Wang Theatre

270 Tremont Street,
Boston, MA 02116

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Showing 126 - 148 of 148 comments

Tom10 on January 5, 2005 at 5:27 am

Ron—Where do you access the Globe archives? On-line?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 4, 2005 at 9:47 pm

Looking through the Boston Globe and Herald archives, I see that the theatre officially changed over from Sack Theatres' Music Hall to the Metropolitan Center on July 7, 1980.

The last show to be presented by Sack was a seven-week live production of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, starring Herschel Bernardi.

IanJudge on January 4, 2005 at 1:56 pm

Perhaps I am confusing my Travolta… could it have been “Saturday Night Fever” that played the Music Hall?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 4, 2005 at 12:57 pm

Right, that was the second time around for the Metropolitan name.

Technically, I think it’s now called the “Wang Theatre” rather than the “Wang Center”, because the latter is now the name of the umbrella organization that operates both this venue and the Shubert across the street.

But most people I know still call this theatre the “Wang Center”.

ErikH on January 4, 2005 at 12:45 pm

For the record, it’s probably worth clarifying that the Music Hall was renamed The Metropolitan Center in the 1970s, then (as noted in a previous post) renamed The Wang Center following Dr. Wang’s donation in the mid-1980s.

A shame that the Wang isn’t viable as a film house, because it is far from ideal as a venue for live theater. While the large seating capacity—-more than twice the size of a typical Broadway house—-means a high gross potential, the acoustics and sightlines are mediocre and charging near-Broadway prices for the rear orchestra and mezzanine makes little sense due to the considerable distance from the stage (bring binoculars).

ErikH on January 3, 2005 at 1:46 pm

The Cinema 57 played “Grease” on an exclusive basis in June 1978 for at least several weeks before expanding to the suburbs. I don’t believe that “Grease” played the Music Hall as a first run, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it was shown at some point as part of the Wang series.

IanJudge on January 3, 2005 at 1:11 pm

I believe that this theater showed movies as late as 1978 under the Sack’s “Music Hall” name. I would have to check old newspapers, but I am pretty sure the movie “Grease” played here on first release. I could be wrong, though.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on January 3, 2005 at 12:41 pm

Does anyone know when Sack Theatres stopped regularly showing movies here?

During the mid-to-late 1970s, I remember it only as a venue for concerts and other live performances.

Tom10 on December 25, 2004 at 11:52 pm

Boris – I’m pretty sure I recall seeing the booth on the first floor around 1965; I think it was a screening of “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. They cut a chunk of the decorative mouldings out from under the balcony to allow projection clearance. About five years ago, during a screening of the restored "Vertigo” in 70mm VistaVision, I visited the current booth which is once again on the upper level.

Borisbadenov on December 25, 2004 at 9:39 pm

Just a note: When I went on the tour of the ‘reburbished’ Wang, the guide pointed out that the marble is not real but an Italian process called (I think) Scagliola; they press real marble dust into wet plaster. He said the workers were very secretive about how it was done and worked behind shrouds.
Also, I don’t hink the projectionj booths were ever on the ground floor-that was the Boston Cinerama theater. I remember as a kid sneaking up to the very top of the balcony; some Cinemascope thing was playing, and the 70-foot screen looked the size of an airmail stamp. There were, and still are, two brass-doored elevators to take people up to the top of the balcony. I never got to ride in them as a kid, since they were the old kind that required an elevator operator.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 25, 2004 at 8:24 am

More from this booklet:

By the 1940’s costs were mounting and big name headliners became increasingly necessary to draw crowds. The Big Bands, including Duke Ellington, the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, and Gene Krupa, played here. Bob Hope, Al Jolson, and Dorothy Lamour performed at war bond drives. After world War II attendance declined due to the impact of TV. Stage shows were abandoned for a while, but after the Boston Opera House was destroyed in the late 1950’s, the theatre became attractive to large touring productions. Rechristened the Music Hall in 1962, the theatre hosted such groups as the Bolshoi Ballet, the Boston Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera. However, stage depth and production facilities were inadequate, and many touring shows were forced to bypass the Boston audience.

In 1974 the Boston Redevelopment Authority identified the Music Hall as a theatre with potential to serve the city and suggested to the owners, the New England Medical Center Hospital, that a non-profit group by established to lease and renovate the facility. Metroplitan Center, Inc. was incorporated in 1976. In 1983 the roof was seriously damaged, and the theatre was about to be demolished. A plea went out to the community to save the theatre, and Dr. An Wang of computer fame answered the plea with a gift of $4,000,000. The theatre was renamed in his honor. The building is in the National Register of Historic Places.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 25, 2004 at 8:15 am

I have a booklet called “Boston Theatre District: A Walking Tour”, published by the Boston Preservation Alliance in 1993. It says:

The Wang Center, originally the Metropolitan and built in 1925, combines a 14-story Renaissance Revival office building of granite and cast stone, with an auditorium seating 4225 people. C.H. Blackall was the architect. The interior is characterized by a series of vestibules and lobbies, highly decorated in marble, bronze, ornate gilding, and painted friezes.

The initial developer of the Metropolitan was Boston movie mogul Nathan Gordon. The cost was over $8,000,000. The theatre employed a corps de ballet, a 100-voice chorus, and a 55-piece orchestra. There was also a 3100-pipe organ. Along with the stage shows, the musicians and dancers presented tableaux, ballet, and operatic moments. Admission cost 35 to 75 cents. To amuse people waiting to be seated, there were musicians playing in the Grand Lobby, paintings by area artists hung on the walls, and ping pong and billiards downstairs. After the show, couples danced in the Grand Lounge, and in 1932 a small Art Deco restaurant called the Platinum Salon opened in the lounge area.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 4, 2004 at 3:58 pm

The Wang’s classic film schedule is here. The films are free and are shown on occasional Monday evenings.

Scheduled for January through April 2005: My Fair Lady, A Streetcar Named Desire, Shakespeare in Love, Dirty Dancing, and A Night At The Opera.

Tom10 on November 25, 2004 at 3:59 pm

Erik—fascinating info on the use of the Wang lobby for Eastwick. It’s a huge space.

ErikH on November 24, 2004 at 10:49 am

An extended sequence in “The Witches of Eastwick” was shot at the Wang. The palatial lobby was used for one of the interiors of the house of Jack Nicholson’s character (a.k.a. the Devil).

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 2, 2004 at 12:12 pm

‘American Theatres of Today’ Vol 1 (published in 1927) credits the following as architects of the Metropolitan Theatre;– Blackall, Clapp & Whittemore; C. Howard Crane, Kenneth Franzheim, George Nelson Meserve, Associated architects.

The Film Daily Yearbook 1941 gives a seating capacity of 4,330, by 1950 it was listed as 4,100 seats in the F.D.Y.

Tom10 on October 17, 2004 at 9:41 pm

I saw “It’s a Mad…Mad World” here in 1965 or so when it was the Music Hall. I remember the projection booth was on the first floor, and they cut out some of the decorative mouldings under the balcony to make way for the projector beam. About five years as the Wang Center, I saw the restored Vertigo there at a wide screen festivel. I visited the booth (now above the balcony) to see the 70mm projectors which used reels rather than platters.

bruceanthony on May 9, 2004 at 2:32 pm

The Wang is larger than the Waterbary Palace.I think when listing seating they should use original seating and then show current seating. Seating is always reduced when renovation or restoration occurs to allow for more leg room. Many theatres have expanded the lobbies into the back of the Auditorium such as the Oriental in Chicago. Original capacity of the Oriental was 3200 after renovation seating was reduced to aroung 2200.I propose the Wang restore its Vertical and canopy and its name. Possibly Wang’s Metropolitan. The current marquee is very boring. Radio City has a wonderful marquee as does the Fox Atlanta, Fox Detroit, Pantagees Hollywood,Paramount Oakland,Fox-Oakland,Portland Portland, Paramount Seattle, Chicago Chicago,Wiltern Los Angeles, Orpheum LA,State Minneapolis, Rialto Juliet,Castro San Francisco,etc….I feel a restored theatre that traces its roots back to the 1920’s is not complete unless it has a proper vertical and canopy marquee. It doesn’t have to be the origianl marquee in its history but at sometime in its history of 1920’s,1930’s,1940’s and 1950’s. Some theatres actually improved on there marquees. Neon is a must. The Great White Way didn’t get its name from plastic and some of the boring marquees that I see today.

Borisbadenov on March 13, 2004 at 10:10 pm

I had been taken to this theater to see Disney’s Cinderella when I was 5 or 6. Even at that age, I was in awe of the staircase, all the fancy ‘stuff’, and the size. The little boys room was like an English pub. Years later, when Ben Sack opened it, I went to see ‘Jumbo’ w/ Doris day, Jimmy Durante, Martha Raye, etc.
At that time in 1962 Sack was bringing nostalgia back to the theater, had installed huge bright red velvet curtains, and the movies were preceded by ‘Louie Wier at the Mighty Wurlitzer’-the huge pipe organ rose on an elevator from the pit, an ancient Louie played things like the ‘Skaters Waltz’ with a spotlight on him, then sank back into the pit. All that heaven camp in 1962. He used to have Italian tenors occasionally perform between films also.
When I went on a tour of the renovated Wang Center a few years ago, the guide didn’t know what happen to the organ, but knew and showed me the 1926 air-conditioning system still being used.

ConradSchmittStudios on December 23, 2003 at 8:02 am

Subsequent to the restoration, the Wang still seats more than 3,600. It is probable that the Wang, rather than the Palace in Waterbury, CT, is the largest capacity historic theatre in New England. The decorative restoration of both theatres was conducted by Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc.

William on November 20, 2003 at 4:05 pm

As a single screen movie theatre the old Metropolitan Theatre seated 4100 people.

BradRoberts on May 13, 2002 at 2:09 pm

The Metropolitan was acquired by the Sack chain and reopened in 1962 as the Music Hall with “Boys Night Out” with James Garner and Kim Novak. I don’t think the site was seriously considered as a roadshow theatre due to it’s enormous size, but when “Cleopatra” was opening in June 1963, Sack decided that the anticipated business for the anxiously awaited film would justify a reserved seat policy in so large a theatre. The film wasn’t able to sustain itself in the slump following John Kennedy’s assassination and in late No. was moved over to the smaller Gary Theatre, where it lasted until Jan. 1964. It was during the “Cleopatra” run that I first was taken to this astonishing theatre. The only other roadshow attraction to play there was “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” in 1965. Other than that the theatre enjoyed some of the most successful film engagements of that era including “Goldfinger”, “Thunderball”, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and many others. In July, 1966, some friends and I attended the world premiere of “Torn Curtain” which Hitchcock scheduled for 9AM on a Wednesday morning. Hitchcock was there to cut a 50 layer cake for his 50th film (not surprisingly, Newman and Andrews did not attend). By the late 60’s rock concerts started up there and it was a perfect venue to see great rock acts before the era of stadium rock. Some of the great concerts I attended there were Jefferson Airplane (a few times), Neil Young (an all acoustic set in 1970), Joni Mitchell, The Moody Blues, Linda Ronstadt and more. By the time it became the Wang Center I had left town.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 28, 2001 at 5:29 am

For several decades before the Wang Center organization acquired it, the theater was called the “Music Hall” and was part of the Sack Cinema chain. It sometimes showed movies and sometimes presented rock concerts.

The Wang organization now also owns the Shubert Theatre, across the street. The Shubert has always been used exclusively for live performance.