Orson Welles Cinema

1001 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02138

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Showing 101 - 125 of 127 comments

Fogwrestler on March 10, 2005 at 4:15 am

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 10, 2005 at 3:45 am

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?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on February 20, 2005 at 7:19 pm

The Orson Welles was destroyed by fire on Saturday, May 24, 1986. The fire started when cooking oil in a popcorn machine ignited around 2 pm.

According to a Boston Globe article published the next day, about 50 movie patrons were evacuated from the theatre unharmed, along with about 35 people in the adjoining Chi-Chi’s restaurant and 10 in the basement Videosmith video-rental store.

The previous November, 200 people had demonstrated in front of the theatre to protest its showing of Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary. The film was booked into the Welles after Sack Theatres suddenly cancelled its plans to premiere it at the Paris Cinema in Boston.

bunnyman on January 28, 2005 at 2:02 pm

An odd memory from the Welles that you have to be a Bostonian to appreciate. They had a sign on the concession counter “I’ll have a lodge budded pupcorn."
The same sign was also seen at the Somerville Theatre along with a telling quote for theatre lovers. "There are no more theatres, just concrete boxes at the end of the mall."
Not quite as true these days with the modern multiplexes.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 5, 2005 at 9:33 pm

For some time, a group was trying to open a new Orson Welles Cinema at One Kendall Square. It never happened, but eventually Landmark opened their Kendall Square Cinema in the same complex. It occupies roughly the same niche that the Welles once did.

ErikH on January 5, 2005 at 9:30 pm

As a student at a nearby college in the early 1980s, I made quite a few visits to the Welles. The complex often featured top independent and foreign films, but in its final years it turned increasingly to mainstream releases. I suspect this may have been the result of losing films to the Nickelodeon and Copley Place, which were competing with the Welles for the same type of product (in its early years, the Copley Place emphasized foreign and indie fare on many of its screens). I remember seeing “Blame It On Rio” at the Welles; not exactly the type of film you would expect to be shown there. Competition from the Nickelodeon and Copley Place would also help explain why the Welles didn’t reopen following the fire.

Also, I believe that Welles himself visited the theater in the 1970s for the premiere of his film “F For Fake.”

LaConnection on January 5, 2005 at 8:29 pm

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the Orson Welles (besides the memories) was its Science Fiction Film Marathon. Begun in 1976, the Marathon (nicknamed ‘IT CAME FROM THE ORSON WELLES’) still continues to this day, some 30 years later and about 19 years after its demise! The Marathon was a full 24 hours in length and was wall-to-wall Science Fiction Cinema. Everything from FLASH GORDON to WAR OF THE WORLDS to ZARDOZ was shown at the event at the Welles.
For info on the event go to: http://bostonsci-fi.com/
On the event’s MESSAGEBOARD you will find a history of the event (http://sf.theboard.net/board/YaBB.cgi?board=news;action=display;num=1102966381;start=)

LaConnection on January 5, 2005 at 8:21 pm

Interesting site, folks! I live in L.A. now,but still have friends and family so I visit often enough.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s the Orson Welles was run by a company called ROXY (Roxy Enterprises, perhaps). The theater Manager then was MARK DIAMOND (he now runs the PALM SPRINGS FILM FESTIVAL among other things).
Boston journalist (now also living in L.A.) NAT SEGALOFF produced an audio documentary on the Cinema. One of the tidbits I recall is how the theater was named. In the bohemian spirit of the times (60’s), the group of founders just tossed off name ideas. Naming it after the great Orson Welles was chosen. Less than 24 hours before the theater was to open, some responsible “adult” thought it might be a good idea to contact the very alive Mr.Welles to get his permission! Whereupon a mad scramble commenced to locate the Director. Finally, he was located somewhere in Europe. He was honored and the rest is history.

Morgan on December 31, 2004 at 6:36 am

I remember Orson Welles. It was one of my favorite hang-outs. I lived on the streets for years in Cambridge. Played music in front of the theatre, ate leftovers in the restruant when I could, and on cold days go watch The harder they come or El Topo for hours or The Marx brothers. SOmetimes I even slept in the back of the place.

Fogwrestler on November 30, 2004 at 5:02 am

Following up on the interest in Ralph Hoagland since his days with the Orson Welles Cinema, here is a more current link/picture:

Fogwrestler on November 30, 2004 at 4:51 am

Yes Ron, you can see both Ralph and Molly referenced in this local Boston article about their son’s business success: View link

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 30, 2004 at 4:19 am

I believe this is the same Ralph Hoagland who founded the CVS drugstore chain. Anyone know for sure?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 29, 2004 at 11:22 pm

The film and discussion session with legendary director Nicholas Ray took place on the evening of January 2, 1975. Mr. Ray fielded questions after the showing of the documentary on his life and career by David Helpern, “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” Ray died four years later of lung cancer in 1979.

Fogwrestler on November 27, 2004 at 10:03 pm

Actually, I’ve finally jogged loose those old memory cells, and remember that the owners' last name was Hoagland, Ralph and Molly Hoagland. I’ve even found a picture of them taken by Elsa Dorfman, circa 1973, which can be seen here: View link

Fogwrestler on November 27, 2004 at 9:29 pm

In response to br91975’s questions, I can no longer remember the owners' last name, but their first names were Ralph and Molly, a married couple. Your best bet for further info on this might be to try to contact Larry Jackson, who was the Director/Film Programmer for the Orson Welles at that time. He is now President of the Amherst Center for Stage and Screen, and you might try to reach him at

As I mentioned in my post above, I believe the owners opened a restaurant in Harvard Square, which I think was called Molly’s, or Molly’s at 33 Dunster Street, or maybe just 33 Dunster Street, I’m not certain of the history of names prior to the current brew pub at that address. Whether they continued to be involved with the Orson Welles Cinemas or not I am not sure, but Larry may well know the story if you are able to reach him in Amherst.

I moved to the west coast in 1980, so I have little information regarding the fire and its' aftermath, and I don’t know if Ralph and Molly were still involved with the theatres at that time.

Hope this helps.

br91975 on November 27, 2004 at 6:01 pm

Thanks for all those great memories, Fogwrestler. Just out of curiosity, who was it who owned the Orson Welles and, if you don’t have any knowledge of this, no big deal, but why was it that the Orson Welles didn’t reopen after its fire in May of ‘86?

Fogwrestler on November 27, 2004 at 6:12 am

More random memories from my time at the Orson Welles Cinemas:

I remember that we had Jean Pierre Leaud and the director Jean Eustache visit us briefly when we opened “The Mother and the Whore”, I think it was 1973.

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

The restaurant served killer Baklava I remember, and hi to Jerry behind the bar …

Toward the end of this period, we were selling firewood out of the parking lot just to try to make ends meet …

For one summer or so we tried an additional little cinema called Toad Hollow, I think it was in Lenox …

Fogwrestler on November 27, 2004 at 5:03 am

I was a Box Office Manager there in the early 70’s and we World-Premiered Neil Young’s “Journey Through The Past” … Neil and Carrie Snodgrass and Zeke, as well as David Crosby and Graham Nash, were around a lot at that time since the sound system had to be revamped to present the film in Cinema One, and needed their approval. Neil gave a terrific, impromptu acoustic set to the staff over in the restaurant one night, and already at that early stage was apologizing for not being able to hit all the high notes any more. The film bombed, but it was a blast having all those interesting people around, and Carrie played a mean game of Pong.

There was a lot of labor union activity around the popcorn sellers, and I believe the owners eventually opened a restaurant in Harvard Square called “Molly’s”, or something like that.

Hello to Ralph, Molly, Marty, Mary and the whole crew.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 22, 2004 at 9:32 pm

The restaurant was called simply “The Restaurant At the Orson Welles” in its early days. It may have changed its name to something else before Chi-Chi’s replaced it.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on November 9, 2004 at 2:00 pm

Probably the building had all of the addresses 1001-1007. The theatre’s address was 1001 and some of the other businesses might have had addresses 1003, 1005, or 1007.

Orpheus on September 28, 2004 at 4:53 pm

I have to amend my remarks. I was a bit confused (though perhaps with reason, based on the conflicting addresses on Cambridge nostalgia sites I’ve looked at). The mini-mall I was thinking of may have been 1007 Mass Ave, not 1001. I still have a vague sense that the Orson Welles was there for a while, perhaps as a brief temporary expansion, or during an earlier fire or renovation. I seem to recall that it wasn’t always in the same location or form.

In penance, let me link a site with photos [1] [2] of the Orson Welles in the early 80s, before its demise.

Orpheus on September 28, 2004 at 4:11 pm

This is bringing back memories – and raising some questions that are going to bug me. The building -a two story, stair-fronted, 8 shop mini mall, with an small outside terrace downstairs- briefly had a “name” besides its address. Does anyone recall what it was?

In the late 70s, other tenants included Games People Play (a game shop) America’s Game/1001 Plays (the arcade), Dolphin Seafood, The Laughing Wheel (IIRC, the name of the bicycle shop) and a small specialty grocery store. I think Aujourd'hui (a French cafe) opened before 1980. One of the early Chi Chi’s (“Mexican”) chain arrived in 1981. But I can’t recall the name or cuisine of the original restaurant described in the comment by Gerald.

These background details would be immediately useful to me. I’m writing a novel novel series whose protagonist frequented this area in the 70s/80s, and found this site while fact-checking the date of the fire (BTW – Thanks for that!)

The Orson Welles was truly a treasure, and I’ll post some of my recollections later (the details above will undoubtedly jog more). Right now, I have to get back to my writing. It’s so easy to squander a day off on digressions!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 28, 2004 at 9:21 pm

Yes, Ron, I remember eating in that restaurant where initially you were asked to share tables with strangers in a spirit of social camaraderie. Late in the evening remaining food was served free to the needy. I remember attending the pilot session of an auteurist film class given by a gentleman named Benson. We watched Douglas Sirk’s “The Tarnished Angels” and were invited to sign up for his course at the Orson Welles Film School which also existed there at the time. I also remember attending a film and discussion session with Hollywood director Nicholas Ray, of “Rebel Without a Cause” fame. This took place in the downstairs screening room, the smallest of the three. And I remember some very rowdy near-violent anti-Vietnam-war demonstrations taking place outside on Massachusetts Avenue (near Harvard) in 1970 as I came out of a showing of Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.” I also remember the place when it was called the Esquire and had a single screen. “Point of Order”, a documentary compilation of the Joe McCarthy hearings, was the first film I ever saw there.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 28, 2004 at 7:30 pm

This was located at 1001 Mass. Ave. The building also included a restaurant, a bicycle shop and a video arcade — all gone now. Currently it has a CVS drugstore and various other retail shops.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 9, 2004 at 12:25 pm

I also believe that Jean-Luc Godard’s controversial HAIL MARY, protested by some conservative Catholic groups as it had been in New York and elsewhere, played here not long before the theatre’s demise.