here’s a link to the Starr Center, which is part of the Schepens Eye Research Institute. The page says “Housed in a former cinema” and has a photo of the interior, but also says “Seating for 244”, which is quite a bit less than the old Charles Cinema main auditorium used to seat.

So the Function should probably be changed from “Unknown” to “Conference Center”.

(By the way, the page also says “The Starr Center is closed until further notice due to construction in the Charles River Plaza complex.”)

Borisbadenov on January 3, 2005 at 6:32 pm

I saw almost evryting that played the main screen when I lived on the Hill and it was my neighborhood theater, including the re-releases of Sparticus and ‘Star is Born’. One thing that caused a stir near the end, was the lack of handicap access; they did eventually install an elevator, but at first there was only an escalator-I remember protests. That whole plaza is being (slowly) rebuilt. Who knows, maybe a theater will come back!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 19, 2004 at 1:42 am

I found a history of the Charles in an archived Boston Globe article from October 6, 1994. It says that Walter Reade Jr. personally opened the Charles on April 6, 1967. It closed as a Reade theater in December 1976 and re-opened as a Sack theater the following March. It closed for good on October 7, 1994.

ErikH on November 17, 2004 at 4:53 pm

I am not sure exactly when Sack took over the Charles from Walter Reade, but it was between 1975 and 1977. I remember seeing a number of films there in the early 1970s, such as “1776” and Bergman’s “The Magic Flute” when it was a Reade theater. And Reade still owned the Charles when “Jaws” opened there in June 1975. By the time of the debut of “Star Wars” at the Charles in May 1977, Sack had taken over.

The Charles played “Star Wars” exclusively for the first month after its release and the film remained at the Charles for, if memory serves, close to a year. “Empire” and “Jedi” were shown at the Charles (“Empire” also on an initially exclusive basis). “The Deer Hunter” was presented at the Charles not only exclusively but (highly unusual for that era) on a reserved seat basis.

A shame that USA Cinemas (and then later Sony/Loews) favored complexes such as the Cheri and Nickelodeon at the expense of the Charles. By the early 1990s, the main auditorium was in surprisingly shabby condition. I remember attending a screening of “Dances With Wolves” and being appalled at the peeling paint and wallpaper, sticky floors, broken chairs, stained curtain, etc.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 17, 2004 at 11:25 am

I saw a good number of films at the Charles including the opening attraction,“You’re A Big Boy Now!” of Francis Ford Coppola. I remember the terrific sound for Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz” in the main auditorium. I also especially enjoyed the revival of Kubrick’s “Spartacus” in a restored version in May of 1991. It was a great spacious auditorium with top-notch projection, making every movie you watched there seem even better.

orcarol81153 on November 17, 2004 at 11:10 am

I have a trivia question. Could anyone tell me what famous Bostonian ushered at a Lowes Theatre in Boston? Thanks.