Orson Welles Cinema

1001 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02138

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Showing 76 - 100 of 125 comments

Starny
Starny on October 10, 2005 at 7:36 pm

Thanks Gerald! That’s it!

I didn’t write back immediately because I was on my way to Cambridge, Ma. I passed the old site of the Orson Welles Cinema and was able to connect my memories even better because of the information on this list.

Thanks again!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 8, 2005 at 9:14 am

Starny, that sounds like the 1977 Outrageous. Info on it can be found by clicking here.

Starny
Starny on October 8, 2005 at 8:15 am

I have been trying to find the name of a film that I saw at the Orson Welles Cinema, sometime around 1978-9. It was not a great film, but I really liked it. It was charming and I saw it three times in two days. As you can tell it has gotten under my skin.

The film was set in Toronto. There were two friends, a schizophrenic young woman and a man who worked as a female impersonator/transvestite, in a club, singing. I thought the film was out of the Film Board of Canada, but haven’t been able to find it on their website. Does anyone here remember anything about this? I will attempt to contact some of the people mentioned earlier in these comments, but if you know who may have been involved in programming the films around then it would be a help.

Thanks!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 9, 2005 at 6:58 pm

Here’s another brief Harvard Crimson piece about the announced opening of the Esquire Theatre in 1964.

ErikH
ErikH on August 8, 2005 at 6:11 pm

Very interesting article from the Crimson. It’s probably worth noting that the author of that article, Frank Rich, is one of the op-ed contributors to The New York Times (and before that, he was the film critic for Time magazine, and then the theater critic for the Times; nicknamed “The Butcher of Broadway”). His son, Simon, is co-editor in chief of the Harvard Lampoon, which just published a very amusing parody of Premiere magazine.

LaConnection
LaConnection on August 8, 2005 at 2:09 pm

The documentary MIDNIGHT MOVIES that is playing on the ENCORE/STARZ network has several bits on the ORSON WELLES CINEMA and their showing of THE HARDER THEY COME, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and other midnight shows.
Also, ran across this archived HARVARD CRIMSON article on the Welles' opening in 1969: View link

LaConnection
LaConnection on August 8, 2005 at 2:05 pm

The documentary MIDNIGHT MOVIES that is playing on the ENCORE/STARZ network has several bits on the ORSON WELLES CINEMA and their showing of THE HARDER THEY COME, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and other midnight shows.
Also, ran across this archived HARVARD CRIMSON article on the Welles' opening in 1969: View link

LaConnection
LaConnection on June 28, 2005 at 11:28 am

RE: “Did this marathon perhaps begin with a Year Zero?"
posted by Ron Newman on Jun 28, 2005 at 11:17am

No, there wasn’t a Year Zero (but there WAS a ‘Panic in Year Zero’ (THAT movie has been part of a marathon :) ). Seriously, though, a many point to the Orson Welles Cinema’s showing of classic films, including double-bills of Classic SF films as the kernal which eventually popped into the full blown Marathon in 1976. So, you were on to something.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 28, 2005 at 11:17 am

Did this marathon perhaps begin with a Year Zero?

LaConnection
LaConnection on June 28, 2005 at 11:14 am

Again, I am here to applaud Larry Jackson, but, I must sincerely correct him. I have the programs for ALL 30 years of the Marathon.

Year ONE was 1976. And, year TWO (the year the STAR WARS reel was shown was in 1977 (February 20th & 21st, to be exact. And we all know that STAR WARS was released in May, 1977. Pull out your Perpetual Years calendar to confirm). Indeed, right in the Year TWO program, there’s the following note: “Plus more treats including scenes from soon to be released STAR WARS and Ralph Bakshi’s WAR WIZARDS” (later simply WIZARDS). Further, as 2005 was the 30th year of the event, with NEVER a missed year – Well, you can do the math. The Marathon began on February 15th and 16th, 1976 (again, consult your perpetual years calendar to confirm that this was the Sunday and Monday of President’s Day weekend).

My point is not to nitpick, but to just correct the historical record and to point out that since 1977 was only the 2nd year of the event, it was far from becoming stale and full of repeated movies.

lej100
lej100 on June 28, 2005 at 10:03 am

Dear La Connection:

I’m glad that a “Historian of the Marathon” cares so diligently about the history of the event, but I must correct your correction. I hold in my hand the flyer for the 1976 24-Hour SciFi Marathon, which clearly heralds it as the “Second Annual.” I started the event in 1975, not 1976.

Thanks to Justin, J.D. et al for picking up the torch after I moved to Los Angeles in 1979. That new sci-fi films came back into production following the 1977 Lucas benchmark is something that has been a boon to us all.

Larry Jackson

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on June 28, 2005 at 7:07 am

This Boston Phoenix article shows a photo of the Orson Welles, whose marquee advertises “Gone With the Wind”, “The Producers”, “Hi Mom”, and “Une Partie De Plaisir”.

LaConnection
LaConnection on June 22, 2005 at 2:40 pm

RE:“Anybody remember that in the 24-hour Sci-Fi Marathon (which I began in the early Seventies on President’s Day Weekend to fill the theater on a weekend the audience often took out of town for vacation) that in 1977 we had the first public showing anywhere of a reel of preview footage from STAR WARS?! The marathon was getting a little creaky with little new material to offer and many favorites repeating ad infinitum, so I asked around for ideas from friends in the biz. Gary Meyer in Berkeley said "You know I hear George has a clip reel from this new picture of his Fox is supposed to release called STAR WARS, but they seem to be just sitting on it…” Cheers, Larry Jackson on Apr 1, 2005 at 10:07am"

As the sort of unofficial Historian of the Marathon (which is STILL going 30 years on! www.bostonsci-fi.com),,) I applaud Mr.Jackson for helping get the event going. I would be remiss if I didn’t also note the critical input and involvement of Justin Freed, Mark Diamond, J.D.Pollack, Bruce Bartoo and so many others in getting the event to the place where it has survived for 3 decades.
One other note. The Marathon began in 1976, so I think Mr.Jackson mis-remembers history when he writes that the Marathon was getting “creaky” after just 1 year! At that time no films had been repeated, yet alone “ad infinitum”. Somehow, we’ve continued to find and book films to keep the event alive and interesting for 28 more years!
Thanks again to Mr.Jackson and all those who have made this a signature Boston movie event!

JaneKay
JaneKay on June 10, 2005 at 9:24 am

I still miss the Orson Welles Theater. I lived around the corner from it and saw so many unusual, fun movies—some of the memorable ones: The Brother from Another Planet, Liquid Sky, Fanny and Alexander, Repo Man…. It was a terrible loss when the building burned. I moved to New York years ago and I know Cambridge has changed a lot, but it still holds fond memories for me.

billwhite
billwhite on April 5, 2005 at 3:47 pm

This is true. The area wasn’t razed for high-rise development. It became an elevated strip mall for those occupying the high rises.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 5, 2005 at 3:36 pm

The Jacks-Uncle Bunny’s building was replaced with new high-rise development, but the Orson Welles just became a row of small retail stores; it wasn’t really redeveloped.

billwhite
billwhite on April 5, 2005 at 3:21 pm

the jack’s fire was very similar to that of the welles.
it was also an old building that stood in the way of re-development.
i dont know who owned the building in which the theatre was housed.
the hoaglands and, for that matter, the union, never contacted me through the five-year span of the trial, and i wasnt told until afterward why i was selected as defendant. there was another employee named, but i will withold her name, as the whole affair affected her more deeply than it did me. secure in my lack of culpability, i successfully defended myself of all charges.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on April 5, 2005 at 3:09 pm

I never knew that you or other employees were sued. I would have written about it for some newspaper had I known about it. Who were the building owners?

I recall another fire across the street from the Welles that destroyed Jack’s nightclub and Uncle Bunny’s ice cream parlor.

billwhite
billwhite on April 5, 2005 at 2:55 pm

i was the supervisor on duty on the day of the fire.
it did not start with oil in the popcorn machine.
this was a first impression that was never corrected in the media.
it was an electrical fire that was first noticed in the area above the popcorn machine.
i went for a fire extinguisher but the fire was spreading too fast across the ceiling so i dropped the extinguisher, called the fire departmentment and projectionista, and evacuated the theatre.
because of a clause in the lease, the owners of the building were unable to sue the hoaglands, who were leasees, but they were allowed to sue employees of the hoaglands.
for five years, i fought in court to vindicate myself from accusations of negligence and was finally successful.
the orson welles fire was only one of several fires on that stretch of mass ave that began mysteriously and were never seriously investigated.
that area was immediately redeveloped.

lej100
lej100 on April 1, 2005 at 10:07 am

It was a very special time in history we all shared then. Sadly, it seems likely that no later generation will ever love or experience cinema in quite that way again.

They were the happiest days of my life I’d say now (undoubtedly to the chagrin of both women who were married to me). I was the Managing Director of the Welles from 1971-1978, and it was the theater version of what Orson said about filmmaking while directing KANE with no strings attached: “The greatest electric train set a boy ever had!”

Anybody remember that in the 24-hour Sci-Fi Marathon (which I began in the early Seventies on President’s Day Weekend to fill the theater on a weekend the audience often took out of town for vacation) that in 1977 we had the first public showing anywhere of a reel of preview footage from STAR WARS?! The marathon was getting a little creaky with little new material to offer and many favorites repeating ad infinitum, so I asked around for ideas from friends in the biz. Gary Meyer in Berkeley said “You know I hear George has a clip reel from this new picture of his Fox is supposed to release called STAR WARS, but they seem to be just sitting on it. Maybe you could get that.” So I called the branch manager of Fox in Boston, Marty Berman, and asked him. He said he knew they had this picture in the line-up that they referred to as some silly sort of sci-fi/western, but it wasn’t scheduled yet and they weren’t saying too much about it, but he’d ask “the guys on the Coast.” He called back the next day to say Fox HQ said “OK” after he suggested that this theater famous for its wacky college audience might shed some light into how people reacted to the film they didn’t want to expose yet. A week or so later we got the reel, about 10 minutes long, I think, all clips, and three of us looked at it one morning in Cinema 1 with our mouths agape. Needless to say it went into the marathon program and was bicycled between both Cinema 1 and 2. The audience went nuts, especially in the clip (completely out of context) when R2D2 does a face plant like Arte Johnson on Laugh-In. On Tues. I called Marty Berman. He asked how it played to “the kids.” “Pretty good, pretty good, Marty,” I said. “By the way, what are you doing for first run Boston area on it?” He told me they had no plans yet because sci-fi had been out of favor since SPACE ODYSSEY and westerns hadn’t been popular since THE WILD BUNCH. The studio had no hopes for it and was even thinking about not releasing it to save embarrassment. I told him I wanted it for the Welles, even though we didn’t play first run studio films. We’d even put up an advance guarantee. He agreed to see it he could get the bosses to go along and maybe let the college kids set the compass for the release. Again, next day he called back and said he was sorry but “The Coast” decided they could not vary from a normal first-run theater pattern, because this guy Lucas was a big shot since AMERICAN GRAFFITI and they might get sued for messing his film up if they got creative in marketing. They would just put it in a couple of the usual first run houses and let it die of its own merits in May. I knew he was powerless, so I thanked him, went to the Coolidge Bank in Harvard Square, withdrew my entire $1500 savings and bought Fox stock at about 4 bucks a share. After the picture opened in May I sold it at $47 a share.

One last anecdote: Anyone remember the very first House Manager of the Welles? Tommy Lee Jones in spring of his senior year at Harvard.

I’d love to be in touch with some of the old gang from those days. I’m releasing films now from a base in Northampton, MA, after 22 strange years in Hollywierd. (Current pic is “DON’T MOVE.) You can reach me at

Cheers,

Larry Jackson

bunnyman
bunnyman on March 23, 2005 at 12:16 pm

Another unique item from a history of the Orson Welles Cinema that appeared in (I believe) the Boston Phoenix paper. It mentioned that what was Cinema 3 was once an adult sandbox.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 22, 2005 at 5:48 pm

We’ve got a listing for the Fine Arts. Check it out.

At various times, I think the Paris, Kenmore Square, and Park Square were also part of the Esquire ‘chain’. What’s now the Boston University (Huntington) Theatre was also called the Esquire when it was a movie theatre, so I wonder if it too was affiliated.

sinclair
sinclair on March 22, 2005 at 4:51 pm

Take me back! All these facts – some people actually remember. Yes, the Esquire… saw Warhol’s “My Hustler” there as a mere teen. Yes, the Restaurant, serving in groups of four only. Does anyone have any takes on Odette Berry, the restaurant’s chef? I studied with her for a year – she was a Cordon Bleu chef and wrote an African cookbook for Time/Life – then did the Turtle Cafe in Inman Sq. and the something like For All Seasons on Beacon Hill. Recalling an empty space at 1001 Mass Ave (or thereabouts) with a full Red Grooms installation “Red Grooms' Department Store.” And as to the sound system at the Welles – it was done by Marshall Goldberg, who at the time was the sound engineer at the Ark/Tea Party on Landsdowne St., and thus brought that whole deal with Neil Young home for me, as he bought speakers from Goldberg also, as did MIT for their auditorium, even with Bose teaching there. Does anyone recall the sister theater to the Esquire – the Fine Arts over by Berkley School of Music? When Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls” opened there in 1968 or ‘69, the Bosotn Police confiscated and burned the print!
There was a record shop attached to the Welles around 1970 too. A food coop functioned through the auspices of that locale that traveled from home to home to disperse the goods. Unbelievable in this day and age.
I always found someone willing to buy an Old Mole from me there when a new edition came from the press. Oh yeah, the smell of tear gas in Harvard Square….

Fogwrestler
Fogwrestler on March 9, 2005 at 11:15 pm

In response to Ron’s post, just copying in my comment from my previous post, re adding Cinema 3:

“At some point between 1972 and 1973, we expanded to three cinemas, and parked "The Harder They Come” in Cinema 3 for the duration."

Cinema 2 was already there when I got there.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 9, 2005 at 10:45 pm

In a September 1970 Boston Globe theatre listing, the Orson Welles is a single-screen cinema. Does anyone know (a) when it was renamed from Esquire to Orson Welles, and (b) when cinemas 2 and 3 were added?