Copley Place Cinemas

100 Huntington Avenue,
Boston, MA 02116

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Showing 76 - 100 of 134 comments

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 2, 2005 at 8:15 pm

And I was slightly wrong about the location of the never-built Loews Kenmore Square multiplex — which was also supposed to have 11 screens. It would have replaced the former Howard Johnson’s hotel on Commonwealth Avenue. After the cinema plans died, Boston University turned this hotel into a dormitory.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 2, 2005 at 8:08 pm

Redford’s proposed Sundance Cinema, which he wanted to build in partnership with General Cinema, would have replaced a parking garage on Lansdowne Street. It would have been 8 stories tall and contained 11 screens, as well as a film library, restaurant, and two bars. The neighborhood favored it, and so did the mayor, but financing apparently did not work out and the project died in September 1999.

It’s too bad — Boston would really have benefited from this.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 2, 2005 at 7:59 pm

Someone I know from another (unrelated) bulletin board saw my comments here, and sent me this:

“I was one of the former managers of the Copley Loews Cinema! Just found it interesting that you were commenting on its closure. Unfortunate for Boston, the site will be the last stand for art-house movies. The war between Loews and Simon Malls [owner of the Copley Place mall] is finally over. The design was never changed or updated, because Simon has wanted that property back for over 5 to 6 years! They wanted Loews to discontinue showing regular-mainstream movies due to issues with the nearby Roxbury neighborhood. Too many fights, too many police calls. They had Loews sign an agreement that only family or art-sy movies would be shown and that no ‘urban’ movies woudl ever play again.

“Loews responded by building the Commons complex, which ranks as one of the biggest complexes in the US. (That’s another nightmare, in itself, as one of their biggest money losers on the East Coast due to property issues with evacuations on all too regular basis caused by the gym and the residences smoke detectors setting off building fire alarms for the entire Millenium Tower) Loews knew the end was near with lease with Simons. Most of the [Copley] cinemas were mice infested due to Chili’s and the food court above it.

“There are many other stories that I could tell you, but basically, it was a fun job, I got to deal with the Boston theater critics on a regular basis, including David Brudnoy! And because the location and the art-house films, when local celebrities were staying in the hotels that surround the two malls, we had a bevy of stars checking out the films, on a regular basis. …if you have any questions about it…feel free to ask.”

debbi on February 2, 2005 at 6:25 pm

Hmmm…unless my memory is even worse than I imagined, I recall that on one side of Landsdowne Street is Fenway Park, on the other are four adjacent nightclubs that are doing very well. There are some industrial/business buildings at the top of the block. I wonder what he planned to demolish.

(Then again, knowing many Boston residents' aversion to nightlife of any kind…it wouldn’t surprise me if they did lean on Redford to demolish the nightclubs.)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 2, 2005 at 4:59 am

I believe Robert Redford wanted to build his multiplex on Landsdowne Street, and Loews was going to build theirs on a vacant lot owned by BU, across from the post office. But I’m not sure.
(That vacant lot would still be a great place for a cinema.)

Loews filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on February 15, 2001, so the early 90s closings were unrelated. But the Nickelodeon closing was a direct and immediate result of the bankruptcy.

debbi on February 1, 2005 at 11:43 pm

Where could Robert Redford have possibly built the multiplex? Kenmore Square is totally jammed with buildings.

Is the bankruptcy the reason the reason all those cinemas closed one by one? It’s sad especially that three of them died within a two year period. (1992-94)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 1, 2005 at 3:11 pm

Loews was going to build a multiplex in Kenmore Square, and another at the ‘Crosstown Center’ on Mass. Ave. in the South End, near Boston City Hospital. When Loews went into bankruptcy, these plans died.

Robert Redford wanted to build a Sundance Cinema multiplex near Kenmore Square, and that didn’t happen either.

debbi on February 1, 2005 at 3:06 pm

While living in Boston in the mid-late 1990s, I remember reading every so often about either Loews or AMC (or maybe both?—the memory here is foggy) planning to build a multiplex in the South End. Whatever happened with that? The South End, if I remember correctly, was/is a crummy neighborhood, but wouldn’t that be a different location than downtown/Fenway?

And good riddance to the Copley Place cinemas.

Tom10 on February 1, 2005 at 8:25 am

The Kendall is a fine theater. Alas, it’s a long, dreary walk from the Red Line through a barren wasteland made worse in extreme weather; and driving in there, at least from the South Shore, can be a real chore, even outside of the rush hour. The Kendall doesn’t have stadium seating; but the screens are nicely proportioned and the rake of the auditoriums is better than most standard theaters. Regarding the departed Copley, I must confess, I won’t miss those auditoriums that sloped downward from the screen. Gack.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 1, 2005 at 6:11 am

The Brattle is primarily a revival house, with a calendar published well in advance. They do squeeze in a few week-long first runs, but there is absolutely no flexibility in the schedule to accommodate any film that suddenly takes off and develops a following.

The Coolidge is better described as a two-screen movie theatre with an additional 45-seat video-only screening room.

ErikH on February 1, 2005 at 6:00 am

From today’s Daily Variety:

BOSTON — Indie and art film distribs who want a Boston playdate will find that it just became harder.
The Loews Copley Place 11-plex, which opened in 1984 and was the last downtown venue devoting any screens to off-Hollywood product, shuttered Sunday.

According to theater management, the decision was made by the landlord, who reportedly is eager to convert the space into a Barney’s clothing store.

This leaves Boston with but two downtown theaters, the 19-screen Loews Boston Common and the 13-screen AMC Fenway, both of which showcase mainstream Hollywood titles.

Far afield

Beantown moviegoers hungering for movies like “Finding Neverland,” “A Very Long Engagement” and the like will have to go to neighboring communities to see them, as neither downtown theater plans to change its booking policies.

Landmark’s nine-screen Kendall Square in Cambridge has become a major artpic venue since it opened in 1995, but it’s several blocks away from major retail or transit hubs.

Two other theaters have better locations but fewer booking opportunities: the one-screen Brattle in Cambridge and the three-screen Coolidge Corner in Brookline. The six-screen West Newton Theater is not accessible by the subway/trolley system but has developed a loyal arthouse audience among those who can drive there.

Boston has historically been considered underscreened, and it may get worse. National Amusements has the only other Boston theater, the six-screen Cleveland Circle that literally straddles the Boston/Brookline border. Unlike Fenway and Boston Common, it is an older theater without stadium-style seating. The company reportedly is considering selling the land to a developer for condominiums.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 1, 2005 at 5:30 am

AMC Fenway and Loews Boston Common aren’t on this site yet. I’ve been meaning to add both of them, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Both have stadium seating.

Tom10 on February 1, 2005 at 5:22 am

After noting the demise of the Copley Place theater here, I went to look for the entry for the AMC Fenway on this site and found none; please correct me if I’m wrong. I’ve never been to that theater. How does it rate as a venue? Does it have stadium seating (does the new Lowes?) Perhaps someone who is familiar with it can create a listing. All I know is that it once was a Sears regional warehouse and that General Cinema did the original conversion within the last ten years, or so. Speaking of the late General Cinema, does AMC use any of their former corporate offices? Does anyone know if their former VP in charge of technical operations, John Norton, is still in the area. He was very, very knowledgable and a strong advocate of good sound and projection. The General Cinema group in its day took real pride in that. John encouraged GC to install some HPS-4000 sounds systems which, IMHO, are among the very best in the industry. Excellent clarity and definition in mid-range frequencies, particularly.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 31, 2005 at 8:22 pm

actually it was Sack Theatres (not Sacks, not Saks)

br91975 on January 30, 2005 at 7:55 pm

…and another Boston Herald article about the closing of the Copley, from the day before (with a brief 4-1-1 to the journalist who wrote the article and her editor – it was Sacks Theatres, not ‘Saks’ and ‘Loews Copley’, not ‘Copley Loews’)…

Curtains: Art era’s over: Barneys makes cinemas rubble
By Mary Jo Palumbo
Friday, January 28, 2005

The local art film scene will look a lot bleaker Sunday when Loews Copley Place shuts its doors after 21 years screening films.

The 11-screen theater is expected to be replaced by the upscale Manhattan retailer Barneys New York.

“The last show on Sunday night will be the last picture show at Copley,” Loews spokeswoman Jane Lanouette said.

The move is a blow to foreign and independent movie buffs and to kids who flocked to the movie house to see family films.

“A cinema is always a vital thing to have in a neighborhood,” said longtime Boston film booker George Mansour. “This is the loss of a dedicated arthouse within the boundaries of Boston.”

The cinema opened in 1984 as a Saks theater with a brief run as an arthouse.

Bought by Loews in the early 1990s, the theater showed first-run commercial films with an emphasis on family fare for most of its 21-year existence.

When Loews Boston Common opened in 2001, the company decided to program alternative, independent films at the Copley so the two theaters wouldn’t compete.

“It became an independent film house by default,” Mansour said. “The Copley began and ended with art films. It came full circle.”

The Loews Copley Place was one of the last small-screen multiplex theaters built before the revival of stadium theater seating, in which cinema complexes equipped theaters with improved sound and projection technology.

But that didn’t stop people from attending the Copley Loews, which often had long lines and sold-out shows.

The theater was the last venue for nonmainstream fare in a city that once boasted a vibrant art film scene.

The Exeter Street Theater, once a popular venue for independent films, shut its doors in 1984. The Nickelodeon Cinema at Boston University, another favorite art film spot, closed in 2001.

Now Boston film buffs will have to cross the river to the Brattle or the Landmark Kendall Square cinemas in Cambridge or visit the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline.

“(Loews Copley) was a convenient place for people to go,” Mansour said. “As always, the movies make the house, and they had some wonderful movies there. It’s too bad the theater is closing.”

br91975 on January 30, 2005 at 7:44 pm

An article from this past Saturday’s Boston Herald, discussing the closing of the Loews Copley Place Cinemas:

Loews closing leaves art-film fans in the dark
By Mary Jo Palumbo
Saturday, January 29, 2005

The closing of Loews Copley Place tomorrow leaves Boston with just two downtown movie houses – both showcasing mainstream Hollywood films – and far fewer screens than many cities, according to industry experts.

“For specialty films, Boston is going to be severely underscreened,” said David Kleiler, former director of the Coolidge Corner Theatre. “There’s a good chance that films with limited distributions won’t get screened at all in Boston because of this.”

The 11-screen Loews theater, located in Copley Place for 21 years, will be replaced with upscale Manhattan retailer Barneys New York.

To be blunt, Loews Copley Place wasn’t anyone’s favorite movie house. The theaters were tiny and cramped. The screens were small, and the seats weren’t raked. The theater never had a clear identity, showing a combination of family fare, second-run movies and independent films.

“It was one of the least-loved theaters in the Boston area,” said Kleiler. “But it was the only game in town. That’s the shame. People in the Back Bay and the South End are very film savvy, and there’s nothing to replace it.”

Loews Boston Common, which opened in 2001 with 19 theaters, and the AMC Fenway 13 feature stadium seating, digital sound, big screens, much better sightlines and fancy concession stands. But those screens are devoted to box-office hits, and neither theater appears to be considering a programming change in the wake of the Copley’s closing.

Loews management would say little about whether programming at the Boston Common venue will change as a result.

“It was not a matter of Loews deciding to close the theater,” said Loews spokesman John McCauley. ``Our lease was up and the landlord rented the space to Barneys.

“We have another great theater downtown – the Loews Boston Common – that gives people bigger opportunities to see movies.”

AMC Fenway also aims to continue its mainstream Hollywood fare.

“We strive to provide a variety of films that appeal to a diverse audience and that will continue,” said AMC spokeswoman Pam Blase. “We will continue to operate with that same goal in mind.”

Not long ago, Boston cinema buffs could choose from several downtown movie houses showing a range of fare, including the Charles, the Cheri, the Paris, the Nickelodeon and the Exeter Street theaters.

But that’s changed in the past decade.

“Boston has long been underscreened,” Loews Cineplex Entertainment President Travis Reid told the Herald when Loews opened its Boston Common theaters in 2001.

Boston’s 32 downtown screens compare with about 63 in downtown Washington, D.C., a city comparable in size to Boston.

What the city needs, according to longtime Boston film booker George Mansour, is a new facility for non-mainstream films. “It would be great to have a state-of-the-art complex for art films in the heart of the South End,” said Mansour.

“It would be a tremendous plus for people in the city.”

Tom10 on January 29, 2005 at 11:32 am

I can only second these sentiments. This is, after all, Boston, one of the country’s major cities. What factors brought this about. The high cost of real estate. It makes me think of the Publix theater. When the auditorium was free from live performances, they could have run off-mainstream films.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 29, 2005 at 7:39 am

Yes, Ron, that is truly sad. Imagine a similar situation in New York, where all Manhattan residents could see such movies only in Brooklyn, Queens, or Westchester.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 29, 2005 at 6:26 am

And, I should add:

For the first time in many decades, Boston will have no commercial movie screens dedicated to the offbeat, the independent, or the foreign film. At various times, the Beacon Hill, the Kenmore Square, the Park Square, the Exeter Street, the Nickelodeon, and the Copley Place have given these films a home.

Now they have nowhere to go, except out of the city — to the Brattle or Landmark’s Kendall Square in Cambridge, the Coolidge Corner in Brookline, or the West Newton Cinema.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 28, 2005 at 8:45 pm

I happened to walk through the Copley Place mall tonight and noticed this sign on the cinema marquee:


Once this closes…

  • only two movie theatres will still exist entirely within Boston city limits: AMC Fenway (13 screens) and Loews Boston Common (19 screens). Both of these are less than five years old.

  • no movie theatres will remain in the Back Bay, a neighborhood that had at least six when I first moved to Boston in the 1970s.

  • Loews will no longer have any of the Boston city theatres that it inherited from Sack and USACinemas. In greater Boston, only two former Sack or USACinemas theatres will still be operating under Loews ownership: Harvard Square in Cambridge, and Assembly Square in Somerville.

There are the last movies to be shown on the eleven Copley Place screens, January 28-30:

A Very Long Engagement
Racing Stripes
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
Being Julia
Finding Neverland
The Woodsman (2 shows only)
National Treasure (3 shows only)
The Incredibles (matinees only)
The Assassination of Richard Nixon (evenings only)

bunnyman on January 28, 2005 at 1:20 pm

Copley Place Cinema history footnote, a spokesman for Sack was interviewed about the rash of theatre twinning going on that were making theatres smaller & smaller. He made the statement that Sack was dedicted to not creating small cramped theatres, then the reporter brought up Copley Place which had been announced with its miniscule houses. The spokesman said something to the effect if properly designed there was no problem with small houses.
Sorry my memory fades a bit.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 27, 2005 at 9:49 pm

Here is a history of the Sack / USACinemas / Loews chain in Boston and Cambridge, from 1984 to the present day. All of this is from the Boston Globe and Herald online archives, supplemented by my own memory. Where relevant, I’ve included openings and closings of competing theatres.

February 1984: Sack Theatres opens the 9-screen Copley Place. Elsewhere in Boston, it already owns the Charles (3 screens), Beacon Hill (3), Pi Alley (2), Cinema 57 (2), Paris (1), and Cheri (3).
The only other movie theatres in central Boston, except for a few porn and kung-fu cinemas in the Combat Zone, are the Exeter Street (1 screen) and the Nickelodeon (5), both of which are considered art houses.

July 1984: The Exeter Street Theatre closes, leaving only the Nickelodeon to compete with Sack in the Boston market.

December 1985: Sack Theatres changes its name to USACinemas.

Mid-May 1986: USACinemas buys the Nickelodeon. It now owns every movie screen in central Boston, other than the aforementioned porno and kung-fu theatres.

Late May 1986: The Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge (3 screens) burns down and never reopens.

August 1986: Off the Wall Cinema (1 screen) closes in Cambridge.

November 1986: USACinemas buys the Harvard Square Theatre (3 screens at the time, I think) and the Janus Cinema (1 screen). It now owns every screen in Cambridge except for the single-screen Brattle, which is mainly a revival house.

August 1987: USACinemas closes the Pi Alley.

March 1988: Loews buys USACinemas.

Spring 1990: Entertainment Cinemas opens the 10-screen Fresh Pond Cinema in Cambridge.

December 1990: Loews buys the Fresh Pond Cinema, quickly eliminating a competitive threat to its Cambridge near-monopoly.

November 1992: Loews closes the Beacon Hill.

March 1993: Loews closes the Paris.

October 1994: Loews closes the Charles.

September 1995: Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinemas (9 screens) opens to general acclaim. It is the first real competitor to Loews in Cambridge since 1986.

May 1996: Loews closes the Cinema 57.

October 1998: Loews closes the Janus.

June 2000: General Cinema opens the Fenway 13, the first new movie theatre in Boston since the Copley Place, and the first competitor to Sack/USACinemas/Loews in Boston since 1986.

February 2001: Loews closes the Nickelodeon.

July 2001: Loews opens the Boston Common (19 screens). The Cheri becomes a $5 second-run house.

November 2001: Loews closes the Cheri. This leaves only three cinemas in central Boston: Loews Boston Common, Loews Copley Place, and General Cinema Fenway.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 27, 2005 at 6:20 pm

Regarding the Beacon Hill as an art house, I believe this policy ran from 1982 until the Copley Place opened in 1984. I posted a comment about it on the Beacon Hill page.

Yes, I remember the Art Cinema, though I certainly never went inside. It was across Tremont Street from the Saxon/Majestic. It had a marquee that was always blank! After it closed, a group wanted to turn it into an independent twin theatre called the Mercator Cinema, but they abandoned their plans for reasons I don’t know. I believe the Limelight Stage and Studios now occupy that space.

bunnyman on January 27, 2005 at 1:05 pm

Thanks for the info on the Pru/Famous Classics Cinema. I also noticed someone wrote about the South Station Cinema. Now will anyone give info on the infamous ‘Art Cinema’ between the Commons and the current Cutler Majestic Theatre. When I worked at the Saxon I would pass the entrance which was as non descript a door as you’ll ever see on any building. A tiny marquee with room for maybe 2-3 words was above the door and there was a long unused ticket booth outside. It was a gay porn theatre with an infamous reputation. For years and years you could not really tell if it was open or not.
Main reason for my interest is a proposal for its renovation I heard about years ago that would have featured a cafe/bar in its balcony. Just how big was this place, it looked like a hole in the wall from outside so I always assumed it was a tiny screening room.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 25, 2005 at 11:44 am

Yes, I remember it, though I never went there. It lasted only a year or so in the late 1970s. It was on the north side of Boylston Street, across from the Prudential Center.

Before that, when it was a porn house showing Deep Throat, it was called the Pru Cinema. I don’t know what (if any) history it had before Deep Throat.