Off The Wall Cinema

15 Pearl Street,
Cambridge, MA 02139

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Showing 51 - 75 of 97 comments

MaxAndDave on April 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

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 3:59 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 27, 2010 at 12:14 am

Pearl St. I have no doubt.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 26, 2010 at 11:51 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 10:24 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 7:20 pm

Also ART THEATRES never hardly work.

TLSLOEWS on April 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

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

MaxAndDave on April 26, 2010 at 7:11 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 3:32 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 11:35 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 3:38 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 9:04 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 4:18 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…

rausifer on October 20, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Michael – I also did not know about this site but am glad I found it! Don’t know if you remember me, but I did a little documentary segment for a video production class (1979!!) about Off the Wall. I would be glad to send you a copy. I am “friends” with Sally Cruickshank on Facebook and was going to send her a copy also since it mentions “Quasi at the Quackadero” (what a classic).

I wanted you and everyone to know what wonderful experiences I had at Off the Wall when I was at BU. It certainly shaped my tastes and my love for short films forever after. Thank you so much.

Rick Usifer
scrabbler (at)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on October 4, 2009 at 1:18 am

Hi, Michael! Glad to see you here. Please correct any errors I’ve made in this post. I look forward to reading more comments by you and learning more about Off the Wall’s history.

michaelnicholson on August 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm

WOW! I never knew this site existed. My name is Michael Nicholson, co-founder (along with Larry Silverman) of Off the Wall. Thanks for all the wonderful comments and memories. Most of the information is accurate, but I’ll give you the inside view in subsequent postings. One thing no one has mentioned is our co-sponsorship of the New England Animation Festival. The first featured June Foray and Bill Scott and the second, Chuck Jones (both at New England Life Hall). If you go to You Tube (voices of bullwinkle and rocky) you can see a wonderful video of June and Bill made during their trip to Boston.

MaxAndDave on December 15, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Thanks, Tuxguys and all! Always good to hear from someone else who remembers Off the Wall. I first went there during the same summer and for the same animation program that you did, Tuxguys, and I became very attached to the place later. Y'know, watching those eye-popping Fleisher cartoons in my own living room, even with coffee and cheesecake, just isn’t the same as watching them in a darkened theater full of animation fans. OK, so sometimes it was just three or four fans, but still… Whenever I’m in Central Square I still glance down Main Street expecting to see the Off the Wall banner and plate glass facade on the corner of Green Street.

tuxguys on December 11, 2008 at 11:29 pm

A late night, a glass of wine, and, on a whim, I Google “Off the Wall” to see if anyone has ever even heard of my favorite movie theater of all time, and lo and behold… 1978 was my first full summer in Boston and I went to OTW at it’s original location on Main St. to see a Fleisher Bros. cartoon festival (Betty Boop, Popeye, Superman), and fell in love immediately with the scholarly program notes that were handed out with each admission, as well as with the coffee and cheesecake. Some years later, I wrote a monthly column for the BEACON (an extremely small-circulation periodical with a somewhat exclusive readership) called The MOVIE-CRAWL, and I believe a review of whatever I had seen at OTW made it in almost every column. God, how I miss that place…

Lastdaysofrain on January 7, 2008 at 3:38 pm

What is in the old location now?

wombatzone on May 24, 2007 at 11:29 am

Never mind — it was yanked. “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.”

wombatzone on May 24, 2007 at 11:15 am


Where is the YouTube clip with the Off the Wall in it? Looked but couldn’t find it. Maybe its gone? Thanks.

Philcoman on March 3, 2007 at 9:30 pm

All I can tell you about the DVDs is to do a whole lot of leg work. Film archives, libraries, even Netflix. If the titles are not on DVD, they might be on VHS. Start networking with film fanatics, talk to distributors and independent theater owners — the Brattle Theater in Cambridge MA apparently got Off the Wall’s library; maybe the folks there can even put you in touch with one of the Off the Wall owners. Eventually you’ll jog a few memories for titles or find sources, as well as some films you didn’t know about, and you’ll meet some interesting people. Best of luck, and keep us posted on the progress of the new “Off the Wall Family Cinema!”

wildsparrow on March 3, 2007 at 8:25 am

Thanks a lot, Carl. That definitely gets me thinking. I can go the DVD route and keep it small, no problem. How hard would it be to find the same quality films on DVD, though? I’m sure I can get American films – Paul Bunyan in claymation, perhaps, or popular books like the Juggler of Notre Dame animated – but what about the foreign gems? I remember one about a boy and his zebra – another about an elephant in a small village. Those were probably pretty obscure. Thanks again for your good advice.

Philcoman on March 3, 2007 at 7:08 am

NickOD — Thanks for pointing me to the YouTube clip. It was great seeing the theater again! For the record, the guy looking for a cheap date is Larry Silverman. He was one of the original owners, but had left to work as a producer at WSBK at the time he did this segment. The woman behind the counter is Ingrid, who really did work behind the counter at Off the Wall from time to time. The piano player is indeed Albert Lamb, who played piano for the silent films. So your memory is accurate.