Showing 12 comments
I read somewhere that M&P went down the tubes in large part as a result of the 1948 Supreme Court decision in the Paramount antitrust case, because the breaking-up of the Paramount monopoly deprived many theater chains associated with the Paramount empire of guaranteed access to first-run films. The cost of films charged to theaters by the studios also increased considerably. Possibly it was no longer cost-effective to run some neighborhood theaters, especially with television beginning to pose a threat at this time. Still, the area in which the Humboldt was located was still thriving economically, not yet having undergone the cataclysmic demographic upheaval of the 1950-1960 period, so I’m a little surprised it closed so early.
According to the Northeastern University digital collection, this photo dates from 1949. It’s sort of hard to tell whether the theater is even operating or not…the marquee is blank and appears to be in poor repair, the poster display cases are empty, and the whole entrance looks decrepit. Does anyone know when this theater closed?
Just as historical trivia, Loew’s Orpheum was the venue for the Boston premiere of the 1958 film “The Last Hurrah,” based on the novel of the same title by Edwin O'Connor. The movie starred Spencer Tracy as “Frank Skeffington,” a character loosely modeled after Boston’s famous/infamous mayor James Michael Curley. The film shamelessly sentimentalized Skeffington, making him out to be a sort of lovable rogue, whereas in historical fact Curley was anything but lovable. O'Connor, after viewing the premiere, acidly suggested that the back of the seats at Loew’s Orpheum should have been equipped “with the kind of equipment they have on airplanes.” By which he meant barf bags. See Jack Beatty’s superb 1992 biography of Curley, “The Rascal King.”
Curley himself, by the way, was involved in a number of theater-related incidents/issues during his four (non-consecutive) terms as mayor. Most significant of these was his highly controversial decision in 1915 to permit, over intense protest by the black community and civic leaders, the showing of the notoriously racist and inflammatory D.W. Griffith film “Birth of a Nation.” The movie opened at the Tremont Theater in April, 1915 and ran for over six months.
rivest266: That ad is for the Olympia Theatre in Scollay Square, not the Olympia on Washington Street that later became known as the Pilgrim.
According to various comments above, this theatre started showing adult films in 1960, and a comment dated 11/04/2004 by Gerald gives the titles of two films showing there in 1962. Just out of curiosity, I looked up “Naked Island” and “The Facts of Love” on IMDB, and neither appears to be anything resembling an “adult” film; the former is some kind of Japanese art film and the latter is a comedy dating back to 1945! This would seem to contradict the characterization of the place as an adult house…unless of course those titles just belonged to obscure x-rated junk that doesn’t get featured on IMDB.
[Some time later…] Ah, this explains it (an excerpt from a listing on a movie poster website, emovieposter.com):
“Film Description: Naked Island, the circa 1960s William Mishkin nudist colony sexploitation movie ("Bold! Daring!”; “All new”; “Today’s Garden of Eden…Vacation paradise for hundreds of Adams and Eves!”; “The land of 1001 nudes”; “Revealing! Unashamed! Uninhibited!”; “Scenes in blushing color”)."
An interesting poster (must have been considered quite salacious in its day):
Additional research has failed to discover any adult version of the other movie, so perhaps that one was the 1945 film which was just shown as a filler, or else some totally obscure schlock flick…and it would have to be obscure indeed, not to appear on the internet somewhere.
I remember seeing several movies (rather poor-quality R-rated ones mainly of the B and C grade, but cheap and appealing to a 16/17-year-old)) in the Publix circa 1976-1977. By this time it was really in pretty bad shape, visibly deteriorating due to lack of maintenance. Neverthless, while it was certainly seedy, I never sensed any “danger” there, perhaps because I always assumed that the “raincoat crowd” and others of that ilk were to be found elsewhere in the X-rated joints. Which, I was soon to find out after I turned 18 and went to see a flick at the Pilgrim, was the absolute truth. Suffice it to say that my visit to the Pilgrim lasted only long enough to get one look (an exceedingly brief one) at the Sodom-and-Gomorrah that was the ill-famed men’s room, after which I almost literally ran out of the place.
The Publix, by comparison, was almost sedate. To its credit, it never quite sank to the level of showing X-rated fare.
I believe that in 1976, when it was already starting its final decline, the Gary had the rather ignominious distinction of showing a truly abominable film titled “Snuff.” This film is perhaps the worst I have ever seen, but because it supposedly portrayed a real murder onscreen (though in fact the “murder” could easily be seen as staged), it attracted great notoriety and even had a couple of Boston Police detectives assigned to view it—-all of which resulted in box office lines down the street, of course.
See IMBD for details on this piece of crap, if anyone is interested: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072184/
Just on a historical note, this interesting 1928 map (link pasted below) reveals that a nearby parking lot on Lagrange Street (that lot has been there forever, I can remember it even circa 1976) was once the location of a police station; it certainly would have come in handy during the Combat Zone era! Which leads me to wonder: Can you imagine the kind of nightly festivities that would have taken place in the huge vacant Gaiety demolition site, back in the Zone’s heyday? The mind fairly boggles. Woo-hoo!!!
The main webite for other similar maps is:http://www.communityheritagemaps.com/boston1928/
Many of you will probably know of this already (I hope I’m not repeating a reference to it from somewhere in this wonderful though voluminous thread), but there is an excellent book titled “When Brooklyn Was The World 1920-1957” by Elliot Willensky, published in 1986. It has amusing and informative text and a wealth of fantastic photos (including some of theatres). I actually was looking up the Albee here at Cinema Treasures as it was mentioned fleetingly in the book…didn’t realize I’d come upon such a treasure trove of info about Brooklyn in its heyday! I highly recommend the book to all who are interested in the history of Brooklyn and/or U.S. urban history generally.
I believe that the “Capri Theatre” at 701 Washington St. was a very small, rather dingy place that shared space with a porno bookstore…I suspect it was more of a cruising site than a movie house. I think there was a very similar movie/bookstore joint in the late 1970’s next to the Publix, though I don’t recall its name. Possibly these places had names for incorporation purposes, but not for exhibition on any kind of sign or marquee…it is likely that they got their “viewing audiences” from the clientele of the porn stores, so names really didn’t matter.
I guess you are right, technically…I admit I ’ve never been in either the Fenway 13 or or the Loew’s Common. And since I no longer live in the Boston area, I probably never will…no great loss. But for me, the real “movie theatres” were the classic ones of old, with a huge single screen, balconies etc. I remember going to see “Grand Prix” at the Cinerama aka RKO Boston, circa 1967…now, THAT was a theatre! Ditto the late lamented Publix, even in its decrepit last years. Ah, memories. Well, at least a few of the grand old houses survive in the suburbs, but as for Boston proper…it may still have places where you can watch a movie, but no movie theatres, if you get my distinction.
Cypress’s question is a valid one when asked in an ironic sense; after all, of the many theatres listed for Boston on this website, how many are still open? A paltry few, and some of those that are still operating are not really “movie theatres” anymore. Of the remainder, since by my (admittedly biased) standards, those horrible mini-box multiplexes scarcely qualify, that brings the total to about zero, at least for the City of Boston proper. So one might (sadly) ask, indeed, if there are any movie theaters in Boston.