Charles Cinema

185 Cambridge Street,
Boston, MA 02114

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Showing 51 - 75 of 85 comments

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.

parktheatre on May 5, 2006 at 6:14 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 11:13 am

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 3:09 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 7:29 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 2:07 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 2:47 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 2:41 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 5:02 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 6:28 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 2:49 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 25, 2005 at 11:53 pm

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 2:13 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 11:23 am

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 11:07 am

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 7:33 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 5:50 pm

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

bunnyman on January 5, 2005 at 11:50 am

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.